Geneva Initiative Annexes
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A Lesson for Obama

By Gadi Baltiansky, YNet News

8.11.2010
Via Ynet News (Click for original)
 
If only Ofer Eini, the Histadrut labor union federation chairman, was in charge of peace negotiations. Israelis and Palestinians would inform each other that on some Tuesday, at 6 am, both peoples will go on strike unless a peace deal is secured. Let’s see our leaders declaring then, with pride and relief, that “negotiations are frozen.”
 
Setting a moment of truth, a deadline, even if it’s artificial, is almost necessary in order to ensure the success of the process. Negotiations on the salaries of public service employees were going on for months. The figures were known, the demands of both sides were familiar, and the room for compromise was also predictable. All that was missing was a target date, and it was set in line with the beginning of the promised strike.
 
Leaders, like most human beings, tend to put off tough decisions. Such decisions are much easier if they can be postponed, and for the time being, seemingly, no price is paid. This is certainly true in respect to decisions that require national considerations, political risk, and possibly even personal price. The decision on a final-status Israeli-Palestinian agreement and the partition of the land into two states may be the most difficult decision that Israeli and Palestinian leaders can make. The tougher the decision, the easier it is to postpone it.
 
Explanations and excuses abound. We’re waiting for a new American president, for elections in Israel, for changes in the Palestinian political map, for coalition developments, for an all-Arab decision, or for the new budget. For the time being, we resort to foot-dragging, embark on a process, freeze it, resume it, suspend it, and do everything except for completing it.
 
Moment of truth needed
 
It’s easy to imagine what would have happened to negotiations on public service salaries without the threat of a strike; precisely what’s happening to the diplomatic process. Hence, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations require the creation of a moment of truth, where the leaders would have to make a decision. And if both leaders are too weak or not sufficiently committed, this is the job of a third party – which in this case is US president Barack Obama.
 
Common wisdom dictates that in the wake of the elections, with a confrontational Congress that would make it difficult for Obama on the domestic front, he will put more focus on foreign affairs. Should this be the case and he will indeed pay more attention to our region, he would be advised to call off one meeting with Netanyahu or Abbas. Instead, he should meet with Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini and learn a lesson about strike threats.