The parameters of peace

Here are excerpts of my latest piece in the Hill’s pundits blog, which asked me to respond to the question:
Can the Obama administration forge a peace agreement, and what steps should it be taking in Mideast policy?

I’ll be honest. From my vantage point here in Gaza, where I’ve been for the past two months, it’s really, really difficult to approach this question seriously. Besieged and prevented from developing or prospering, with no exports and few people being allowed out and minimal raw materials being allowed in, Palestinians here are wondering what exactly we are negotiating over and who exactly Mahmoud Abbas is representing. (As one astute observer on Twitter noted, “himself, of course, who else”.) A peace agreement with no broad representation, head by a president with no legal authority or credibility, generally speaking, is not a good way to kick things off.

This is leaving aside the question of what exactly these direct talks will be about.

Palestinians have tired of piecemeal agreement with empty promises, a showcase of handshakes and ceremonies. They have become desensitized to the word “negotiations” — offended, even, by the mere notion of negotiations and their implications in their current context. For them, negotiations have meant nothing but concessions, emboldening Israeli security, and further strangulation.

Take the last much-publicized “back on track” attempt: Annapolis. Then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly went so far as to promise not to build new settlements or expropriate land! Well, by that measure (which, needless to say, didn’t pan out according to promise), we’ve gone backwards, granting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his wish of “talks without preconditions” (we’ve gone backwards in any case, but you get my drift). . .

Even if there was a commitment to freeze settlements, there will inevitably be a way around it. More Palestinian land will be expropriated and current settlements expanded to account for their “natural growth”, until they resemble towns, not colonies, and have them legitimized by a U.S. administration looking for some way to save face. And then there will be promises to raze outposts.

Oslo has been around for 17 years now. Almost two decades. It’s really mind-boggling when I say it out loud like that. Simply because if you take a good, hard look at the reality on the ground for Palestinians and what has happened in those 17 years, you would be hard-pressed to believe that any new negotiations will bear any fruit without a fundamental shift in the underlying process.

During that period, Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise doubled while Palestinian poverty and unemployment rates reached historic heights, due in no small part to Israel’s closure regime and policy of de-development. More than 300,000 illegal Jewish settlers now live on 42 percent of the West Bank land where the Palestinians want to establish their future country, according to a July report by the Israeli human rights group BTselem. Meanwhile, the prospect of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state has been rendered next to impossible, leading many Palestinians to consider new options.

There is increasingly talk amongst Palestinians now of a desire for a strategic shift of their own vis-a-vis their political aspirations: from a two-state solution toward a call for one democratic country, with equal rights for all. This is the only sustainable, viable, and just option for both peoples.

Gaza has been cast aside for the moment, but in thought and in words. Yet if any new negotiations stand any chance of succeeding, they must include Gaza — and its government — in the debate. Never mind talk of dedication to Israel’s destruction. The charter of Netanyahu’s Likud Party flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian state. Yet miraculously, America not only negotiates with Israel but allows Israel to push it around, by many an Israeli prime minister’s own admission…

As one prominent Palestinian-American tweeter put it Thursday night, “Now that Israel got its wish of talks ‘without preconditions’ I expect [Hamas leader] Khaled Meshal will soon get his invitation to Washington.”

If the Obama administration is indeed serious about peace, the parameters are clear, and have been for decades. The Israeli government must explicitly endorse a viable, contiguous, sovereign Palestinian state, something they have not yet done. Israel must suffer consequences for non-compliance.

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  1. Ali Abunimah’s “One Country” is a great book, argument, for one Israel of Palestine. It changed my mind. I agree- the one state solution is the only viable and just option now left.

  2. Chas Freeman proposes an interesting alternative approach here

    I don’t see Europe collectively doing much but I think pressure will gradually build on Israel.

  3. your is hopeless…both sides want the same piece of land…..the israelis have brains and brawn this time,and with modern weapons they can hold off the arabs…for now….the arabs will never live at peace with a jewish state and they have new powerfull friends in the area..iran and turkey….they are now emboldend …and with the liberals of the world also on their side…..nope no chance….now what the muslim enemys of israel refuse to realize is that if israel feels cornered..look out

  4. Do you EVER acknowledge the fact that——until Palestinians renounce indiscriminate violence toward Jews——nothing will ever change in Gaza? As Gazans under Hamas, you need to reform your ‘culture of death’ before any progress can ever be made. Let Israelis live their lives in peace and they’ll extend you the same courtesy.

  5. “There is increasingly talk amongst Palestinians now of a desire for a strategic shift of their own vis-a-vis their political aspirations: from a two-state solution toward a call for one democratic country, with equal rights for all. This is the only sustainable, viable, and just option for both peoples.”

    This is an absolute joke. Pigs will fly jets backwards while singing Catholic hymns before the Jews of Israel accept a state with the Palestinians. Any talk of it is, at best, stupidity and, at worst, some kind of strange attempt to eliminate all chance of peace.

    The entire purpose of the state of Israel was to escape state control by others who hate the Jews. The Palestinians have proven time again that their hatred for Jews far outweighs their love of each other.

    And as for how Palestinians accept Democracy, one only needs to look at Gaza and the West Bank. After winning election, Hamas slaughtered Fatah in Gaza and haven’t held an election since. Meanwhile, similar though slightly less evil subjugation has been carried out by Fatah in the West Bank. At least with a two state solution, the Jews can live with a fence between them and the men who want to kill them.

    A single unified Democracy? The funniest thing I’ve heard in weeks.

  6. lalia…i have been thinking….you know ….abbas and his crew dont have a chance to put together a peace treaty thats worth two beans….what needs to happen is a new election hammas vs abbas bunch…and hopefully hammas wins…then the rubber hits the road……everybody faces a war nobody really wants, not even me…..then with hammas faceing the grim reaper…and israel faceing the whole world…cooler heads would prevail…and then a real peace deal can be made….you think?

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