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The Winds of Peace?


After four years of violence, the winds of peace seem to be blowing at last between the Jordan and the sea. The death of Yasser Arafat and the disengagement plan of Ariel Sharon have combined to create an atmosphere of optimism.

Egyptian President Mubarak said Ariel Sharon is the Palestinian's best chance for peace, and drummed up support for peace in his visit to the Gulf states. Egypt released Israeli prisoner Azzam Azzam, after eight years in an Egyptian jail on an espionage charge that he denies. The Palestinians and Israelis have begun talking about peace. All these signs give hope that the long nightmare of violence that began in September 2000 is at last over. Fresh rumors about forthcoming Israeli concessions and Palestinian truce offers appear almost every day. The latest rumor claimed that Palestinians and Israelis have agreed to a truce and even to the major details of a peace deal. This peace deal, like some other rumors, is evaporating quickly. Less than 24 hours after it first appeared, it was termed "premature" by Israeli officials. and Palestinians explained that it is only an agreement about election logistics.

The Israelis and Palestinians have been flooded with diplomatic visitors including Germany's Joschka Fischer and Spain's Miguel Moratinos. Britain is reportedly initiating a peace conference to take place after the Palestinian elections.

However, analysts on both sides warn us, with good reason, that the problems are far from solution and the reality is still grim.

In Ha'aretz, Aluf Benn points out:

The Palestinians are guided by a permanent fear of "the mu'amra," the plot, which Israel is devising in order to imprison them once and for all in "bantustans" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, separated and surrounded by a network of settlements, checkpoints and the separation fence. They discern the footprints of this mu'amra in every Israeli action in the territories since the Oslo Accords were signed....

The Israelis fear that the Palestinians will exploit every loophole and pretext to dismantle the security envelope and the economic separation that prevent terror attacks in Israel's heartland. Israel's approach to the talks was that the goal should be maximum separation between the two populations and the two economies, which would require the dilution of previous agreements.

Both sides are suspicious, and recent history seems to justify their suspicion.

In Aljazeera, Khalid Amayreh quotes Abd Allah Abd Allah, director-general of the Palestinian foreign ministry:

... Abd Allah said Israel is "neither ready nor willing to make peace with Palestinians".

"We have to remember that Israeli society is still driven by racist and hate-filled extremists who deny the very existence of the Palestinian people....

"To them, a Palestinian leadership may negotiate with Israel not to end the occupation and create a viable Palestinian state, but to decide on the modalities of a Palestinian national suicide."

That is more like the rhetoric to which we have been accustomed. Amayreh continues:

...Sharon would like the new Palestinian leadership, possibly led by Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazin), to compromise on such key Palestinian issues as East Jerusalem, the right of return and the creation of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But this, says Yacoub Shahin, a high-ranking official in the Palestinian ministry of information, will not happen.

Of course, Israel will not accept the Palestinian position on Right of Return of the refugees, which would mean the dissolution of Israel. Abu Mazen, who is probably the more moderate of the two leading Palestinian candidates has announced his commitment to right of return, and reiterated it. Likewise, Abu Mazen closed the door on an interim solution that would bring "de facto" peace without sacrificing Right of Return.

Even more ominously, Ma'ariv reports that in Damascus, Mahmoud Abbas and Syrian President Bashar Assad agreed to coordinate their strategy, so that Israel could not make peace with the Palestinians without making peace with the Syrians as well. This strategy will guarantee at least the neutrality of the Syrians toward Abu Mazen and the Palestinians. On the other hand, since Israel is not likely to open peace talks with Syria, at least until the United States is satisfied that Syria has stopped supporting Iraqi insurgents, it adds an unnecessary and probably fatal obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Of course, Mahmoud Abbas is campaigning for election right now, a contest made interesting by the entry of jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouthi. Any appearance of concessions to Israel, and conversely, any Israeli concessions made to the Palestinians before the election, will be quickly branded by Abbas's opponents as "collusion with the Zionist enemy."

However, we may not need to deal with the seemingly insurmountable difficulties of the final peace settlement for quite a while. Those who are focusing on the details of the final peace settlement may be trying to avoid dealing with equally unpleasant and more pressing realities that must be accommodated first. Before we have peace, we must have sanity. The reality of the occupation is very very far from peace. Israeli soldiers carry out raids in Palestinian cities almost daily, and Hamas and other extremist groups carry out counter attacks as well as attacks on civilians. The Palestinian economy is non-existent. The ideologies and organizations that created the suicide bombers are still around, and will be able to find willing soldiers ready to do their bidding. In this situation, it is hard to convince anyone that peace is possible and necessary,

The first, very hazardous step, will involve getting back to the state of relative normalcy that existed in September 2000. That should be easier than reaching a peace agreement, because at least, we did it before. However, the violence created a new reality. It is not so easy to roll back the tape of history. Israel and the Palestinian Authority leadership may agree on a truce, but that truce will be a tempting target for anyone from the Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Fatah Al-Aqsa brigades who wants to upset the PNA leadership, as well as for countries like Iran, who fund the Islamic Jihad and Hamas, who would love to derail the peace process. Then of course, Israel would be obliged to respond, to send troops and institute curfews and close borders, and we will be back in the same grim reality again.

We need to take some "baby steps" before engaging in the really tough journey to peace. We need to have a few months of peace and quiet in which Palestinians can rebuild and hatreds on both sides can be forgotten. If we cannot make these first relatively small steps, there will be no support for peace either in Israel nor in Palestine, and the winds of peace will turn out to be a lot of hot air, just as in the past.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000318.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Moderator @ 11:19 PM CST [Link]


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Replies: 10 comments

I've been reading Clayton E. Swisher's book about Camp David and it speaks very clearly about ways of not achieving peace. The best one is Israel insisting in not use 242 as a basis and trying to invent ways of cheating Palestinians about the subject. Another very good option is to try to implement peace by slices. For instance, Palestinians want a generic acknowledge of the right of return as part of their giving up on the subject (which they know they will need to do at some point). It is self evident that this two things must be stated in the same document and try to state only one will cause the other part to pull out inmediately. I do not think Israel is ripe for peace and keep blaming the palestinian side is absurd. Before Israel truly accepts 242 any move is wishful thinking. This periodic swaping between "greatest hopes" mode (current one) and "lost opportunities" mode is just an appearance and a way that Israel uses to relieve world presure to make him accept 242. The only one who wasted the opportunity in Camp David was Barak and Sharon is ready to repeat the manouver so being able to come back to the favourite mode for some people in Israel which is "lost oportunities" (blaming Palestinians). If Israel is not going to pull back the settlers, please do not create hopes. Like or not, Palestinians have stated that for them ilegal settlement is a form of terrorism.

Posted by Aleph @ 12/09/2004 03:14 PM CST

I don’t usually do that, but in this case the first gut reaction is probably the right one:

To “Aleph” – Have you asked yourself who has more at stake here when comes to Palestinian self governing? I would readily admit to all Israel’s sins, accept for our right to exist. Have the Palestinians and their leaders created opportunities for piece? Fully capitalize on all opportunities that came along? You must live in a different universe, one that the real middle east doesn’t exist.

Posted by Zvi Goldman @ 12/09/2004 06:39 PM CST

Whether it be one international politician or another, they seem obsessed with getting the Peace Process or the Road Map going again in the Middle East Peace Process. The obsession appears to be focus on the journey rather than the destination. Like many projects connected with governments, there appears to be more concern about being seen to be doing something rather than actually achieving any tangible results.
It occurs to me that much of the failure of the “Peace Process” is due to a failure to agree the objectives of the process. US and EU politicians and most of their electorates seem to identify the establishment of a two state solution as being the final objective. For the most part it seems that Israel agrees with this, but that there are grave reservations about the Palestinian capacity to deliver. There are significant elements within Israel that hanker after Greater Israel in one form or another. The Palestinian leaders at least seem far less certain that this two state solution is the final objective. On one hand some seem to reject the idea of any treaty with Israel. Others seem to think that the two state solution is merely an interim solution, which prefaces the eventually establishment of a single Palestinian state covering all of the former Mandated Territories.
If Israel intends to maintain occupation of the West Bank and Gaza through the application of security measures. Then the Peace Process is doomed as the Palestinians will never agree to this, and nor should they.
If the Palestinians aspire to return to May 1967 in the vain hope that in the medium terms they can deploy their resources to attain their 1948 war aims. Then the Peace Process is doomed as the Israelis will never accept it, and no occupying power would relinquish control to a government that intends to use it as a precursor to initiating another war.
The evident lack of consensus between Israelis and Palestinians renders all discussion largely meaningless. It descends too frequently into simply a litany of complaint about the other. Perhaps the aspiration for the establishment of “normalcy” between an Israeli and Palestinian state is misplaced. Perhaps both sides should simply establish the benefits to themselves of disengagement in the first place, leaving the discussions about any joint activity until much later. Then simply let go of each other.
Actually sometimes it seems as if the Israelis / Palestinians don’t need anymore Peace Envoys, but a half way decent Divorce Lawyer!

Posted by Rod Davies @ 12/09/2004 10:43 PM CST

I must say, after reading the above postings, I wonder why the following question has not been raised: Is there an American partner for peace?

My fear at the moment is there is not. And, as one of your commentators observed, I regret to say my country, the United States, has still not reconciled the mistakes it made in the last round (detailed more fully in my book, entitled, "The Truth About Camp David").

Shalom, Salaam, Peace!

Clayton E. Swisher

Posted by Clayton E. Swisher @ 12/11/2004 07:36 PM CST

The 50 year plight and misery of the Palestinians is a reprehensible comment on those supposedly championing their cause. By deflecting internal criticisms from their own illegal and immoral regimes, they use (in the worst sense of the word0 the Palestinians as a buffer between their own suffering populous and their immoral regimes. Given the level of wealth and availability of land ammassed by other Arabic regimes, the fact that they have opted to press forth for violence and incited terrorist activities against Israel speaks volumes as to teir true agenda. If the situation were reversed, you can be certain that the Jews of the diaspora would have banded together to provide comfort and compassion. Why have the oil rich nations left the Palestinians to live in squalor? If true humanitarianism drives them, they could have built schools, hospitals and university in any of a thousand carved out pieces of pan-arabic territory and allowed the Palestinians a real chance for dignity and advancement. No, my friends; the world's overall desire is to create a global position depicting Israel as an agressive, uncaring nation and to exert enough force to ultimately undermine the most advanced (morally, economically, socially,agriculturally) country in the region. The total destruction of the State of Israel is a goal that is way out in front of any desire for the restitution of Palestinian rights. To think anything else is sophistry of the highest order.

Posted by Bruce Burnett @ 12/12/2004 04:52 AM CST

To Aleph,
Israel has accepted 242 as a basis for peace. I suspect that you think 242 says something other than what it actually says. UN SC Res 242 does not call for total Israeli withdrawal from all territories. See 242
Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;
The word "all" that had been part of the resolution at one time, was removed after extensive negotiations and upon Israeli insistence, and several letters from US officials affirm that the resolution does not require total Israeli withdrawal to the lines of June 4, 1967.

Ami Isseroff

Posted by Moderator @ 12/18/2004 03:26 PM CST

Not only has every grandiose or even trivial peace plan for the Arab Israeli conflict failed, every one of those plans has always ended up with the Israeli First Aid services bagging the bodies of murdered Israeli citizens, mopping up gallons of Israeli blood, and marking and tagging the various Israeli body parts left behind by their Arab Palestinian murderers. It is always the same lethal story, the Americans or Europeans envision a window for peace, the Israelis agree with them, and they all sit down with the Arabs to discuss just how Israel can disarm herself or give up a little more defensive territory, and within hours or days, ten or fifteen Israeli somen and children are blown to bits, and dozens of others are injured, and the delusional peace makers go into hiding, never acknowledgeing their responsibility for the butchery of more innocent Jewish civilians.

Posted by Kenneth S. Besig @ 12/20/2004 05:10 PM CST

Dear Ami: Through 30 years I read 242 text many times and probably this particular clause is my "most readed". I think that Israel must use it to not give back Golan because Siria behaviour and Israel security justifies it. However when we come to Palestinians I think 1967 frontiers must be the basis (for me Israel can keep Latrun and Jerusalem neighborhoods but nothing else). Apart from my opinion, the comment was that what it was offered to Arafat in Camp David did not fit at all 242 (Jordan Valley, web of roads , tentacles slicing palestinian territory, etc...) and that this was the reason they rejected because they understand that the clause you named is a window for doing some changes but it is not a window to completely ignore 1967. I was not judging if Israel must or not negociate over 1967 basis. I was saying that in spite of what many people said, Israel did not accept it in Camp David and I also said that keeping doing this do not lead to peace. I am still under shock after reading this book because it demonstrates that Oslo was a mortal trap for Palestinians and it makes me understand the hate for Arafat in certain people and the feeling of palestinian negociators towards Israel. I do not know if you have read it but I will really appreciate your comments. Answering Zvi Goldman and Swisher himself, my comment was certainly biased because the book shows a coral failure and Barak cannot be blamed alone for the failure (or for the cover-up). Finally I want to say that if should a person alone must be blamed for the Oslo wrecking and the Second Intifada start (and BTW the anti-USA feeling amongst muslims), it would be not Arafat or Barak but it would be Dennis Ross. Barak and Arafat did their jobs with more or less good faith and more or less ability but Ross did not at all for 15 years. He thought was helping Israel when was driving it towards a horrible nightmare.

Posted by Aleph @ 12/20/2004 05:47 PM CST


Posted by WAT EVA @ 01/06/2005 06:55 PM CST


Posted by MIKE MAZZARATI @ 01/06/2005 07:07 PM CST

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