May 28 2003

To Local and International Leaders: Please Don’t blow this Mideast Peace Attempt

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

Ramallah- The mood here among Palestinians has been quite optimistic even before the Bush administration succeeded in ‘convincing’ the Israelis to accept the quartet’s road map for peace in the Middle East. This high expectation is worrisome and potentially dangerous.

The downfall of the Saddam Hussein regime, the appointment of an empowered Palestinian prime minister and the repeated promises of statehood by President Bush, Prime Minister Blair have partially contributed to this optimism.

But for most Palestinians more than two years of death, destruction, travel restrictions and humiliation have made them clutch on straws.

Some might argue that a realistic look at the key political players gives little hope. Few claim the existence of a De Gaul-like leader in Israel who can look far ahead for his people and the people of the region. The Palestinian prime minister doesn’t have the charisma or patriotic capital to pull off a peace deal. Ironically, the Israelis and Americans who have sidelined Arafat, might need him to help sell a compromise deal.

Such high expectations are potentially dangerous because they threaten to produce a major let down if the current road map fails to lead to the desired and stated goals. A look back at the major popular uprisings in the Palestinian community and one can easily point to a combination of pent up anger as a result of restrictions and a let down after hopes of political resolution.

Regional leaders need to decide firmly to move ahead without turning back, cooperate amongst themselves and reduce their grip on land ideologies. International leaders must work extra hard and refuse to take no for an answer in order to make sure that this unique opportunity is not lost.

The agreement by Palestinians and Israelis on the Road map is a unique opportunity that must not be lost. Below are some key elements to avoid blowing this chance for peace:

No turning back: Palestinian and Israeli leaders have a tendency to take one step forward hesitate then take two backward. No one can afford such erratic behavior. Lives will be lost, hatred will increase and yet more obstacles will be created. There must be no turning back on the goal of a Palestinian state, an end to violence and a reversal of settlement expansion. Playing word games as the Israeli government did by barely accepting certain parts of the Road Map, while overwhelming voting against one item in the plan- Palestinian refugee- is a negation to the package deal nature of the road map.

Cooperation and not confrontation is the name of the game: Israeli and Palestinian negotiators must work together much closer than before and must realize that their biggest enemy are radicals on both sides and not each other. Both sides must make concrete steps to improve the majority peace-seeking public opinion of the other side. Jewish Settlers and right wing activists as well as Palestinian national and Islamic militants will sabotage every turn in the road to peace. A look at past ten years and one can see a trend in which these radicals have blown up peace moves by their actions. It has become so predictable that Palestinians and Israelis brace themselves every time a crucial target date for decision-making approaches.

Radical groups should not be allowed to succeed. Not a single Israeli or Palestinian needs to perish in this inhuman fashion.

Those who genuinely seek peace must keep moving ahead in the talks no matter what happens on the ground. They might also want to consider working behind the scenes to produce an agreement for peace that will be presented to the public as a package deal rather than dealing with issues piece meal.

Land retention arguments are no longer valid: Much has been said about the effects to the Middle East of the end of the Saddam Hussein regime. But surprisingly little has been said about the strategic meaning of the presence of US forces to the territorial security arguments that have for years blocked Palestinian-Israeli agreements.

Land retention arguments, whether in the Jordan Valley or in West Bank hill top can no more hold water now that US troops are in the Iraqi capital. Instead, Israel must give up its territorial expansionist ambitions.

Everyone involved knows exactly what is needed to bring about a fair and viable agreement to the Middle East conflict. Key elements to such an agreement were reached in the Egyptian resort of Taba in January 2001. If Palestinian land is to become part of a viable state in 2005 as President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair continuously promise Palestinians, how could that happen while Israelis are fortifying, expanding and building new settlements, outposts and the by pass roads leading to them.

If the question of Palestinian statehood is no longer if and when but how, what local and international negotiators should put effort and time on is the issue of the viability of the new Palestinian state, mostly issues of borders and inter state relations.

On their own, leaders of Israel and Palestine have shown that they are incapable of producing the positions needed for a lasting peace. Outside parties have had a lot in creating the conflict, and it will take a concerted effort by these parties on local leaders to produce long term results. President Bush and world leaders must continue their efforts on both sides until they produce agreements that can stand the test of time. To local and international leaders, the unified call from the Middle East is: please don’t blow it this time.

No responses yet

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.