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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Middle East

Nina Donaghy

Mid East

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A Separate Peace?

September 9, 2010 - 11:33 AM | by: Nina Donaghy

A new round of talks next week – is a bilateral peace track the best route? Or should there be a wider strategy ?  We talk to Jordan’s former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher :

Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority resume next week in Egypt and Jerusalem. Both sides have been under pressure from the US to resume the talks.
Some analysts argue that the time is not yet right – that both sides cannot make the painful compromises until the non negotiable’s from Israel’s Arab neighbors are clear.

Israel has normal diplomatic relations with only two nations – Egypt and Jordan.

Jordan has played a historic role in Israeli  – Arab relations – brokering its own peace accord in 1994. King Hussain joined President Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA leader Yasser Arafat at the Wye River talks in 2000. His son King Abdullah was the first Arab leader to be received by President Obama in 2009.

The message Abdullah brought to the White House was there was, at that time, a united Arab position and  a united will that the peace process should resume.

Marwan Muasher served as Jordan’s first Ambassador to Israel in 1995. From 1997 to 2002, Muasher was Jordan’s Ambassador to Washington, negotiating the first free trade agreement between the United States and an Arab nation. He then returned to Jordan to serve as foreign minister, where he played a central role in developing the Arab Peace Initiative and the Middle East Road Map. In 2004 he became deputy prime minister. Muasher is currently vice president of studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Muasher advocates a comprehensive regional approach to peace and shared his views with Fox News:

He argues that an incremental, bilateral approach between Israelis and Palestinians is not the realistic path. The course, he says, should be to involve key regional powers like Syria and Saudi Arabia must be included in the process – not necessarily literally seated around the negotiating table – but in bilateral discussions with Washington that, Muasher argues, should have preceeded this new round of talks.

” A separate peace agreement is not acceptable nor desirable. The Israelis are not going to be interested in partial peace, its not going thelp them with Hamas, with Hezbollah, with Iran. It is not going to help with painful compromises ”

On the issue of settlements, particularly the pre talks public rhetoric on the issue from Israel, Muasher thinks more a “negiotiating tactic”. The real issue for the Palestinians he says will be refugees. The Palestinians will not give their bottom line on refugees without Arab cover.”

“I am not suggesting the Saudis and Syrians are present around the negotiating table, the Syrians would be interested, but it is not necessary.  The Obama administration needs to engage with them to create the environment for endgame deposits.”

In referring to “endgame deposits” Muasher described how the situation during the Oslo Israeli – Syrian talks was different. Both sides had the reassurance of these “endgame deposits” – hypothetical bottom line guarantees – that were secured by then Secretary of State Warren Christopher – before either side came together to try to hammer out the core issues.

“Abbas cannot give his bottom line on refugees ahead ” says Muasher , the Palestinian Prime Minister needs to be certain first on the position of nations that are home to Palestinian refugees like Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

For Syria  – an non negotiable would be the return of the Golan Heights to the June 4 borders. For the Saudis the intractable core issue is Jerusalem – they want East Jerusalem to stand as the Palestinian captial in order to back any deal.

Comparing the climate of 2010 to 1994, Muasher says there was a more condusive to progress – ” the number of settlers was half, the Palestinian Authority did not have its domestic division, Hamas was not in Parliament, it was far less powerful than it is today.
In 1994 the whole Israeli and Arab mood was more positive . Today public attitudes have hardened on both sides. Oslo in 93 promised peace in 5 years. It is now 17.  This has become a regional conflict and needs a regional solution.”

This kind of agreement says Muasher would oblige ” Arabs to be responsible for delivering Hamas and Hezbollah. The US could still be responsible for collecting these so called “end game deposits. These hypothetical pledges from all parties could be deposited with Washington and committed to only if others are willing to do the same. “