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Friday, January 19, 2007

Palestinians and Israel: Top down peace process for a new political horizon

Palestinians and Israel: Top down peace process for a new political horizon


One day, we all know, there must be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but the process seems to be mired in eternal deadlock and misery. Is there a way forward?

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of a "Political Horizon" for the Palestinians. Indeed both sides need a political horizon. All versions of the peace process have brought much talk of peace and many sound bites and photo ops, but no peace.

Israel makes empty promises and the Palestinians, including the moderate ones, make threats, not all empty. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised to make life better for the Palestinians at his last meeting with Palestinian President Abbas, but nothing much happened. The checkpoints are still there, for the most part, the housing units in the settlements are getting built, and the prisoners are still in jail. The safe passage, promised a long time ago in a previous meeting, never materialized.

President Abbas issued moderate declarations of peace and good intentions to Prime Minister Olmert and to Condoleezza Rice, but at almost the same time, he was telling Palestinians to use their guns against Israel. Gilad Shalit is still a hostage in Gaza and Qassam rockets keep falling on Sderot.
We know from opinion surveys that somewhere, hidden in the hearts of the majority of the Israelis and Palestinians there is a will to make peace, but the politicians and the political reality do not allow it come to fruition.

The blocks to realizing the dream are:

"Facts on the ground" - The glum reality is characterized by terror, incitement and repression.
- Palestinians do not believe Israeli promises of a better life, Israelis do not believe Palestinian promises to abandon violence and keep the peace. Indeed, the Hamas insist they will never recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.

Extremists - Extremists who exploit the reality and the mistrust in order to generate support for more terror, incitement and repression and block constructive solutions.

Diametrically Opposed National Goals - Israelis and Palestinians want the same bit of land, and extremists keep pushing for mutually exclusive maximalist solutions. Goals such as more settlements and Right of Return are adopted by mainstream politicians and used to agitate against a peaceful solution that recognizes the rights of both sides.

Ineffective Peace Movements - On the Israeli side, peace movements either do nothing or advance unpopular demands of the Palestinians. They can't get a real hearing because they ignore the very real concern of Israelis, and because they are marginalized by the political leadership. On the Palestinian side, there are no movements founded with the express goals of making peace. A listing in a recent book about Palestinian "peace movements" and "civil society" included the Hamas and the International Solidarity Movement, neither of which advocate peace with Israel or are likely to bring peace.

The result is an impasse. Tzippi Livni and Condoleezza Rice chose to ignore all of the above, and to skip ahead to a happy conclusion for their press conference. It may solve their current political problems, but we know from past experience that it won't make any difference in reality. Rice and Livni proposed a "provisional" Palestinian state with "temporary" borders, but the Palestinians aren't having any of that. The Hamas would want the "temporary" borders to be along the Green line, and their state would be preparing to take over the rest of Israel. The Israeli government would want the "provisional" state to encompass the land on the other side of the security fence, and assumes that in the Middle East, nothing is more permanent than a "temporary" solution. 

Continued here

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