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Let’s give peace a chance

IN the past few weeks, the Palestinians and Israelis sat down again for a possible peace agreement. Now, the time is different, as a matter of fact very different. Many people in the Arab world, including many Palestinians and Israelis are not as optimistic as many analysts expected. And sometimes we shouldn’t blame them. They saw the two concerned parties sit down many times in different world capitals. Many say that if the two parties don’t achieve peace this time, then there will be no peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis even in the faraway future.
People around the world saw many negotiations evaporate with no results for a lasting peace. The Palestinians and Israelis were involved in many negotiations from Madrid to Oslo and many peace proposals were discussed in Washington and other world capitals, but the end result wasn’t up to the world expectations. But, nowadays, all parties have no choice except sitting down and removing any obstacles in the road to a lasting peace.
The atmosphere for the peace negotiation is more suitable for all parties, especially the Palestinians. The American Secretary of State, John Kerry, has very sincere intentions to solve the most complicated political issue in modern-day history. Kerry visited the area many times and was successful in persuading the Palestinians and Israelis to restart the peace process. But, there are many issues, which will be difficult to resolve and time is running out. The most important issue is the Palestinian refugees.
Many people around the world are wondering where would refugees go from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan? Their number is in the millions and even the West Bank and Gaza may not be ready or capable to absorb the millions of refugees if and when they return. The economic situation in the West Bank and Gaza is in need of billions of dollars in financial aid and there has to be massive buildup of infrastructural projects such as schools, electricity, roads and hospital. And there is also the governing of the Palestinian territories, because the Palestinians will have to govern all the territories as one entity and there is no room or place for divisions among Palestinians.
And the situation for the Palestinian refugees is not getting any better. Just last week, Lebanon closed its borders in the face of the Palestinians leaving Syria. Also, the Palestinians have to realize that this is the first time the Palestinians will be in Washington D.C. for the negotiations without any influence from any Arab capital. The Arab capitals are busy with their own problems. So, it is important for the Palestinians not to listen to bounty hunters who used their agony for their own personal agendas. In other words, it is the Palestinians who are suffering, not someone in an air-conditioned apartment in London or Paris.
The peace process going to be very complicated and the Palestinian negotiating teams will be hearing a lot of noise and will face many challenges from extremists or from phony nationalists. But the Palestinians have to realize, this is 2013 not the 1960s.
At this stage many in the Arab world have doubts about the Israelis and their intentions, but I think there are many indications that tell us about the Israeli seriousness this time. Looking at who is who in the Israeli negotiation team and reading about the recent nomination of the new Israeli ambassador to Washington tell us that the Israeli will offer something and it is up to the Palestinian negotiators to do the correct political maneuvers.
The Israelis have a full team of personalities who can impress upon the most demanding American media or political networks. The Israelis have a woman, a top lawyer, and a former American citizen as their next ambassador in the United States.
The Israelis have a woman who is very experienced negotiator. She is the Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni. She also served as the foreign minister and was very close to become the prime minister and she will have no difficulties in talking to the American media and any women organizations.
They also have a lawyer whose name is Yitzhak Molcho. He is acting as the chief negotiator. In Washington, I wouldn’t sit at any kind of political or judicial negotiating table without a lawyer on my side. He will be reviewing every letter and word in any peace agreement.
The last person in the negotiating team may not be in Washington D.C. till much later, but he might be the most important person who will oversee the details of the closing of any peace agreement. This man is Ron Dermer who was born in the United States. This ambassador will be the boy from the neighborhood for many American congressmen and senators in the Washington D.C. area. In other words, he will be speaking to America, which has the biggest influence on any peace negotiations. And let us be frank, this new ambassador was a column writer with peculiar thoughts about the Palestinians. And what is more, I would watch any politician who gets transferred from Miami Beach to Washington D.C.
On the other hand, the Palestinian chief negotiator is Saeb Erekat. And yes, Erekat is a familiar political figure in the world arena, but the Palestinians have to include figures who can have more social charisma and have knowledge about the American social system and have great experience with international law.
In complicated negotiations, one word or punctuation can make a difference. And to this day, I always wonder why there is no woman in the Palestinian negotiation team. There are many Palestinian women who are very highly educated and have talents for public relation speeches, but we never hear about them. Washington D.C. insiders, especially the women groups would like to talk to Palestinian women and see what they have accomplished and their future role in future Palestinian governments.
The Palestinians are in Washington not for political talks only, but they will be involved in showing their future plans to run a country. And for those in the Arab world who oppose the peace negotiations, please give the Palestinians other options. And finally, the Palestinians and Israelis must give peace a chance. Sixty-five years of hostilities only brought misery to the area. Many lives have been lost and assets wasted, so why not try peace for once.

• This article is exclusive to Arab News.
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