Israel Rafalovich
Israel Rafalovich

Time to talk substance

Two decades have passed and the peace process in the Middle East is still used by the Israelis as a cover to consolidate their presence in the West Bank and Gaza.

The peace process came to life after the 1991 Gulf War, but the Israelis developed the strategy to draw out the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in order to avoid a substantive conclusion and laid out the basis for a consistent expansion of settlements culminating in avoiding the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The Obama administration is trying to reinvigorate former president Bush’s framework for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but it seems Palestinian public opinion swings against, at this time, any revival of the peace process that from their point of view exists for Israel’s sake rather than for the end of Israel’s occupation and against the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Those who were hoping for a 360-degree change in the US approach to the Middle East peace process have been disappointed. The new administration is exerting pressure on Arab countries to ease sanctions on Israel should the Israelis freeze settlements in the hope that it will restart the peace negotiations.

Arab governments, so far, show themselves cool to the American idea as they want to see a comprehensive approach that will define the final-status issues.

By “final-status issues” Arab governments mean matters such as resolving the question of borders as well as the future of a Palestinian state, the refugees’ future, water disputes and future of Jerusalem.

After past experiences in negotiating with the Israelis, the Arab position is of “what we don’t see we don’t believe”. From the point of view of Arab countries any gesture towards Israel would open their governments to criticism at home for giving something for nothing. Many Arab countries are looking for a tougher American approach towards Israel.

The Palestinians doubt the right-wing Israeli government will do what is needed to reach a permanent peace in the Middle East as they attached so many conditions to the acceptance of a Palestinian state that the Israeli offer looks meaningless to a big part of the Palestinian population.

It is doubtful the Palestinians will agree to restart the peace negotiations with Israel as long as Israel refuses to freeze settlement expansion.

The US and EU carry the responsibility for escalating violence and the current political stalemate in the Middle East. They contributed to the polarisation of the Palestinians and radicalisation of Hamas by isolating them.

Now it’s time to start talking to Hamas.

The policy of isolating Hamas proved to be a failure. To the contrary, it demonstrated that this policy increased Hamas’s popularity among Palestinians and entrenched control of the Gaza Strip. There have been no fundamental changes in the constellation of power in the Middle East or in the occupied territories.

The current talks between Fatah and Hamas on the formation of a unity government are the outcome of events that brought the two to face reality and are not the result of a policy by Israel or any other government.

The question of how to deal with Hamas as a government party is gaining importance.

For Hamas, a unity government and power sharing would raise the chances of borders being opened. Should Hamas decide to join a unity government, they will do so with the hope of gaining more international legitimacy and enhancing their capacity to act.

A Palestinian unity government deserves to be supported by the US and EU in order to prove they are capable of transformation.

The US and EU, especially, should be reminded that this can be the unity government they failed to bring to life in 2007. Failure to form a unity government will make it difficult for the Palestinians to formulate and implement a strategy towards Israel.

Furthermore it will lead to the radicalisation among Palestinians and propel the Islamists to power in the West Bank too. Any progress in finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will require fundamental changes in the strategies of the US and EU.

President Obama believes that establishing a Palestinian state is something he can make happen. It remains to be seen whether there will be any substantial changes in the American as well as European policies towards the Middle East peace process as the political constellation in Israel and Palestinian territories is reason to doubt the possibility of a long-term substantial peace.

  • brent

    A Palestinian state will not be established in the near future simply because those Arab states closest, Egypt/Jordan/S. Arabia/Lebanon and Syria do not want it, it is against their best interests. They did not made steps to create a Palestinian state from 1948 to 1967 (19years) when Arab governments controlled Gaza and the West Bank so why should they now?

    You can analyse the situation in fine detail and point out Israel’s mistakes but nothing substantive will happen until the above Arab states change their stance.

    Brent

  • http://www.lininginterestingtimes.blogspot.com jp

    Two decades have passed and the peace process in the Middle East is still used by the Palestinians as a cover to consolidate their presence in Israel.
    The peace process came to life after the 1991 Gulf War, but the Palestinians developed the strategy to draw out the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in order to avoid a substantive conclusion and laid out the basis for a consistent expansion of terrorism hopefully culminating in the destruction of the israeli state.
    The Obama administration is trying to reinvigorate former president Bush’s framework for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but it seems Israeli public opinion swings against, at this time, any revival of the peace process that from their point of view exists for the Palestinian’s demands rather than for the end of Palestinian terrorism and against the establishment of a Palestinian state in peace with an Israeli state.
    Those who were hoping for a 360-degree change in the US approach to the Middle East peace process have been disappointed. The new administration is exerting pressure on Arab countries to ease sanctions on Israel should the Israelis freeze settlements in the hope that it will restart the peace negotiations.
    Israeli governments, so far, show themselves cool to the American idea as they want to see a comprehensive approach that will define the final-status issues.
    By “final-status issues” Israeli governments mean matters such as resolving the question of terrorism, human rights, recognition as a jewish state, and border issues.
    After past

  • http://www.lininginterestingtimes.blogspot.com jp

    After past experiences in negotiating with the Palestinians, the Israeli position is of “what we don’t see we don’t believe”. From the point of view of Israel any gesture towards the palestinians would open their governments to criticism at home for giving something for nothing. Israel are looking for a tougher American approach towards Palestinian terrorism.
    The Israelis doubt the militant Palestinian government will do what is needed to reach a permanent peace in the Middle East as they attached so many conditions to the acceptance of a Palestinian state that the Palestinan offer looks meaningless to a big part of the Israeli population.
    It is doubtful the Israeli’s will agree to restart the peace negotiations with Palest

  • http://www.lininginterestingtimes.blogspot.com jp

    inans as long as they refuse to recognise Israel and stop terrorism.

    sorruy it came through in 3 posts…

  • Michael Liermann

    “Those who were hoping for a 360-degree change in the US approach to the Middle East peace process have been disappointed.”

    Nitpick: a 360-degree change brings you right back where you started from. I believe you may have meant a 180-degree change.

    Good piece otherwise, though.

  • MidaFo

    Good piece. A little facile but it is not a thesis and the issue is complex. A possible key is that Israel is the only party there with the means to make the moves. It is therefore their responsibility to make the peace. This means the continuing strife is their fault. This is as it was in SA when the Nats, however bad they were and had been, made the moves. This is as it always is in otherwise intractable conflicts.

  • http://www.richmarksentinel.com/rs_main.asp Lyndall Beddy

    Unless the historic root of the problem is acknowledged, it will never be solved.

    In the Balfour Declaration of 1917 the principle that Israel would be returned to the Jews was agreed. The Arab world was incenced. During the period of the British Mandate the Sauds bussed more Arabs into Palestine, and colluded with the Brits to block Jewish emigration from Europe. Hitler, orginally, had been prepared to let the Jews go.

    So having bussed in Arabs and penned up 6 million Jews (and all descendants) to die – they now claim to be the “democratic majority”?

  • Rod Studley

    The arabs have a “Palestinian” (that’s not even an arabic word) state, two in fact, they’re called Jordan and Lebanon. That’s where they came from, that’s where their relatives are. That’s where they would be happy but their cousins, fellow arabs have forced them into camps and Gaza.

    Let the Judeans live in Judea and the arabs live in Arabia.

  • Hard Rain

    Why would a Palestinian state need to be devoid of Jews (i.e. the settlements)? The whole nature of the proposed state would be as a direct enemy to Jews- Judenrein and hostile to its Jewish neighbour.

    Can you blame Israel for stonewalling on the statehood issue…?