Deal or no-deal in the Middle East: three forces leading to a deadly collision

By — on / Daily, International Negotiation

In June 2011, Professor James Sebenius analyzed three ominous forces in this article for Power and Policy.

On May 15, 2011, thousands of Palestinians rushed Israel’s Syrian and Lebanese borders, as well as the fences of Gaza. Such actions have continued on several Israeli fronts. Arabic social media now buzz with expanded plans for unarmed Palestinian refugees to protest en masse in and around the Jewish state. If stones marked the first intifada and suicide bombers the second, waves of children, women, and men may well characterize a third phase of the conflict. There is much commentary about this new form of protest.

Likewise, the planned September UN vote on Palestinian statehood generates considerable discussion and diplomatic maneuver. Far less well appreciated are the likely consequences of a toxic three-way combination: mass protest, the statehood vote, and a tough Israeli response on the ground. Without advance action to prevent these three forces from converging in September, the risk level will spike for Israeli, Palestinian, and American interests.

A number of constructive actions could prevent the dangerous three-way collision of a new form of protest, the statehood vote, and a tough Israeli response. If negotiations make sufficient progress, the statehood resolution could be crafted to support and strongly facilitate negotiations, not pre-empt them. While many senior “insiders”—Israeli, Palestinian, and American—clearly sense the coming collision and are scrambling for a way out, crucial constituencies on all three sides oppose meaningful initiatives that could avert it. For very different reasons, muddling through looks better to these broader publics.

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One Response to “Deal or no-deal in the Middle East: three forces leading to a deadly collision”

  • I am uncomfortable with some of your language. It is not a “security fence” – it is a huge wall in many points. You suggest the recent violence at the borders was the result of “nervous young soldiers feeling cornered.” I disagree – they were never at any risk. They were most likely ordered to kill, as the Israeli Government fears non-violent protesters more than any other threat. Its intention by killing was to discourage non-violence, and indirectly encourage more violence which serves their purposes better.

    Negotiation has been used by the Israelis as a stalling tactic while they grab more land and water. How can you continue to talk about negotiations when one side (Israel) displays absolutely no “good faith”.


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