Dear Mr. President,
I talk too much. Ask any one who knows me. I talk out loud, I talk online, I talk in writing. I speak when I should be silent. I process things out loud in conversations with others. Even when there are no answers, even when I have no better option besides wait and see what happens, I will keep talking about things just to keep myself calm. What I mean to say is that in general I am a fan of talking. When it comes to countries talking, especially when talk is substituted for violence or oppression, I'm almost always going to think it's a good idea. I do think that direct talks between Israel and Palestine are necessary and that the steps taken by your administration recently are at least well-intentioned.
Still, I have to say that today's Op-ed from former ambassador Martin Indyk is way off of the mark. His forced optimism about upcoming negotiations is painfully evident in his biased and poorly reasoned argument. He cites as a reason for optimism the low number of Israeli deaths due to terrorism in the last two years, (eight), but neglects to mention the number of Palestinians killed at the hands of Israelis in the same time period, (1,497.) I can see why this information wouldn't fit into his roses and sunshine picture, but that he doesn't even mention the recent decrease in Palestinian deaths (which are down to about 100 since the end of Operation Cast Lead) as a factor is telling that he doesn't consider them to be as significant as the Israeli deaths. Indyk also declares "The demolition of Palestinian houses there is also down compared with recent years." without any supporting evidence or statistics to place such a statement in context. In 2010 about 232 homes have been demolished so far, though that number does not include the four Al-Araqib demolitions. (In case there is any confusion I don't mean 4 houses, I mean the entire Bedouin village has been demolished 4 times.) While that is a significant decrease from the more than 5,000 demolitions in 2009, I think the number is still large enough to make Mr. Indyk's readers uncomfortable with citing it as a hopeful indicator.
I don't want to sound this cynical, and I do hope that these talks find success, however unlikely it may seem. Talking to one another is the best option for all parties. Until the true power dynamics are discussed plainly, however, I fear these talks will be all for show. I think true indicators for optimism would be an end (not just a superficial easing) to the blockade of Gaza, withdrawal of the illegal settlements in Hebron and throughout the West Bank, and anything resembling a workable solution for the long-suffering populations of refugees still living in camps. Those would give me hope that talk might lead to peace. Instead, I think that this is all an elaborate performance designed to boost confidence in your administration's foreign policy and to allay Israeli concerns at their waning American support. I hope that I'm wrong. I hope that this time talk leads to actual change, but I've yet to see any signs to inspire real optimism.