Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are taking place despite Israel's doubts over the chances of reaching an agreement. However, Israel is not preparing for the potential failure of negotiations and currently has no alternative political strategy
1. The negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in the lead up to the Annapolis Summit are being conducted under a cloud of doubt over its chances for success. In spite of this, there does not appear to be any current Israeli preparation for the possibility that negotiations will fail nor any understanding of the possible consequences. This document focuses on the political implications of failure and the preparation for such an event.
2. Since Hamas' takeover of Gaza (6/07) and the establishment of the emergency government in the West Bank under Salam Fayyad, it seems an opportunity has been created to break the political deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians and to conduct negotiations with Abu Mazen as Chairman of the PLO and the PA. Ostensibly, Abu Mazen and Fayyad are the most 'moderate' partners that the Palestinians are able to offer.
3. However, its doubtful whether an Israeli - Palestinian 'partnership' is currently possible due to: (a) Significant gaps between the two sides over the 'outstanding issues', the structure, and the agenda of negotiations; (b) Abu Mazen's internal weakness in the Palestinian arena and (c) Hamas' control over Gaza and its strength in the West Bank. There is therefore a high possibility that the political process will hit a dead end.
4. The Reut Institute defines 'failure of the political process' as one of the following: (a) One or both of the sides declare their inability to reach an agreement (b) The sides formulate an agreement but the ratification or implementation processes clearly fail (c) An external event which foils the process and brings to its end, such as a Hamas takeover of the West Bank, the assassination of Abu Mazen or Salam Fayyad, etc.
5. Failure may hold far-reaching political consequences. It may pave the way for a Hamas takeover of the West Bank, a new wave of violence, the collapse of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and a Palestinian inversion towards the principle of a 'Two State Solution' that may lead to the voluntary dissolution of the PA.
6. These trends may ultimately lead to an inversion in the position of the international community towards the 'Two State Solution' and to the adoption of the 'One State Solution' on the basis of 'one man one vote'. In other words, the failure of the political process will have strategic significance for the Israel's national security.
7. The premise of this document is that even in the case of the failure of the political process, the existence of the PA and its ability to provide for the basic needs of the Palestinian population is a key Israeli interest.
8. Therefore, this document suggests a series of policy options whose aim is to ground the principle of the 'Two State Solution' and to strengthen the PA and the Fatah leadership in the West Bank even before the end of the current round of negotiations and independent of its outcome. The main points include:
- a. Strengthening the PA through cooperation and the transfer of powers and authorities in the economic and diplomatic realms that are currently under Israel's control.
- b. Considering freeing Marwan Barghouti in order to create the continuation of Fatah leadership after Abu Mazen and Fayyad.
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