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|Subject: Egyptian Upheaval Threatens Efforts to Revive Mideast Peace Talks Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:11 pm|| |
Egyptian Upheaval Threatens Efforts to Revive Mideast Peace Talks
The political upheaval in Egypt and other Arab nations has created
regional instability that threatens efforts to revive peace talks
between Israel and the Palestinians. But top officials of countries
supporting peace negotiations are urging a resumption of the talks,
saying they are important for stability and security in the Middle East
Speaking recently before parliament, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu said in the near history of the Middle East, Islamic
extremists have taken advantage of rapidly changing political climates
to take control and establish anti-democratic regimes.
Mr. Netanyahu told lawmakers Islamic hardliners in Iran, Hezbollah in
Lebanon and the Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip participated
in elections to solidify power. He said Israel must ensure this does
not happen again.
Israel is particularly concerned about Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
While officially banned and purposely taking a backseat in the current
protests, it is considered the best organized opposition group in Egypt.
Target of rage
Demonstrators in Cairo have focused their anger on Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak, but some Israeli analysts are concerned that rage could
one day be aimed at Israel.
"There is a concern that hostility towards the regime will be conflated
with hostility towards Israel or the United States and that the fallout
of political regime change will be a more aggressive, hostile and
militant policies with respect to Israel. That is the concern,"
explained Mark Heller, a senior research associate at the Institute for
National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, launched in Washington last September,
quickly broke down over Israel’s decision not to extend a moratorium on
construction of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Palestinians have refused to return to negotiations without a settlement freeze.
While uncertainty lies ahead, Palestinian political analyst Mahdi Abdul
Hadi says Israeli officials need to understand the Arab uprising may
change long-held assumptions about the peace process.
"The Israeli society today, they are living on a different planet,"
Abdul Hadi said. "They do not see the change. They do not see the
winds. They do not understand the pulse of the street. All what they
are concerned [about] is their security. For us, the Palestinians, we
have come to see this is an historical moment."
One thing many Palestinians and Israelis are both concerned about is
the unpredictability of any new Egyptian government if change comes too
"Judging on the Egyptian front is kind of difficult because we have
many fears that Islamic [Muslim] Brotherhood organization would take
over and have more influence, which will negatively affect the peace
process in general and stability in the Palestinian Territories," said
Dimitri Diliani, the Palestinian Fatah Party spokesman in East
But the Israelis and Palestinians are not giving up on the peace process.
Last Friday, Israel announced a package of steps designed to encourage
economic growth and develop infrastructure in the Palestinian
Prime Minister Netanyahu, apparently referring to the protests rocking
Egypt, said the offers where designed to enhance stability by improving
the Palestinians quality of life.
The proposals were offered the day before a meeting of high-level
officials from countries belonging to the Middle East Quartet,
consisting of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the
Mr. Netanyahu unveiled the offer alongside the Quartet’s special envoy, former British prime minister Tony Blair.
"I think we can work together with you and the Palestinians to have
concrete developments in the field," Netanyahu said. "At the same time
I think we need to work with the United States and the international
community to find a route that will give us a horizon to a historic
peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians - two states for
Palestinians rejected the Israeli proposals, calling for all parties to recognize a Palestinian state.
A Quartet statement noted the dramatic events in Egypt, saying the
group considered the implications of the uprising for Arab-Israeli
Mr. Blair said even against the backdrop of events in the region, resuming peace negotiations is still possible.
"Even though obviously there have been difficulties in the process,
which we all know about, I think there is still a huge amount of
determination and good will to try to make sure we reach a solution and
a historic peace," Blair said.
The Quartet statement said further delay in the resumption of
negotiations is detrimental to prospects for regional peace and
Analyst Mark Heller predicts uncertainty will prevail, at least in the short run.
"The question, of course, that preoccupies everyone, is how is all this
is going to turn out and unfortunately none of us is really endowed
with the gift of prophesy," he said.
Analysts say the peace process is likely to be on hold for the
immediate future, as both sides deal with the ramifications of the
tumultuous events in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.