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Right Intention: Palestinian Negotiations

Friday, November 12, 2004

Palestinian Negotiations

I think Amir Taheri is one of the best columinists out there on Middle Eastern matters. Interesting nugget on Israel's willingness to negotiate in the early 90s.

Before the Madrid exercise had ended, it had become clear that the Israelis were uncomfortable dealing with moderate, genuine Palestinians from inside Palestine. To address that unease, Israel opened a back channel to Arafat, thus undermining the burgeoning new leadership from inside Palestine.

At the time, Arafat was isolated in Tunis. Having sided with Saddam Hussein in invading Kuwait, the PLO chief was a pariah. No one invited him for official trips, and few big shots in Europe and the Arab world returned his calls.

More importantly, given his obsession with money, Arafat was beginning to feel the pinch in financing his entourage and frequent-flier trips without dipping into his pocket. He needed attention and money. The Israelis offered him both. In exchange, he agreed to join the Oslo game. The aim was to shut the Americans out of the negotiations, and derail the Madrid process.

I obviously don't know if this is true. But I think Taheri's record over the last few years on these topics has been very good. It would be a shame if Israel derailed talks with moderates ten years ago to please it's own hardliners.


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