Israel and Palestine: A Plan Toward Negotiation?

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BY ALBERT MURZAKHANOV

Mohammad Shtayyeh speaks at Harvard Law.

The Program of Negotiation at Harvard Law School hosted Mohammad Shtayyeh, Minister of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, on March 25, 2015. Shtayyeh delivered a speech titled, “A Paradigm Shift for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations.” The talk came only one week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected and focused on the ongoing negotiations from the Palestinian perspective.

After briefly providing historical context for the conflict, Mohammad Shtayyeh switched to the present, stating “The Palestinian-Israeli relationship is very asymmetrical; Israelis did not want to negotiate but just wanted to dictate. There was a set agenda, and they wanted us to accept it.” He gave a list of terms Palestine would have to agree to, among which he included: the demilitarization of Palestine, acceptance to bring NATO forces into the Jordan Valley, and the idea of Jerusalem as an open city. He also added that in making a border decision, Israel had to make two considerations, taking into account the security concerns of the nation and looking at the demographic realities on the ground (the Jewish settlements). Shtayyeh added, “Israel wanted to annex the settlement blocks, which would lead to it owning 45% of the West Bank.”

Shtayyeh then outlined five key factors that are essential for any good deal to be made in regards to demilitarization:

  1. You need clear agreed upon terms of reference. There were no agreed upon terms of reference in the last round of negotiations.
  2. Negotiations need confidence spending measures. He said the best way to empower Palestine is to stop settlements. What is the point of building Jewish settlements in an area that is supposed to be Palestine?
  3. A time frame. When will the settlements end?
  4. To have an honest broker. Any negotiations need an honest broker. (Broker, facilitator, mediator).
  5. Good intentions. There is no way to reach a peaceful agreement without good intentions. We never believed Netanyahu believed in 2 states.

He also explained his frustration with negotiations, emphasizing that they have been in the works for twenty-four years. He feels as though there has been no progress. In particular, he mentioned that Netanyahu and the current Israeli leadership is “not interested in making real negotiations.” Shtayyeh proclaims, “The only way to make Netanyahu drink is to make him thirsty, and the American government never made him thirsty.” Right now, he claims there is a Palestinian authority that has no authority whatsoever because of Israel’s limitation of it.

Shtayyeh concluded by stating that in the hopes of achieving some progress, the Palestinians have decided to “internationalize the conflict,” stating that on April 1, 2015 the Palestine Authority will become a member of the International Criminal Court and will submit two charges against Israel: “A charge against Israel’s last aggression in which 60,000 people were displaced” and a charge against the settlements.

Shtayyeh ended his talk with the following analogy, “There are three people (Palestinian, Jordanians, and Israelis) for two chairs…Instead of trying to cancel one of the three; the solution is to bring a third chair. What we are fighting for today is the third chair.”

Harvard Law School professor, Professor Robert H. Mnookin thanked Shtayyeh for his “controversial talk.” In the questions that followed, Shtayyeh was asked about Hamas and their role in the conflict and whether the Palestinian government would be able to control what is recognized as a “terrorist organization.” Shtayyeh provided no clear answer but emphasized that he does not think Hamas will remain influential in the region and that Hamas would be in favor of the negotiations.

Albert Murzakhanov ’16 ([email protected]) is still trying to unpack what is a complicated and sensitive issue.