Se­cret talks do have a place in diplo­macy

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - ODED ERAN Dr Oded Eran is di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for Na­tional Se­cu­rity Stud­ies, Tel Aviv

IS­RAELIS LOVE se­cret meet­ings with Arab lead­ers in Lon­don. The most fa­mous were held with King Hus­sein of Jor­dan in 1963, in the house of his Jewish physi­cian. As a ju­nior diplo­mat in the Is­raeli Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, I kept the se­cret file of these meet­ings, co­de­named “Charles”. At the time, the talks pro­duced a greater un­der­stand­ing be­tween Jor­dan and Is­rael, but King Hus­sein was re­luc­tant to be the first Arab leader to sign a peace treaty.

In 1987, it was the then For­eign Min­is­ter, Shi­mon Peres, who met the king at the home of Lord Mish­con, in an at­tempt to pro­duce a roadmap to launch a peace process. Its fail­ure was among the rea­sons that led the king to aban­don the West Bank in 1988.

The most re­cent re­port is of Presi-

dent Peres meet­ing the Pales­tinian pres­i­dent, Abu Mazen, in the Lon­don home of busi­ness­man Poju Zablu­dow­icz. This was one of sev­eral meet­ings which ended with Peres apol­o­gis­ing to Abu Mazen on the phone, say­ing that he could not meet him in Am­man, Jor­dan, as planned, be­cause Prime Min­is­ter Ne­tanyahu would not al­low the talks, aimed at re­viv­ing the Is­raelPales­tinian ne­go­ti­a­tions, to con­tinue.

Se­cret, per­sonal talks be­tween lead­ers are not al­ways a guar­an­tee for suc­cess and they can­not sub­sti­tute for the nec­es­sary po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment con­ducive to reach­ing an agree­ment.

The se­cret talks that Is­raelis and Egyp­tians held in Morocco in 1977, prior to Sa­dat’s visit to Jerusalem, which in turn led to the 1979 peace treaty, suc­ceeded be­cause of the po­lit­i­cal de­ter­mi­na­tion of both Prime Min­is­ter Be­gin and Pres­i­dent Sa­dat and the fear that the US and the Soviet Union were

Peres was hon­ourable but naive in this at­tempt

about to im­pose their own so­lu­tion.

The se­cret Oslo talks which led to the Septem­ber 1993 Ac­cords suc­ceeded, in­ter alia, be­cause of a de­ter­mined po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship on both sides to reach an agree­ment.

There was a grain of naiveté in Pres­i­dent Peres’s hon­ourable at­tempt to use se­cret diplo­macy to re­vive the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian ne­go­ti­a­tions. If Mr Ne­tanyahu be­lieved that the po­lit­i­cal cir­cum­stances were ripe, he could have con­ducted ne­go­ti­a­tions him­self. It is far from clear that Abu Mazen is in­deed ready for, or ca­pa­ble of, sub­stan­tive talks lead­ing to a com­pre­hen­sive agree­ment which will put an end to con­flict and claims.

In the Mid­dle East of to­day, se­cret talks alone are not suf­fi­cient. But as the sec­ond Is­raeli am­bas­sador to Jor­dan, and a ne­go­tia­tor with the Pales­tini­ans, Egyp­tians and Jor­da­ni­ans, I be­lieve that houses in Kens­ing­ton or Hamp­stead will con­tinue to serve the course of peace.

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