Changing the operative principle of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations?

I agree with Shai Feldman that if Israeli-Palestinian negotiations start up under President Obama, the way in which talks are conducted needs to change:

Requirement 5: Change the operative principle of negotiationsThe principle upon which Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations from Camp David to Taba were based—nothing is agreed upon until everything is agreed upon—should be dropped. It had a toxic effect because it meant that any progress achieved was held hostage to the most difficult issues. Instead, the opposite principle should be adopted: whatever is agreed upon should be implemented. This will allow Israelis and Palestinians to see progress on the ground. And however small that progress might be, it will be very significant given the present pessimism among Palestinians and Israelis alike.

But I think it is also important to note that his new principle creates a new problem. Negotiating parties may want to see the whole picture before they make fundamental concessions. That is, before Israel concedes Palestinian sovereignty in many parts of East Jerusalem or before the PA accepts the right of return in theory but not (really) in implementation, they may want to see the big picture and make sure they get reciprocal concessions of equal value.

In other words, Feldman assumes the issues can be disentangled and that may be true to an extent with initial measures and minor issues. But I wonder especially if on the core issues that will be hard to do. Both sides may need to construct hypothetical scenarios of mutual concessions before they commit. Since you cannot always negotiate about parallel issues at exactly the same time or pace, you may end up with breakthroughs at different times, in which case you may have to wait for other issue baskets to ‘catch up.’

We may really need both principles with clearly demarcated areas in which they apply.


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