While there is a strict gag order on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Ambassador Martin S. Indyk, lead American peace negotiator, did share some thoughts about the process during his talk at the J Street gala. He asked the rhetorical question, “What is different this time?”
To this, Indyk said, No. 1 is that the key “enemies of peace” are weakened. Hamas has been reduced by the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Iran is suffering from sanctions, and most other Middle East countries are focused on their own internal affairs. The chaos in surrounding countries “is generating a common sense of purpose between the Arab states and Israel.”
No. 2, he noted, there are low expectations for the process. While some might see that as a deterrent, Indyk said that in contrast “those low expectations give us, the negotiators, some space within which to operate.”
He also cited the positive voice of the Arab League, which indicated it would endorse a final status agreement, and that the political standings of both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas are at a peak. A July poll released by Ha’aretz showed Netanyahu’s popularity at 56 percent. A Palestine Center for Public Opinion poll, released Oct. 1, showed that more than 62 percent of Palestinians are at least “somewhat satisfied” with Abu Mazen’s performance (20.8 percent said they are “very satisfied”).