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The vicissitudes of the Israeli-Palestinian-American Peace Process

08/25/2009

According to a recent poll, President Obama has managed to do a remarkable thing: He has managed to convince both the a majority of Palestinians and a plurality of Israelis that the United States sides with their enemies:

12% of Israelis and 64% of Palestinians think that Obama's policy is more supportive of Israel; 40% and 7% respectively think it is more supportive of the Palestinians, and 38% and 23% respectively think it is supportive of both sides equally.

Obama has once again confounded skeptics and done the impossible. All together now please, "Yes we can!"

Not long ago, Aluf Benn in the New York Times, and Bradley Burston in Haaretz, both call on Obama to come to Israel and talk to Israelis, redressing the imbalance of attention he has given Arab and Muslim countries, and explaining how US policy is going to help Israel Professor Alon Ben Meir has added his voice to theirs:

It is critical at this juncture that President Obama now personally appeal directly to the Israeli public. This must include a massive public relations campaign, where the US President can reach out to Israelis through op-eds in Israeli papers, interviews on Army Radio, and appearances on Israeli television channels.
..
The president must also explain that in order to keep his commitment to seeing out a final agreement, the parameters must covers all conflicting issues, especially the final border, settlements, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the future status of East Jerusalem. By providing a vision of the "big picture" Obama would be able to foster the confidence that incremental building measures will indeed lead to the desired structure of peace. For Israel to make progress on halting settlement growth, Netanyahu must be able to trust that Obama is applying equal pressure on the Arab states to deliver concessions with the goal of normalizing relations with Israel.

Ben-Meir's idea is totally divorced from the reality of Israel and Palestine. Obama and his spinologists will come here and offer what? Let's look at the offer from the point of view of the Israelis and Palestinians, rather than from the point of view of the Americans. To the Israelis Obama will "offer" that they must give up large parts of the West Bank including Jerusalem. To the Palestinians he will "offer" that they must give up their cherished dream of "right" of return for Palestinian refugees. And what will they get for this? Very likely, they will both get a Hamas controlled government in the West Bank as well as Gaza, oppressing the Palestinians and raining down rocket fire and mortars on Israel. Truly an offer that nobody could refuse!

After 18 years of futility, terror and bad faith, what Obama needs to do is to restore confidence in the peace process, to show both sides that he has some real deliverables to offer in return for concessions he is demanding, rather than PR and schmaltz. Let's assume that inevitably, Israel will have to agree to a settlement freeze. What another government would have done with grace, will be conceded by the Netanyahu government after much kicking and screaming to satisfy internal political needs. But then what? Will the Palestinians concede their demand for "Right" of return, which is now reiterated yet again in the Fatah Program? Will Israel or the Palestinians be willing to yield a millimeter of East Jerusalem to the claims of the other side? Will anyone be able to dislodge the Hamas from Gaza or get them to agree to the terms of the peace process? If not, another year or two years will be passed in futile negotiations, and at the end of the process, the Israelis will have moved further to the right, and the Palestinians will be further radicalized, in total frustration over a nightmare that is all process and no peace.

Nobody here thought that Mr. Obama could really walk on water, but it might have been thought that so august a personage could at the very least, obtain by his prestige in the Arab world, as a personal favor, the release of one single kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, and thereby end the Israeli blockade of Gaza as well. He didn't even try. He didn't even manage to get a Red Cross visit for Shalit and arrange conditions conforming to international law. One little "Confidence Building Measure" like that would do more to restore Israeli confidence that all the bumf that can be spun by public relations spinologists. Palestinians and Israelis all know now about the promised "new Middle East." We are living in it. This is what it looks like. This is the result of the "peace process."

An article by Walid Salem, calling for bypassing the second stage of the roadmap, illustrates the unbearable absurdity of the "peace process." Salem notes that the second stage of the roadmap marks a Palestinian state with provisional borders as optional, but the third stage calls for a mandatory conference to affirm the provisional borders of the option. The document that was signed off by all sides contradicts itself. The sides signed off on nonsensical provisions in a document that was supposed to determine their fate! Perhaps there was a meeting or a photo-op deadline that required that the document must be signed. Is this a serious process? Is there anything the sides would not agree to in order meet some trivial deadline? If the photographers are waiting in the Rose Garden, will the Palestinians and Israelis sign and agree to sprout wings and fly?

Now Salem wants to bypass other provisions for an international force, because after all, so much changed since the document was signed, and since the force might constitute "occupation." If the provisions were not agreeable to the Palestinians, why did they agree to them? That is the history of the entire "peace process" in a nutshell: Each side agrees to provisions it cannot keep and doesn't intend to keep, and then "sh*t happens" and the process goes out of control and the USA does nothing, and then each side wiggles out of its commitments. The road does not follow the plan of the road map. There is a detour. The bridge is washed out and everyone ends up in a ditch.

The Israelis agreed to freeze settlement construction and remove the illegal outposts. About five years passed and almost nothing at all happened except more settlement construction and removal of some outposts that were quickly rebuilt, but the US did nothing about it. The Palestinians agreed to end terror and round up illegal weapons. Now Walid Salem tells us complacently that the Palestinians have complied. Perhaps they did, with the small exception of Gaza, where the terrorist Hamas is in control. Only yesterday two mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza, and a Palestinian was killed while trying to plant a bomb. That is the extent of the compliance of the Palestinians with the road map. Of course, in retaliation for the mortars, Israel bombed the smuggling tunnels and killed 3 Palestinians. A normal day in the new Middle East, where everyone lives in peace and harmony, enjoying the benefits of the "peace process." This mind you was a slow week in the peace process. Wait until the "peace process" gets going in earnest again. In the "good" period of 1996 you could have 30 or so people blowing up in a bus in a single day.

How can Mahmoud Abbas demand a state when he cannot even set foot in Gaza? When his own Fatah delegates were not allowed to leave Gaza to attend the Fatah convention? How can the U.S. expect Israelis to believe in a peace process while Hamas rules in Gaza? Perhaps they think that after there is a wonderful model of peace agreement concluded between the Palestinians and the Israelis, there will be free elections in Gaza. Even assuming that Palestinians would favor such an agreement, which undoubtedly would involve conceding their dearest principles, does anyone believe that Hamas would allow itself to be removed from office in free elections and simply lay down its arms and become a political party? A party dedicated to what principles? Killing the Jews who are hiding behind the gharkad tree in order to hasten the end of days, as they vow in the Hamas Charter?

If the United States wants to advance the peace process, it must do more than pressure Israel, the Arabs and the Palestinians. It has to pressure itself. Neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority can solve the problem of Hamas, and until Hamas is removed or disarmed and persuaded to join the peace process, there can be no peace. The presence of the Hamas in Gaza is a direct consequence of American meddling in the Palestinian election process. "You broke it, you pay for it." The "peace process" can only succeed if both sides understand that commitments are irrevocable and will be enforced. The "peace process" can only succeed if someone is there to ensure that the documents being signed make sense and that the sides can and will comply with them. All these are roles that the United States must assume.

While the US should not try to force a settlement on the sides, it should make clear what are its acceptable and unacceptable parameters for a peace agreement. The sides have contradictory and mutually exclusive claims. Both claim all of East Jerusalem, which is an impossible demand to fulfill. Israel insists on recognition of the Jewish right to a national home in Israel, the issue at heart of the conflict since the 1920s. The Palestinians insist on "Right" of return for refugees and refuse to recognize the Jewish right to self determination, a condition which to Israelis means "peace without Israel" rather than "peace with Israel." What is the stand of the United States and the European Union on all these issues and how do we get to a reasonable compromise, if such a compromise is possible?

For all the illogicality of the Middle East, there are two wildly absurd ingredients in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that were made in New York rather than in the Middle East. The US contributes to these absurdities, which stand in the way of an agreement, but while telling everyone to "take risks for peace" it does nothing to undo the damage done by the UN imposed fiats. The first is the internationalization of Jerusalem, which was often reiterated but never enforced. This is supposed to include not only all of East and West Jerusalem, but also Bethlehem. This fiction has been on the books since 1947. How can Israelis believe in the "unbreakable bond" between the United States and Israel, when, in defiance of its own Embassy act, the United States will not even recognize Rehavia or Kiriat Hayovel as part of Israel? The second is the UNRWA, which, thanks to the generous contributions of the United States and EU members, perpetuates the misery of the Palestinian refugees, and provides an excuse for not offering them decent lives. Generations have rotted in the camps. The sins of the fathers are visited on the sons, and the sons of sons. But the United States and the other great powers will make no move to lift the sentence of living death imposed on the refugees, to offer them asylum and a decent life in other countries.

Finally, the US must consider the consequences of failure. It is no longer really a question of "taking risks for peace." After 18 years of consecutive fiascoes that usually ended in bloodshed, failure of any Middle East peace process initiative is almost a "sure thing." At this point we are at an impasse. An impasse is not good, but it is not the worst thing that could happen. It is not descent into chaos. Both sides are asked to give up their semi-livable niches. The United States is demanding that both Palestinian and Israeli leaderships and peoples take a great leap on their motor cycles over a ravine and land where? The other side is not paved yet. Supposedly, it will be finished in the act of leaping, which is required in order for the miracle to occur. It must include ratification of the agreement by the people on each side, and removal of the Hamas from the equation. It must also include something that didn't happen in 18 years of "peace process": implementation of the agreement to the letter. What happens to the Fatah movement and Palestinian Authority if they give up right of return of refugees and other concessions, and Israel for some reason does not deliver on evacuation of settlements? What happens to Israeli leadership if they make the necessary territorial concessions, remove thousands of protesting, kicking and screaming and protesting settlers, and all Israel gets in return are more rockets and mortars and suicide bombings? Will the "peace" be a bigger and better version of disengagement? Will the failure once again be blamed on something Israel did or did not do? Or what happens if nothing happens, and there is no agreement and just a continuation of the stalemate? What is plan B? If Mr. Obama is going to come here, he had better have answers to these questions for everyone, not just spin about taking risks for peace and change we can believe in, and not just schmaltz about the beauties of Islam and the unbreakable bond with Israel.

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/00000774.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: 5 comments

Ami,
I obviously agree, and may I add where was the Obama administration during the recent crisis with Sweden?

Posted by Dvar Dea @ 08/25/2009 08:05 PM CST

With the settlements being one of the primary road blocks to a just and lasting peace any further expansion will preclude the establishment of two states. As you advocate ignoring the settlement issue, you must therefore be advocating a single state solution?

A temporary moratorium on the 40% of settlement expansion that the central Israeli government controls will have no effect on the 60% of the settlement expansion that is carried out under the auspices of the settlement council, Gush Emunim and radical Israeli nationalists. Without the Israeli government being able to control its own population there will be no prospect of a just and lasting peace. The lack of Israeli government control was not addressed in the article. With Fatah having to expend its energies in fending off the wild expansion within the Occupied Palestinian territories, Fatah is unable to exert any influence over the Gaza Strip that has been cut off by Israel cutting the land bridge between the two areas.

When do you expect the Israeli central governmental to gain control of the expansionist settlement movement?

Posted by Ashley Kennedy @ 08/26/2009 11:44 PM CST

A few comments:
(Quote)
"For Israel to make progress on halting settlement growth, Netanyahu must be able to trust that Obama is applying equal pressure on the Arab states to deliver concessions with the goal of normalizing relations with Israel."

Israel has been using the Settlements as a tool to motivate Palestinians to conceed and accept whatever Israel offers, no matter how unfair that offer may be, -otherwise the Palestinians will continue to lose ever more land to on-going Israeli settlement activities.

Likewise, the Palestinians have used rockets and suicide bombers in an attempt to motivate Israel. Obviously the rockets and suicide bombers are terrorist crimes. What you may not wish to hear is that the Settlements are also a form of terrorism. They are a crime, and they violate the Geneva Convention.

It is time the USA treated the Settlements exactly the same as those rockets and bombs. The US should not fund or support any government that engages in such belligerent acts.

~~~~~
"Let's assume that inevitably, Israel will have to agree to a settlement freeze."

Israel agreed to a freeze in 2003 when it undertook plans to implement the Road Map. Are you saying Israel's word is no good when it comes to honoring it's obligations on agreements?

"The Israelis agreed to freeze settlement construction and remove the illegal outposts. About five years passed and almost nothing at all happened except more settlement construction and removal of some outposts that were quickly rebuilt, but the US did nothing about it."

Exactly. I therefore call on you to demand the US immediately stop all support and funding of the GOI, and implement an embargo on Israel until such time as the peace agreement is finalized.

"The Palestinians agreed to end terror and round up illegal weapons. Now Walid Salem tells us complacently that the Palestinians have complied. Perhaps they did, with the small exception of Gaza, where the terrorist Hamas is in control. Only yesterday two mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza, and a Palestinian was killed while trying to plant a bomb. That is the extent of the compliance of the Palestinians with the road map."

The Palestinian Authority cannot be blamed or held responsible for the actions of Hamas. It is worth noting that the takeover of Gaza by Hamas was facilitated in large part by Israel. This was not a coincidence. It meshes perfectly with Israel's plans to undermine the peace process.

"The presence of the Hamas in Gaza is a direct consequence of American meddling in the Palestinian election process."

Don't play stupid. It is a direct consequence of Israel's continuous efforts to undermine and dismantle FATAH and the Palestinian Authority. If you undertake to weaken FATAH, you indirectly strengthen the opposition of FATAH (Hamas).

"How can the U.S. expect Israelis to believe in a peace process while Hamas rules in Gaza? ...Until Hamas is removed or disarmed and persuaded to join the peace process, there can be no peace."

See? The Israeli plan is working perfectly.

~~~~~
"...It might have been thought that so august a personage (Obama) could at the very least, obtain by his prestige in the Arab world, as a personal favor, the release of one single kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, and thereby end the Israeli blockade of Gaza as well. He didn't even try. He didn't even manage to get a Red Cross visit for Shalit and arrange conditions conforming to international law."

I do hope that Gilad Shalit will be released. I recall that offers were made by Hamas in that respect. This offer involved a swap for some portion of approximately 10,000 Palestinians that Israel is currently holding captive. Many of these Palestinian prisoners have never been charged with a crime, just as Shalit has not been charged. They are effectively political prisoners.

It seems that both sides have taken hostages. Lets treat both sides equally with respect to this issue.

~~~~~
"While the US should not try to force a settlement on the sides..."

Yes, -yes it should. In fact, it must. The USA has tried everything else (for decades now), and Israel continues to ignore American requests and council.

Cheers.

Posted by Kiev500 @ 08/31/2009 01:34 AM CST

We are all children of G_D! We must not place emphasis on land and geographics. All palestinians and european jews must co exist together, if we are to exist as a people! As a hebrew israelite, living in America, we also have the right to the Land of Israel! We to could say that the land is ours, I (my descendants) was once removed and brought here in chains! I pray that G_D ends this terrible exploitation of people!
I ask all people to come together to create sanctions against the state of Israel, in order to end the killing of innocent people, whether indigoius or not. Peace must be achieved at all costs. Any palestinian, and/or jew, and others who kills another should pay severely through the courts, not through shedding innocent blood!

Posted by Rabbi Samuel Hurt @ 09/21/2009 09:17 PM CST

could someone please explain this in like really simple words please?
its like reallly hard to understand..doing a report here..
ugh.
help..plase respond!! thanks.

Posted by megan @ 11/09/2009 09:58 PM CST


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