UN discussing ‘deal of the century’ shows Palestine is in worse position, says expert

The fact alone that the UN Security Council convened to discuss the US plan for Israeli-Palestinian settlement, the so-called ‘deal of the century’, in spite of Palestine and a few other Arab nations rejecting the imitative demonstrates that the Palestinian side’s positions are weakening as time goes on, research director at the Valdai Discussion Club Fyodor Lukyanov told TASS on Wednesday.

"The fact itself that after the deal was initially received very negatively, like stop messing with us, but is now turning into a certain basis for diplomatic action shows that the situation is far different to what it was 10-15 years ago, or even more so 25-30 years ago. Time works against Palestinians because the longer no real premise for statehood is emerging the more difficult it will be to create this very state," he underlined. "More so that the Israeli policy of seizing Palestinian territories, annexing their parts and expanding settlements will carry on. Moreover, it is very much unclear to what extent Arab countries are ready to put the spotlight on the Palestinian issue in the new situation emerging in the Middle East."

The expert believes that Palestine’s reluctance to negotiate only compromises its positions in conflict with Israel. He recalled that in the late 1990s-early 2000s then US President Bill Clinton managed to win significant concessions from Israelis, however, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat still rejected the "generous proposals of the American president." "After that, the situation has been gradually declining for 20 years now," Lukyanov continued.

According to him, the US plan is formulated in such a way that it couldn’t but spark backlash because it is "excessively skewed to one side" and primarily takes Israeli interests into account. At the same time, Arab countries’ stark criticism of the deal does not fully reflect their real position, he noted. The expert underlined that containing Iran is now a top priority for Arabs and not supporting Palestinians in their fight against Israel. Therefore, they might be "not so opposed" to the US initiative, Lukyanov added.

Return of the Middle East Quartet?

Commenting on the results of Tuesday’s UN Security Council meeting, Head of the Center of the Near and Middle East at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Vladimir Fitin underscored that positions of the sides did not get any closer. "Everyone stayed where they are - the majority of Muslim states, Europeans, China and Russia all believe that the plan is one-sided and it will be tough to achieve ultimate settlement on its basis," the expert stressed.

Fitin emphasized that calls to resume negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis backed by the Middle East Quartet (Russia, the European Union, the United Nations and the United States) were voiced a number of times at the UN Security Council meeting. Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were particularly calling for that. Nevertheless, the expert believes that there should not be hopes that a possible conference for Middle Eastern settlement with the Quarter’s participation can immediately come up with a solution to the problem but the resumption of talks in this format in itself is vital.

"Many conferences, meetings and attempts to settle [the conflict] have been taking place for decades and because the conflict itself is very deep and intertwined with a lot of irresolvable problems, it is hard to suggest that a certain breakthrough can be secured at a specific meeting," Fitin said. "Nevertheless, the main thing is that talks [with participation of the Middle East Quartet], which can lead to at least something ultimate, resume."

Lukyanov shared a different point of view, saying that the Quarter players such as the UN, the US and EU countries are not tangibly influencing situation in the Middle East, while their role in resolving conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen "is very restricted if it is there at all."

According to him, Russia is playing an important role in the Middle East. At the same time, "European states have almost lost all their leverage", while even though the US still holds on to them "it is unclear how and to what end it is ready to apply them." "Therefore, I don’t see how the format that reflected a completely different situation and balance of power can be adapted to what we have today," the expert concluded.

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