In today’s Middle east, it is rather hard to be optimistic. Admittedly, the Israelis and Palestinians are sitting at the direct negotiation table but both are bruised with black and blue marks on their back and hands from the “subtle” American pull and push pressure.
Netanyahu on his part is trying to please everybody all the time and will soon find out that zig-zagging leads to a dead end.
Netanyahu is committed to his coalition, which is mainly right wing and will not let him continue with the settlement freeze and negotiate the return of most of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Netanyahu is busy fighting for his political survival and does not see that prolonging the status quo can only lead in one direction, a Bi-National State that will be the beginning of the end of a Democratic Jewish State as we know it. The only reasonable solution to the bind he is in at the moment is the creation of a NEW coalition consisting of Likud (Netanyahu), Kadima (Zipi Livni), Labor (Ehud Barak) and other Zionist parties that would join the coalition based on its political platform. Such a coalition will enable him to pass resolutions without the fear of a no-confidence vote in the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament).
Abu Mazen on the other hand is in no better shape. His opposition (Hamas) is sitting in Gaza and is spreading in the West Bank, waiting for the right moment to take over by means of extreme violence (as they did in the Gaza take over), and create another extreme Islamic dictatorship adjacent to Israel.
The US with some hasty public declarations regarding the settlement freeze, did not help the situation. Instead of conducting a quiet negotiation regarding this sensitive issue (Netanyahu declared very clearly that the freeze will last ten months only) which can put Netanyahu in an impossible situation, they came out with open statements by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton which did not leave Abu Mazen with any alternative but climb up the freeze tree without any ladder to climb down. He cannot look less rigid than the Americans regarding this issue.
All that Abu Mazen needs to do now is to prolong the negotiation as much as he can with the hope that they will fail. It is not in his interest to succeed in the talks. He (as he sees it) cannot give up the right of return demand; a Palestinian State in the West Bank (even if on most of it) will never be able to be a viable independent state: economically (no access to any sea port unless it has control over Gaza) or militarily (the Israeli demand that it will be demilitarized), and thus will have to rely on Israel and the world for its operation. Therefore, if he waits patiently, a one-state-for-two-people solution will be created, the world will demand full national and citizenship rights for all of the inhabitants between the river (Jordan) and the sea and this will be the end of Israel as the only Jewish State in the world.
As one can see, both sides are coming to the negotiation table with their hands tied behind their backs and only a third party can untie the knots and show the sides that there is another way.
It is very unfortunate that the Israelis, which overwhelmingly supported the land for peace formula, are now losing faith. A growing sense of mistrust is spreading in Israel and unless a dramatic move that will show goodwill on both parties will occur, the chance for the peace talks to succeed is minimal to non-existent.
Add to all the above the larger picture of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, the Syrians and the supporter of all of then Iran, and the picture is even more complex.
The penetration of Iran into this region and the foothold they now have in Lebanon, Gaza and Syria is no secret and is of serious concern to the Western world and many countries in the Arab world. The Iranians are striving for the domination of the Muslim world. They are doing it by finding small cracks in weak regimes, by buying their way in with money and the supply of arms to the opposition in some countries and by buying the regimes in others. Once they finalize the development of their nuclear weapon, the road for dominance will be paved. This should concern not only Israel but also the western world, which is still thirsty for oil. They will take over Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the Emirates etc. and thus will control most of the world’s oil supply.
It is quite obvious that the Iranians will do all they can to keep the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a low burner with the ability to inflame it whenever a solution gets near by activating Hezbollah and Hamas. The Iranians need conflict and division, which can only serve their ambition of returning to their past glory of world dominance.
The world has to wake up now, and:
- give the Israelis assurances for their security and well being;
- assure the Israelis that a Palestinian state side by side will not threaten its existence and thus help them make painful concessions;
- assure the Palestinians that the Israelis have no desire to control other people;
- convince the Palestinians that their demand for right of return is the recipe for a sure failure in the talks and that creating a new tragedy to solve another tragedy will just not work;
- convince the Palestinians that choosing the radical way (Hamas and the other radical factions) and not recognizing the right of Israel to exist will not lead then anywhere and only cause more death and misery on both sides.
If these things can be accomplished, there will be a platform for peace and then the world will be a better place for all of us to live in.
Start w/ #4&5.
Hag Sukkot Somaych, Wm
Shaul, thank you for your on-location observations, and your insight and analysis. The recipe you propose at the end of your article implies, to me, a suggestion that "the world" must (somehow) do its assuring and convincing of the Israeli and Palestinian populations, rather than leaving its case at leaderships' door. Am I reading you correctly? If so, let us know your thoughts on how that might come about and of any tangible measures you observe.
Toda lecha vL'shana tova.
Thank you for your comments. You are right in your understanding of my intention. It is quite obvious that the leadership on both sides is unable to deliver at the present level of mistrust and wrong interpretations of political moves on both sides.
What I call "the world" is essentially the US, Russia and the EU who must apply pressure on both sides to make the concessions I described in the article.
I feel that this will be the only way to move forward.
In addition, I am afraid that the Syrian President Assad, is a key player in the game and as long as the above mentioned bodies do not punish him for re-taking over Lebanon, the arms supplies to the Hezbollah and his close relations with Iran including his attempt (that was curbed ) to develop Nuclear ability, he will do all he can to jeopardize any agreement with the Palestinians, following Teheran's instructions.
Hi Sha'uli from the Yanivs (Brighton-Hove '85-'87)