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The multilateral Arab-Israeli negotiations: Genesis, institutionalization, pause, future


Why do national leaders choose to create a multilateral mechanism for international cooperation? This analysis of the multilateral Arab-Israeli peace negotiations (1993-95) takes stock of the original motivations in launching a multilateral process and of the subsequent development of institutional 'focal points' in five issue areas: Arms Control and Regional Security, Economic Development, Refugees, Water, and the Environment. The multilaterals were designed to provide a supportive framework for the bilateral negotiations, to lubricate the participants' common domestic political and economic agenda, to weaken domestic rivals opposed to the peace process, to enhance the support of the international community, and to provide inducements for inclusion and signal opportunity costs to rejectionists in the region. The multilaterals' preliminary, incipient achievements came about despite continued concerns with 'relative gains', raised mostly by opponents of the peace process. The collapse of bilateral Palestinian-Israeli negotiations (1996-99) doomed this very brief episode of institution-building. Although it is too early to project the direction of the peace process under the new Israeli coalition government led by Ehud Barak, a dedicated effort to resolve outstanding bilateral Palestinian-Israeli and Syrian-Israeli issues bodes well for a subsequent resumption of multilateral negotiations.

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