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Lieberman and Annapolis: Reason versus wishful thinking

04/09/2009

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's entry into the world of diplomacy proved what many of us long suspected: He is disastrously unsuited for the post of Foreign Minister. A competent diplomat can pass off inanities as good news, and a skilled one can pass off outrageous policy as acceptable and even desirable.Avigdor Lieberman stated facts that everyone agrees are true, but managed to do it in such a way that the entire world is mad at Israel

Lieberman's speech was careless about language and aggressive. He referred to "Annapolis documents" and at another point he referred to "Annapolis." To make matters worse, a creative translator in the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs added the word "accord" to "Annapolis," evidently thinking it would "sound better." There was never any Annapolis Accord, and therefore Israel could not abrogate any such accord, but that is what the headlines in the newspapers said.

When Lieberman said that the Annapolis talks had reached a dead end, he was only stating a fact, one which the Palestinians have themselves stated on several occasions. He could have left it at that, and gently noted that "under the circumstances," Israel does not see any point to continuing in this frameworkd.

Is there anyone who honestly believes that there has been any forward movement in the Annapolis peace talks or that there is any possibility that they will end, as was their goal, in an agreement for a Palestinian State in 2008? As it is now April 2009, it is manifest that the talks have failed. Moreover, it seems that in a hundred more years of negotiations in the current track, none of the following will happen:

  • No Israeli government will allow right of return to Israel for Palestinian refugees, and no Palestinian leadership will concede this point.

  • No Israeli government will give up all Israeli claims in East Jerusalem, and no Palestinian leadership will allow any Israeli claims at all in East Jerusalem.

  • No Palestinian leadership will affirm that it recognizes the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, and no Israeli government can sign a peace treaty without that affirmation.

And even should anyone reach an agreement on all the above points, Hamas is still there in Gaza, and Hamas "will never recognize Israel, Period". If anything, there has been regression rather than progress. It is not just Hamas that will not recognize Israel. Mohamed Dahlan has helpfully pointed out that Fatah never recognized Israel, either. We have to deal with reality as it is, and not as we would like it to be.

The most that could be expected in the circumstances, is that Israel would remove illegal outposts and announce a settlement freeze. Even that was not offered and not done by the supposedly more dovish government of Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni

As portrayed by the Likud government, the Annapolis process was a means of bypassing the Road map for peace, because it skipped all the intermediary implementation phases and jumped to the final status negotiations, ignoring the stipulations of the road map. On that interpretation, the Road Map and Annapolis are mutually exclusive processes. Therefore it makes no sense for U.S. President Barack Obama to announce that the United States is committed to the Annapolis process and the Road Map. On a more charitable interpretation, the Annapolis framework provides a method of showing both sides the peace agreement that will be implemented when the rest of the road map has been completed. In either case, it is not working.

If the United States pressures Israel and the Palestinians to continue with the Annapolis talks, then certainly the talks will continue. There will be photo-ops and announcements and everything that all those State Department people who love process will demand. What there will not be is a peace agreement or peace. A real peace agreement has to reflect a reality where both sides are willing to coexist, and that reality is absent. The United States will have to work on changing the reality rather than trying to obtain a scrap of paper.

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/00000757.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: 2 comments

Sigh...

I have followed articles here for a number of years. My impression is there has been a recent trend away from real journalism -based on the pursuit of truth, justice, and peace -towards conservative, right wing opinion. It seems Ami is basing the content and tone of his articles on the basis of who or whom is paying to buy advertising on this web site. Something that was sacred has been sold out.

It may be true that the objectives of the Annapolis talks can not be realized by the intended deadline, but that was not the sole purpose of those talks. They were intended to offer clarified incentives, for instance the shape, character, and final status of a future Palestinian state.

By inference, this would also constrain the shape of a future state of Israel. Thus under Netanyahu the government of Israel has walked away from Annapolis.

(Quote)
"A competent diplomat can pass off inanities as good news, and a skilled one can pass off outrageous policy as acceptable and even desirable. Avigdor Lieberman stated facts that everyone agrees are true, but managed to do it in such a way that the entire world is mad at Israel."

Avi, you know perfectly well that's *not* why the entire world is mad at Israel. Lieberman may be the latest example, but the underlying cause is much deeper than his recent unfortunate remarks. The world has come to see the GOI as a cabal of corrupt organizations that make convenient use of parlimentary procedures to pursue an illegal agenda, and to prevent ligitimate international goals from being realized.

The suggestion that "a skilled (diplomat) can pass off outrageous policy as acceptable and even desirable" is indicative of the underlying philosophy that has frustrated other world governments and interested parties involved in the peace process. Israel and the PA need leaders and diplomats that speak frankly and factually, -without the guise of diplomatic prose. In order to change our reality, we must first be able to describe it accurately and truthfully. That certainly applies to the mideast peace process.

(Quote)
"No Israeli government will allow right of return to Israel for Palestinian refugees, and no Palestinian leadership will concede this point."

The Palestinian right of return is at least as real as the "biblical" promise of a greater Israel. However, in the interest of concessions for peace, both sides should mutually acknowledge a position that not every right will be realized.

(Quote)
"No Israeli government will give up all Israeli claims in East Jerusalem, and no Palestinian leadership will allow any Israeli claims at all in East Jerusalem."

Ahhh... but you see, this is why the world remains so frustrated with the GOI. Any attempt to annex or colonize occupied territory *is* illegal under international law. That makes the long-held position of the GOI consistently criminal.

The best way to approach this issue is for Israel to withdraw to the Green Line in order to have a legal and ligitimate basis for further negotiations aimed at straightening and shortening the border. These negotiations would allow both sides an opportunity to make offers to trade or purchase tracts of land in order to improve on the border demarcated by the Green Line. Here Israel might be able to gain some land in and around East Jerusalem. It should be noted that care must be taken to assure that religious sites in East Jerusalem remain under appropriate jurisdiction.

(Quote)
"No Palestinian leadership will affirm that it recognizes the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, and no Israeli government can sign a peace treaty without that affirmation."

I suppose if it were not a Jewish state, then it would be named Palestine instead of Israel. This is a canard. The PA has already recognized Israel since the date Arafat and Rabin exchanged letters. For that, a Jewish fundamentalist killed Rabin and Israel did all it could to make Arafat irrelevant. So far, so good. Another example of why the world is angry with Israel.

More fundamentally, Israel must determine what policies it will pursue in the future in order to remain a predominately Jewish state, and whether such policies can be implemented in a true democracy. Democracy means everyone gets a vote; and at some point Israel may choose to deny the vote and other rights to non-Jewish Israeli citizens. Whether it can continue to refer to itself as a democracy after that point is an internal matter. Whether the world labels such acts as racist is an external matter.

(Quote)
"And even should anyone reach an agreement on all the above points, Hamas is still there in Gaza, and Hamas "will never recognize Israel, Period". If anything, there has been regression rather than progress. It is not just Hamas that will not recognize Israel. Mohamed Dahlan has helpfully pointed out that Fatah never recognized Israel, either. We have to deal with reality as it is, and not as we would like it to be."

But Ami, *you* are now describing it as you would like it to be, rather than as it really is. Neither Hamas nor Fatah is the ligitimate governing authority that Israel must deal with to pursue and implement a peace agreement. The ligitimate governing authority for the Palestinians is the PA. And as I already said, the PA has recognized Israel from the date Arafat and Rabin exchanged letters.

It is not any more necessary for Palestinian political parties to recognize Israel than it is for any of the right wing, ultra-nationalist, or religious political parties in Israel to recognize Palestinian rights to statehood. Let us remember to treat political parties on both sides with consistent logic.

(Quote)
"The most that could be expected in the circumstances, is that Israel would remove illegal outposts and announce a settlement freeze. Even that was not offered and not done by the supposedly more dovish government of Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni."

Here I agree completely. One corrupt government is followed by another corrupt government. These two political factions play "good cop, bad cop", but really... they're entirely the same when measured by the metric of performance.

(Quote)
"A real peace agreement has to reflect a reality where both sides are willing to coexist, and that reality is absent. The United States will have to work on changing the reality rather than trying to obtain a scrap of paper."

I agree. There is limited influence that the USA can apply, but what influence it has should be applied one hundred percent. By this, I mean all US funding and economic assistance should be completely cut off to both sides. All of it. Every last penny. Further, if necessary the USA should embargo Israel and all de-facto Palestinian governing authorities to prevent commerce and freeze all funding that comes from pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian charities and religious organizations.

That is what the USA, the UN, and the Quartet *could* do, and I would encourage President Obama to implement as much as may be necessary to force a final settlement. If this were going to be easy, it would be done by now. It's time to lay all cards on the table.

Cheers.

Posted by Kiev500 @ 04/17/2009 07:03 AM CST

By portraying Lieberman as unsuitable Isseroff shows the clear failure of both previous Foreign Ministers who speak the diplomatic tounge but in reality have NOT had much effect since the Oslo and subsequent Accords. Our enemies and friends have their own agenda and Lieberman is to be complemented on calling a spade a spade and not a shovel. If he ruffles a few feathers let me reming Mr Isseroff that in the last 61 years we have played the diplomatic game resulting in over 22,000 Jews and Israelis murdered as the world did and does turn away from our plight. Whatever we do is considered inappropriate by the world - so lets face up to reality - we stand alone - we are AM Segula - and the quicker we realise this the better.

Posted by Kol Haam @ 04/27/2009 05:23 PM CST


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