World keeps eye on talks

By Brenden Walz

Talks between Israel and its Arab neighbors are being watched by people everywhere, including NIU.

Israeli, Arab and Palestinian representatives began their second day of discussions in Madrid, Spain on Thursday.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir spoke for thirty minutes. He criticized the Arab states for past aggressions against Israel, and he suggested Israel as a future site for future talks. Shamir also indicated a willingness on Israel’s part to go to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon for further talks.

Arab negotiators have been unwilling to agree to hold talks in those countries.

Expectations for the talks mostly have focused on the issues of recognition of Israel’s right to exist and the return of occupied lands seized by Israel.

Access to water supplies has not been as visible an issue as the other two, said Kurt Wenner, an NIU history professor specializing in Middle East studies.

While Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel all are concerned about water supplies, Wenner said Lebanon is the only country that currently has enough supplies.

Currently, the water in the Jordan River and many of its tributaries is under Israeli control, Wenner said. But the Jordanians and the Syrians also are interested in the Jordan water.

Wenner said the water in southern Lebanon also could become a bone of contention. The region might be a possible source of water for industrial and agricultural use in Israel.

“The Israelis are not going to leave south Lebanon without discussing the future of the water supply there, and they are not going to engage in discussions with Jordan without some resolution of the Jordan River waters issues,” Wenner said.

Although the positions of Israel and the Arabs have been unyielding on issues so far, Carl Parrini, an NIU specialist in diplomatic history, said it is possible they might change.

Parrini is an NIU professor specializing in American diplomatic history.

He said the conference has the potential to bring results if the participants can learn to compromise from their current positions.

“The Arabs would like the land back without recognizing Israel’s right to security,” Parrini said. “Israel wants their security without giving up land.”

Parrini agreed any compromise probably will happen behind closed doors, out of the view of cameras and other press.

“If both sides are willing to come together and compromise, then all these issues can be settled,” Parrini said.