‘Peace process’ is still dead

Any at­tempt to re­vive its corpse is pure cha­rade and it’s some­thing that Amer­i­can pres­i­dents do, mostly for do­mes­tic rea­sons

Cape Breton Post - - Op-Ed - Gwynne Dyer Global View Gwynne Dyer is an in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ist whose ar­ti­cles are pub­lished in 45 coun­tries.

Like other U.S. pres­i­dents be­fore him, Don­ald Trump in­vited the cur­rent Pales­tinian leader to the White House and told him that there was a “very good chance” of a peace set­tle­ment be­tween Is­rael and a soon-tobe-in­de­pen­dent state called Pales­tine.

The cur­rent Pales­tinian leader, Mah­moud Ab­bas, did not break with tra­di­tion ei­ther. Like his pre­de­ces­sor Yasser Arafat (who vis­ited the White Hours 24 times dur­ing Bill Clin­ton’s two terms as president), Ab­bas con­cluded his visit on Wed­nes­day with an op­ti­mistic re­mark: “Now, Mr. President, with you we have hope.” But the “peace process” is still dead.

It has been dead for 22 years now, ever since the as­sas­si­na­tion of Yitzhak Rabin, the Is­raeli prime min­is­ter who signed the Oslo Ac­cords in 1993. That was the peace deal that en­shrined the “two-state so­lu­tion,” with Is­raeli and Pales­tinian states liv­ing side-by-side in peace, as the agreed goal of the peace talks. But the Jewish fa­natic who mur­dered Rabin in 1995 for promis­ing the Pales­tini­ans a state killed the Oslo Ac­cords too.

Dur­ing the elec­tion that fol­lowed to re­place Rabin, the rad­i­cal Ha­mas move­ment, which op­posed any com­pro­mise peace be­tween the Pales­tini­ans and Is­raelis, launched a mas­sive ter­ror­ist cam­paign inside Is­rael. Its pur­pose was to drive Is­raeli vot­ers into the arms of the rightwing Likud Party, which also op­posed the peace deal. It suc­ceeded.

The win­ner of the 1996 elec­tion was Binyamin Ne­tanyahu, and he has been prime min­is­ter for more than half the time since then. Only once, in a sin­gle speech at Bar-Ilan Univer­sity in 2009, has he pub­licly ac­cepted the prin­ci­ple of a de­mil­i­ta­rized but in­de­pen­dent Pales­tinian state in at least some of the ter­ri­to­ries con­quered by Is­rael in 1967. But that was just to please the United States; he didn’t ac­tu­ally mean it.

Dur­ing the last Is­raeli elec­tion cam­paign in 2015, an in­ter­viewer from the Is­raeli news site NRG asked Ne­tanyahu if it was true that a Pales­tinian na­tion would never be formed while he is prime min­is­ter. “Bibi” (as he is known in Is­rael) replied sim­ply: “In­deed.”

Bibi is gen­er­ally more cau­tious than that, com­mu­ni­cat­ing his true views on the “two-state so­lu­tion” to the Is­raeli pub­lic by nods and winks. He needs to re­as­sure the Is­raelis who vote for him that it will never happen, but too much frank­ness an­noys Washington, which prefers to pre­tend that some­how, some time, a Pales­tinian state is still pos­si­ble.

The min­is­ters who pop­u­late Ne­tanyahu’s cab­i­net are not un­der the same pres­sure to go along with the pre­tense, be­cause most of what they say stays in He­brew. Bri­tish jour­nal­ist Me­hdi Hasan re­cently col­lected some of their more re­veal­ing re­marks, like In­te­rior Min­is­ter Sil­van Shalom’s speech to a meet­ing of Likud Party ac­tivists in 2012: “We are all against a Pales­tinian state, there is no ques­tion about it.”

Or Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Uri Ariel, who said in 2013: “We need to state clearly that there won’t be a Pales­tinian state west of the Jor­dan river.” Or frank­est of all, Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Min­is­ter Danny Danon: “Enough with the two-state so­lu­tion. Land-for­peace is over. We don’t want a Pales­tinian state.”

So this umpteenth at­tempt to re­vive the corpse of the late lamented peace process is pure cha­rade. It’s some­thing that Amer­i­can pres­i­dents do, mostly for do­mes­tic rea­sons, and Mah­moud Ab­bas goes along with it be­cause he is des­per­ately in need of some face-time with a leader who really is im­por­tant. (Ab­bas was elected president of the Pales­tinian Na­tional Au­thor­ity for four years in 2005, but there has been no elec­tion since.)

There’s plenty of blame to go around. The main Pales­tinian Is­lamist or­ga­ni­za­tion Ha­mas with­drew its recog­ni­tion of Ab­bas in 2009, and has since ruled the Gaza Strip, its strong­hold, as a sep­a­rate Pales­tinian proto-state. This gives the Is­raelis the quite rea­son­able ex­cuse that there is no united Pales­tinian au­thor­ity they can ne­go­ti­ate with.

The bru­tal truth is that the two-state so­lu­tion’s time is past. Is­rael has be­come so strong mil­i­tar­ily that it is the re­gion’s dwarf su­per­power, so it no longer needs to trade land for peace. Many of the neigh­bour­ing Arab states, ob­sessed by their own much big­ger se­cu­rity threats and civil wars, have been co­op­er­at­ing qui­etly with Is­rael for years now.

Is­raeli rule over four and a half mil­lion non-cit­i­zen Pales­tini­ans has al­ready lasted half a cen­tury. There is no con­vinc­ing rea­son why it can­not last for an­other half-cen­tury, al­though there is bound to be an erup­tion of Pales­tinian re­sis­tance from time to time.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.