The May 16 print edition of The Washington Post (page A19) carries two articles, an optimistic one by Jimmy Carter and a pessimistic one by David Ignatius, on the recent breakdown of negotiations in the Middle East. It is important for readers to respond, even if for no other reason than to demonstrate to The Post's editors that we are following this issue with keen interest. (The Carter piece appeared in the online edition on May 12, and the Ignatius piece online on May 16, but they are positioned on the same page in the print edition.)
The two articles reach different conclusions because they emphasize different pieces of information. There is no clash between the writers' perceptions of the facts on the ground, but rather there is a difference regarding which facts are crucial.
In his piece (title in the print edition: "A new chance for optimism?") Pres. Carter stresses that the recent reconciliation between Palestinian factions is a positive development. Now Israel can negotiate with a single partner representative of all Palestinians. His other principal emphasis is that the United Nations treaties that President Abbas signed -- in an act decried by Israel -- "are all idealistic and peaceful in nature and should cause no concern in Israel or Washington." He doubts that the Palestinians would antagonize Israel by affiliating themselves with the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court within the foreseeable future, and he expresses the hope that Secretary Kerry will issue a public document outlining a framework for peace.
Mr. Ignatius ("A Mideast peace process in tatters") narrates the negative developments that led to the breakdown and presents the "catastrophic developments" that could yet occur. He states candidly that Israel's failures to curb settlement expansion and to provide even a tentative map displaying borders for a Palestinian state caused President Abbas to become disillusioned with the process. At the outset, Abbas made a major concession by expressing willingness to accept U.S. forces, rather than NATO forces, in the Jordan Valley, but his conciliatory attitude was transformed to "truculence" by "Netanyahu's intransigence." Abbas then proceeded to "shut down." Mr. Ignatius makes it clear, without stating it explicitly, that it was Israel who sabotaged the process, and he fears that a future Palestinian attempt to indict Israel in a court of international law will lead to further destructive actions by both parties.
Readers can find useful material in both articles and thus may desire to respond to either one or to both. Here are the two links. The content of both articles is pasted into this message below.
Jimmy Carter's piece: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jimmy-carter-united-palestinian-government-may-provide-new-opportunities-for-peace/2014/05/12/9e36f4a8-d9dd-11e3-b745-87d39690c5c0_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions
In support of President Carter's point of view, an article by Daoud Kuttab in Al-Monitor explains how the PLO-Hamas unity agreement can be seen as a capitulation by Hamas to the more irenic components of Palestinian society: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/04/fatah-plo-hamas-reconciliation-israel.html
A link to the content of the PLO-Hamas unity agreement: http://backchannel.al-monitor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Reconciliation_statement1.pdf
David Ignatius' piece: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-why-the-mideast-peace-process-is-in-tatters/2014/05/15/c8345e78-dc5b-11e3-8009-71de85b9c527_story.html?wpisrc=nl%5Fpopns
In support of David Ignatius, this information on Israeli settlement-building during the negotiations may be helpful: http://www.chron.com/news/world/article/Group-Israel-upped-settlement-work-during-talks-5437582.php
(This article by Federman was the topic of the last WRITE! Alert.)
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