When the current round of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians was announced, conventional wisdom suggested these talks, brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, were doomed to failure – just like so many previous efforts to settle the dispute and put a two-state solution in place have failed over the past two decades.
If I were a gambler, I’d probably follow the conventional wisdom and put my money on these talks ending the same way the others have – despite my belief that successfully reaching the two-state solution is in the very best interests of both Israel and the Palestinians.
Sometimes, though, the conventional wisdom gets it wrong, and I started thinking a couple of months ago that this might be one of those times.
The talks have been shrouded in secrecy and, despite conflicting third-hand reports that they’re making progress and that they’re not going well, it seems to me the success of maintaining the news blackout is an indication that some sort of progress is being made.
That feeling was reinforced when I met with Ambassador Rafael Barak last month for the article on pages 1 and 2. As a veteran Israeli peace negotiator, and having just served as director general of the ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel’s new ambassador to Canada is someone I’d pay attention to on this issue. Both sides, he told me, are serious and engaged in these talks.
But, to me, the surest sign the talks might – and that’s still a very big “might” – be approaching success are the latest signals from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a man with a reputation for being among the hardest of Israeli hardliners.
I met Lieberman when he was in Ottawa in September 2011 and I attended a briefing he gave to a small invited group of Jewish community leaders from Ottawa and Montreal.
At that briefing, Lieberman dismissed the peace process and a proposed Palestinian state despite the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was calling for a renewal of talks with no preconditions. There was no hope for peace with the Palestinians, he said then.
In recent days, though (I’m writing on January 10 just before this issue goes to press), Lieberman has been singing a surprisingly different tune, saying how important talking to the Palestinians is, praising Kerry’s efforts, and saying these discussions are the basis for the best possible deal.
Avigdor Lieberman was one of the last Israeli politicians I’d expect to take this position. So, maybe, just maybe, these talks will be successful.
Harper visit to Israel
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to be in Israel this week on his first visit to the Jewish state. As she notes in her My Israel column on page 23, Barbara Crook, will be part of the Canadian delegation travelling with the prime minister.
Barbara will be filing reports from Israel for the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin during Harper’s visit and we’ll post them online at www.ottawajewishbulletin.com as they arrive. We’ll then have a wrap-up in our next issue.
Steven Kimmel, chair of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, will also be part of the Canadian delegation.
Thanks Ilana, welcome Monique
In September, Ilana Belfer, who had been our Campus Life columnist for three years, left that beat and began writing Emerging Gen, a column about issues and concerns of young adults in their 20s and 30s.
Ilana completed her journalism degree at Carleton University in December and has decided to leave Ottawa – at least for now. She’s off this month to do some travelling and then plans to settle in Toronto.
And when one door closes, another opens. We’ve recently been assigning some articles to freelance journalist Monique Elliot, who has also contributed to the Canadian Jewish News. Monique is from the Toronto area, but came to Ottawa to study journalism at Carleton. She graduated in 2012 and returned home.
But Monique decided she likes Ottawa better and has returned to live here. She introduces herself as our new Emerging Gen columnist on page 23. Her column will appear every second issue.