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Annapolis Middle East meeting: Lay down the law


Everyone seems to be agreed that the U.S. hosted Middle East meeting planned at Annapolis is going to be a catastrophic failure (see here, and also Eran Lerman, Yossi Alpher, Ghassan Khatib, Oded Eran and Daoud Kuttab). The consequences of failure at Annapolis could be catastrophic, ruining both chances for Middle East peace and US standing in the Middle East.

The prospects for peace are not helped by the Hamas announcement that they are planning a coup in the West Bank.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seems to be doing little to avert this impending failure, and actually acts as if she is unaware of the problem. Her junket to the Middle East brought little substantive change in the positions of the respective parties, producing only photo-ops and empty words of support for peace.

If the United States, and the rest of the quartet - the UN and the European countries - want this meeting to succeed, they will have to lay down the law to all sides. They will also need to revise some of their own unrealistic positions. If the Israelis and Palestinians cannot come up with a declaration of principles, at least the United States, UN and European countries can initiate some action of their own, that will facilitate and encourage serious negotiations in place of absurd posturing and procrastination.

Outside mediators cannot force a solution to the conflict, but they can remove or help to remove some of the obstacles to the resolution of the conflict, and instill in both Israel and the Palestinians the conviction that they are fair but tough mediators, and that they will help ensure the rights of BOTH sides. At the same time, they must make it clear that the world is not going to leave either the Palestinians or the Israelis any option whatever other than to work out a solution quickly. Let's face it - almost everyone is sick of this conflict, including most of the responsible Arab governments, the Europeans and the Americans, and probably the majority of Palestinians and Israelis as well. Only the extremists gain from prolonging the misery. U.S. moves must be closely coordinated with the UN and European partners if they are to succeed. They must present a package that includes a number of provisions that change the rules of the game.

The main issues that should be dealt with in this package are:

  • An immediate freeze on Israeli settlement expansion and removal of the infamous illegal outposts. This last point was a promise that Israel made to the US, and failure to implement it is a shoddy indicator of bad faith.

  • An immediate end to incitement against Israel sponsored by the Fatah in the West Bank, and effective action by the Palestinian Authority to enforce the law against terrorists - not just those who disagree with Mahmoud Abbas.

  • Agreement by all Arab states to end support for the Hamas, and to end the steady infiltration of supplies and Iranian advisers that Egypt has allowed.

  • A realistic plan to hold free elections in all the Palestinian territories, with the participation only of those parties that agree to the principles of the Oslo Accords, which are the enabling documents of the Palestinian Authority.

  • A UN Security Council resolution that will override earlier provisions for internationalization of Jerusalem, which were totally unrealistic.

  • A UN Security Council resolution that will override General Assembly Resolution 194, which is almost 60 years old, and unrealistically calls for return of refugees.

  • At minimum, Israeli and Palestinian sides should make a binding joint declaration that states that timetable for Israeli evacuation of settlements outside the borders of that map. This does not require elimination of the presence of the IDF in those areas until a final agreement is reached and the Palestinian government demonstrates that it can enforce the rule of law and stop terrorism.

  • At minimum, all parties, including the Palestinians must make a binding joint declaration that states:
    1- All parties recognize the right of the Palestinian Arab people to self-determination in their own state.
    2- All parties recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in the state of Israel.

  • A refugee resettlement plan and a time table for implementing it, beginning immediately, including a time table for eventual dissolution of the UNRWA.

  • A map of borders that are recommended for the new state of Palestine, that will be the basis for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. This map should probably correspond to the recommendations of the Clinton Bridging Proposal. This map doesn't have to be the one that Israel and the Palestinians accept, but it should be the one that expresses the international position regarding borders. It must take into account both Israeli and Arab rights. The solution must be one that both sides can live with, if there is a minimum of good will.

  • A timetable for Israeli evacuation of settlements outside the borders of that map. This does not require elimination of the presence of the IDF in those areas until a final agreement is reached and the Palestinian government demonstrates that it can enforce the rule of law and stop terrorism.

  • All Arab states will terminate their state of belligerence with Israel, cease incitement and publication of anti-Semitic materials and end the Arab boycott. In particular, those states that are obligated to do so under law, such as Saudi Arabia, must end both the primary and secondary boycott against Israel. Peace treaties can wait until formal solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a settlement with Syria, but there is no reason for a state of war to exist for example, between Israel and Saudi Arabia or Israel and Qatar.

  • The United States and EU countries will declare that they recognize a part of Jerusalem - unspecified at present- as the capital of Israel. It is unrealistic to continue to insist that the Israeli capital is in Tel-Aviv, and it certainly doesn't inspire confidence in Israel that the US can be a fair mediator.

Of course, nobody is obligated to listen to the US, but the US and the EU are not obligated to pay a king's ransom each year in subsidies to the Palestinians, aid to Israel, aid to Egypt, and maintenance of a U.S. military umbrella in the Gulf that has protected the Gulf states for years, at huge expense to American taxpayers, and with no contribution whatever from the oil-rich Sheikhdoms and countries of the Arabian peninsula. Likewise, the powers are not obligated to subsidize UNRWA, which implements a different set of rights for Palestinian Arab refugees than those given to all other refugees, and which is deliberately designed to perpetuate the conflict. The U.S. is not obligated to sell billions of dollars in military equipment to Arab countries either. The plan must be "sold" by a combination of carrot and stick.

Yes, some of these moves will be painful and perhaps costly and unpleasant, but if the "international community," in particular the US, wants a solution in the Middle East, then Israel and the Palestinians are not the only ones who will need to make "painful" and risky decisions. If the US and the international community are not willing to take risks and make painful decisions for peace, they cannot and should not lecture the Israelis and Palestinians. If they are not willing, as well, to come down hard on all sides, to get at the real "core issues" - not just the ones that it is convenient for some people to present as "core issues."

I am sure that many readers will say the above proposal is unrealistic, and in fact it may be so. But every one of the above points are essential if there is ever going to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians and between Israel and the Arab world. There is no point in saying "now is not the right time" "the Arabs will object." It will never be "the right time." If the Hamas take over the West Bank, it will not be the right time either. If the Palestinian Authority cannot even stop pickpockets in Nablus and take effective action against terrorists now, then how will they keep order in the state that the US wants to form in 2008? If the US and the international community cannot even recognize the fact that Israel's capital has been in West Jerusalem for the last 60 years, because they are afraid of Arab pressure, how do they expect to convince Israel of their good intentions? If the US can't get Israel to evacuate a few outposts with trailers, how can they convince the Palestinians that Israel is ever going to leave the occupied territories? If the refugee camps cannot be dismantled, and remain as a breeding ground for terrorists and opposition to peace, how can any peace process succeed? If the Arab countries can't say that they accept the principle of Jewish self determination in Israel, what was the point of the Arab peace initiative? Was it just propaganda?

What is unrealistic, is Secretary Rice's insistence that the time is right for a Palestinian State in 2008. A Palestinian state with no economy, no ability to enforce the law, with Israeli settlers within its territories and with a Hamas government and millions of Diaspora Palestinian refugees opposing its existence cannot survive. Does Dr. Rice expect that 50,000 or however many Israeli settlers will simply evaporate over night or that that all the Palestinian refugee camps will dissolve by magic spell? The time to start on these problems is now. Now or never.

If the above proposals are unrealistic, then what was the point in calling this meeting in Annapolis?

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/00000642.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.

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Replies: 1 Comment

Your thoughtful piece not only clearly states that breakthroughs require risk-taking but also implies that breakthroughs require creative thinking about future possibilities. We cannot plan for a desired future unless we take the time to conceive of it. More of the same violence and oppression experience in the Palestine/Israeli region over the last half century is absolutely not inevitable - provided that we can conceive of alternatives. I have spelled out some in a scenario analysis posted on my blog (shadowedforest.blogspot.com) last summer. We need to put far greater effort into thinking about better possibilities than those resulting from taking the conventional path forward.

Posted by William deB. Mills @ 10/30/2007 07:54 PM CST

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