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Updated Dec 8, 2023, 8:50pm EST
security

Mideast diplomats seek to accelerate two-state solution

Prince Faisal
REUTERS/Florence Lo/Pool
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The News

Middle East foreign ministers are pressing the Biden administration to support accelerated talks to establish an independent Palestinian state, citing a year deadline to put in place a diplomatic roadmap for Israel and the Palestinians.

Top diplomats from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday in Washington and called for an immediate-cease fire in Israel’s war against the militant Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But they also stressed to reporters the need for the U.S. and international community to quickly revive the long-stalled Mideast peace process to ensure lasting stability once Israel concludes its military operations.

“Certainly, it can happen within one year, or at least the roadmap that takes us to a Palestinian state can happen in one year,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said ahead of his meeting with Blinken. “It could happen much sooner than that because, again, we all know what that roadmap looks like.”

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Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the lack of a diplomatic track has fueled militancy in the Palestinian territories and allowed Hamas, which the U.S., European Union and U.K. designate as a terrorist organization, to grow its support in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. “What you need to focus on now is to get the Palestinians their future, and to convince the Palestinians that they have a future,” Safadi said.

The U.S. vetoed on Friday a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

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Jay’s view

The press by Mideast diplomats to quickly resume negotiations on a two-state solution places them on a collision course with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. And the Biden administration will likely be stuck in between.

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Netanyahu has repeatedly stated he foresees a protracted military operation in Gaza to permanently uproot Hamas’s political and military infrastructure in response to its attack on southern Israel on October 7. Israeli officials have also told the Biden administration that they expect to establish a security zone in Gaza to guard against Hamas or other Palestinian militant groups trying to breach Israel’s borders again.

“The defense establishment is talking about some kind of security buffer on the Gaza side of the border so that Hamas cannot gather military capabilities,” an Israeli official said last week. “It is a security measure, not a political one. We do not intend to remain on the Gaza side of the border.”

Netanyahu, meanwhile, has talked down the possibility of the Palestinian Authority, which oversees the West Bank, taking a role in Gaza after the fighting. The PA and its 88-year-old President Mahmoud Abbas have been the primary interface for peace talks with Israel over the past two decades. If Israel is disqualifying the PA and Abbas, it’s unclear which Palestinian entity Israel would be willing to negotiate with on creating an independent state.

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“We can’t have [in Gaza] an authority that pays families of terrorists...and it can’t be an authority that the person who is heading it hasn’t condemned the Oct. 7 massacre,” Netanyahu said last month of Abbas. “There needs to be something different.”

A number of U.S. and Arab officials have told Semafor in recent weeks that they don’t expect Netanyahu to survive long term in the wake of the Hamas attack. But it’s unclear if any other Israeli leader will be any more committed to reviving the Mideast peace process than Netanyahu.

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The View From Washington

The Biden administration is supporting Israel’s war on Hamas, but increasingly pressuring Netanyahu’s government to limit civilian deaths and allow in greater humanitarian aid. Blinken and Vice President Kamala Harris have also pressed for Israel to begin thinking of a new post-war political order in the Palestinian territories.

Harris, in Dubai last weekend, laid out five principles by which the U.S. is viewing the future of Gaza and the West Bank. This included: No forcible displacement of the Palestinian population in Gaza, no re-occupation by Israeli soldiers, no siege or blockade, no reduction in territory, and no use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism. “We want to see a unified Gaza and West Bank under the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian voices and aspirations must be at the center of this work,” she said.

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