Aug 26 2013

Israel-Palestine Peace Depends On International Involvement

Published by at 4:35 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

One of the longest-standing arguments between Israelis and Palestinians concerns the most efficient mechanism for solving their decades-old argument. Palestinians believe that the conflict is the result of biased and conspiratorial international involvement with one of the parties to the conflict, and therefore, can only be resolved if the international community is actively engaged to fix the situation.

Palestinians note that Israel was legitimized through the combination of a United Nations resolution and their abandonment by a colonial power to a people, many of whom had suffered in Europe in World War II. Furthermore, Palestinians believe that Israel’s creation in 1948 — which resulted in the eviction of the Palestinians from their land, creating the refugee problem and the occupation of more Palestinian land in 1967 — has been rejected by the international community in numerous resolutions and treaties that Israel has ignored. Therefore, the same international community has an obligation to this part of the world.

On the other hand, Israel, which has become the dominant power in the Middle East, particularly in respect to the Palestinians under its control, rejects the internationalization of the conflict and prefers to seek bilateral agreements through which it, as the more powerful party, can dictate the details of any such agreement. Adopting the philosophy that possession is nine-tenths of the law, Israel has rejected all appeals to end its occupation and continued colonization of Palestinian lands using the combination of its military power and its alliance with the world’s superpower.

Monopolizing the process of resolving the conflict has not always worked. In the 1990s, the United States sought an international track to the conflict due to the need to build a coalition, including Arab states, against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and the absence of the Soviet Union. The Madrid peace conference and the Oslo Accords produced an interim agreement that unfortunately failed to translate into a permanent resolution to the conflict.

The need to win Arab support once again, in the post-9/11 era, revived the concept of internationalization, this time with the advent of the Quartet. The four-member group consisting of the European Union (EU), Russia, the United Nations and the United States was created and tasked with implementing a road map for peace that would also deflate Arab anger at the Bush administration, which had launched its military adventure in Iraq.

The Quartet has continued to operate, albeit, with reduced influence over the past few years, but as the United States began withdrawing from Iraq, Washington seemed to also abandon its support for the Quartet. Instead, the United States returned as the only power that Israel would agree to allow involvement in any peace process. The Quartet has been nowhere to be seen since the current talks began. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the region and spoke out against settlements, but the EU and Russia have been largely absent from the talks. Even the United States, which has brokered this current phase of negotiations, has not been able to participate in all phases of the talks.

According to Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Israelis have rejected the idea of direct US participation in the talks by having American representation at all the sessions. As Ashrawi described it, the Israelis’ action is aimed at denying the prospect of a neutral actor to witness Israel’s meandering inside the negotiating room.

Sixty-six years after  the UN resolution to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state, and 46 years after the occupation of the rest of mandate Palestine, which the UN Security Council has called inadmissible, Israel is still refusing to give the international community a role in resolving the conflict fairly and based on principles enshrined in international law.

Monopolizing the peace talks and forcing Palestinians into the negotiating room without providing any basis for the talks or allowing a neutral party to witness the proceedings is a formula for perpetuating the status quo.

Palestinians have shown over the years that while they are unable to extract a good and fair agreement in talks, they are confident enough to reject a bad deal being dictated by the more powerful Israelis, who use their control over Palestinian lands as their main bargaining chip. Leave the Palestinian side alone in the negotiating room exposes this weakness and ensures failure of the talks. The sooner the international community, and more important, the United States, takes an active role in the negotiations, the sooner it will be possible to see a chance of a breakthrough.

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