Monday, September 04, 2006

Negotiating With "Terrorists" On All Fronts

It is almost comical, the way in which governments present a formal stance, while concurrently pursuing the exact opposite behind the scenes. The "we will never negotiate with terrorists" meme took another blow today with Annan's announcement that he would mediate talks in Lebanon:
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has agreed to mediate in efforts for the release of two abducted Israeli soldiers after requests from both Hezbollah and Israel, his spokesman said Monday.

It would be the first time that Israel has publicly agreed to indirect contacts with the Lebanese guerrilla group over winning the release of the two soldiers, snatched in a cross-border raid on July 12. Their capture sparked a massive Israeli offensive against Hezbollah that lasted 34 days until a UN-arranged ceasefire.

“The Secretary-General has accepted to play a role as mediator in the matter of the abducted soldiers,” Mr. Fawzi told Associated Press. “They have both requested mediation,” he said, referring to Hezbollah and Israel.

The Israeli government is also using Egypt to negotiate with the Palestinians, for release of the kidnapped soldier in Gaza:
An Egyptian diplomat familiar with the negotiations said a deal was unlikely in the coming days because Israel and the Palestinians have not agreed on the number or names of prisoners to be released.

The Americans have negotiated with Iraqi insurgents. NATO is said to have talked to the Taliban militants, in the hopes that they will lay down their arms. Clearly a matter of appearances, western nations regularly negotiate with organizations that they publicly spurn. The nuance of "indirect" or "intermediary" creates a buffer to maintain the mirage, but it really is just the equivalent of passing notes in high school.

If you admit that these talks take place, it diminishes the legitimacy of the outrage, whenever anyone suggests formal diplomacy. A mature policy embraces the benefit of actual "direct" contact. If Israel were to "talk" to Hezbollah, face to face, instead of these disjointed missions, it might be more fruitful and exercise. Maybe if Nasrallah actually had to speak to Jews, it might humanize the negotiations and in some small way confront his bigotry and soften his perception. Nothing is lost, because you are already negotiating, so why not have direct contact. I see that approach as far more productive than clandestine meetings and shuttle diplomacy to maintain the appearance of detachment. Mediation should involve both parties at a common table.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I dont blame hisbullah for not wanting to talk to terrorist israel, after all, all those cluster bombs killing inocent civilians is a "war crime".