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Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Going noplace?


Everyone except Zippy Tzipi Livni is pretty much agreed that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is going no place. Several articles have predicted that when the "deadline" for concluding a shelf agreement, or forming a Palestinian state, or whatever that deadline was, has passed at the end of the year, a third Palestinian Intifada may break out (see for example here and here). In the United States, George Bush is winding down his presidency. In Israel, Tzipi Livni is trying to form a government and in the Palestinian Authority it is not certain who will govern and what the status of the government will be after January 2009, when most Palestinians believe that Mahmoud Abbas's term as president will have expired. .

Even if an agreement were to be reached, it is not going to be implemented until and unless there is a united Palestinian government, and that government agrees to abide by the treaty that was negotiated by the Palestinian Authority.

Ostensibly, the two sticking points that prevent agreement are Jerusalem and the refugee problem. Reportedly, agreement was supposedly reached regarding a map of West Bank territories that would give most of the West Bank to Palestinians except for the settlement blocks. That is, the headline of the Maan News report reads, ""Final Status" map drawn up by Olmert; Abbas close to agreement." That would be welcome news, except that further down in the same report we read, "To date, the map has not been shown to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas." If Abbas drew up the map with Olmert, how could it be that Abbas didn't see it? Did they draw it up in the dark? What is apparently the same deal, was reported this way in Haaretz: "Olmert said to offer Palestinians Jordan Valley land swap." Since the Jordan valley is part of the West Bank, it is hard to see what is being "swapped" there. Perhaps that is why Olmert is unwilling to show Abbas the map that he must've drawn with Abbas in the dark. Olmert has no authority to conclude an agreement in any case, since he is the outgoing head of a transitional government.

But one suspects that Jerusalem and Right of Return are only the "ostensible" sticking points. The real problem is that on the one hand, no Israeli government at present can sell a Palestinian state of any size to the Israeli electorate and that Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian authority cannot sell Palestinians on any solution that puts an end to the conflict and leave Israel intact. Again there is an "ostensible" reason and possibly a different "real" reason behind it. The ostensible reason that the Palestinian government cannot accept such a solution is that opposition parties would spoil it. Hamas, controlled by Syria, and Islamic Jihad, controlled by Iran, would claim it is a "sellout." Already a host of "organizations," some funded by European countries, including Badil, Al-Awda and a large number of other groups, have protested to the Palestinian Authority that they will never accept any deal that does not include literal right of return of the Palestinian refugees. That condition would veto any meaningful peace agreement of course. In Israel, the big fear is supposedly that a Palestinian state would be taken over by the Hamas and other extremists, and its territory would be used for launching rockets on Ben Gurion airport and Jerusalem.

A thought experiment shows us that these "ostensible" reasons are probably not the real ones, and it also shows us why the negotiations may have been designed from the start to be a failure by all parties. Negotiations about a shelf-agreement that is not going to be implemented until "conditions are right" are really a non-starter for everyone concerned. The Israelis are not going to announce major concessions in Jerusalem in return for a hypothetical agreement. The Palestinians are not going to agree to give up the right of refugees to return to Israel in return for a piece of paper that promises that one day there might be a Palestinian state. The logical solution would be to make a REAL agreement, based on what is possible. The Palestinians would get a state in provisional borders that would also claim Gaza as part of the state. They would give up right of return of refugees in return for this real state, and the actual solution of the refugee problem would start. At least some Arab suburbs of Jerusalem would be given over to Palestinian sovereignty. The Palestinian state would sign a peace treaty with Israel leaving open the question of final borders in Jerusalem.

The creation of a Palestinian state, however provisional, would make a fundamental change in the situation of the Arabs of Palestine. For the first time in history, they would have a national home that they can call their own. The Israeli checkpoints would be gone. The border with Jordan would be open. Israeli settlement expansion would stop in the territory of the Palestinian state. All the settlements would be gone. Supposedly, the checkpoints and the settlement expansion are limiting Palestinian economic growth. Eliminating them would thus provide every opportunity for the economy of the new state to prosper. The prestige of sovereignty would be an extremely powerful argument to win over the Palestinians of Gaza, with the support of cooperative Arab states. This would be a solution that offers every advantage to the Palestinians, and Israel, whatever the risks, would be forced to accept this solution by international opinion (meaning, The United States). But the Palestinians turned down the idea of a provisional state. The Israelis, for their part, probably let out a great sigh of relief when the Palestinians rejected the provisional state.

There is no peace because that is the way everyone wants it to be. As for what will happen in 2009, it is anyone's guess, but it is not likely to be good.

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 1 Comment

Ami, why oh why, do you let ideology get in the way of what you know to be reality. The Pallies do not want a state: they want to destroy a state - Israel! They want to do it in the name of pan-Arabism, anti-Westernism, Islam and the rightful superiority of Mohammedans over Jews, revolution and tribalism with its shame-honour code. If the Pallies had accepted a state, Israel would have been forced to accept it as much as the Pallies would have had to accept the responsibilities of running a state. How you or anyone can seriously talk of a Pally polity which is based on racism - a Jew free "Palestine" - with which the perverted Pally mind in classical fact inversion charges Israel, can only be explained be reality defeating ideology. Wake up!

Posted by Paul Winter @ 09/29/2008 04:59 PM CST

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