Search form

Last updated: 4 min 36 sec ago

You are here

Columns

Israel-Palestine peace requires fresh strategies

Enough international conferences. Enough pretending the US is an impartial broker. Every American-conceived initiative has failed primarily because they have all been angled in Israel’s favor, with no respect for UN resolutions.

Most have been little more than shows, with the possible exception of the joint efforts made by Nobel Peace Prize recipients Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, who signed up to the Oslo Accords in 1993. Unfortunately, their sincere intentions were scotched by the arrival of hard-liner Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush, who relegated Arafat to pariah status.

Palestinians are today worse off than ever before, without a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. The Palestinian Authority (PA) played by the international community’s rules and received nothing in return.

Like all those before him, US President Donald Trump says he is set on sealing a peace deal. “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” he told Reuters. Can we believe he is genuine when he is mulling relocating the US Embassy to Jerusalem?

The fact that he appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner as intermediary and David Friedman as ambassador to Israel, when both men materially support Jewish settlements in the West Bank, hardly instils confidence. Moreover, his Ambassador to the UN Nicky Haley has railed at the body for what she claims is its anti-Israel bias. Just days ago, 100 Senators signed a letter calling on the UN to quit its supposedly unfair treatment of Israel.

Trump is right on one thing though. Peace is not rocket science. Some of the bloodiest wars and conflicts have been ended through dialogue. To quote former US Secretary of State James Baker: “You negotiate peace with your enemies, not with your friends.” With that in mind, perhaps it is time for Arab leaderships to become more proactive.

A Palestinian Authority that represents all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza would pre-empt Netanyahu’s excuse that Israel has no partner for peace. If Arab states openly reach out, at the very least Netanyahu would be hoisted on his own petard for all the world to see.

Linda S. Heard 

Nuclear-armed Israel, which basks under Washington’s military umbrella, is not going anywhere. Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat realized that when he flew to Tel Aviv in November 1977 bearing an olive branch. That historic visit was frowned upon by not only the Palestinians but the entire Arab world. But if Arab leaders had participated in Camp David talks, it is more than possible that a flourishing Palestinian state would now be in existence.

That said, Saudi Arabia announced an Arab Peace Initiative at the 2002 Arab League Summit, offering Israel normalization of relations in return for its withdrawal to 1967 borders. The plan was endorsed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and all Arab League member countries.

Israel welcomed the initiative’s spirit but could not accept some of its conditions. If there had been face-to-face discussions between Arab heads of state and Israelis, those differences might have been ironed out. While I understand there are sensitivities involved due to decades of mutual enmity, if the goal is to rescue the Palestinian people from occupation, pragmatism, however bitter the pill, must take priority over emotion.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, then-US Secretary of State John Kerry presented a regional peace plan to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a secret summit in Aqaba last year. Netanyahu turned it down because he was unable to sell it to his ultra-right-wing coalition partners.

Yet in February, he said there was an unprecedented opportunity for peace because the region had changed. Reading between the lines, he meant Arabs and Israelis share the same enemy: Iran.

Arab leaders would do well to call his bluff. It would be interesting to see how he would respond to an offer of peace with the entire Arab world as a prelude to negotiations on a Palestinian state down the road. Arab and Israeli foreign ministers sitting around the same table in full view of cameras would be a good start.

A region in peace would deprive Netanyahu of pretexts based on security concerns. A PA that represents all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza would pre-empt his excuse that Israel has no partner for peace. If Arab states openly reach out, at the very least Netanyahu would be hoisted on his own petard for all the world to see. At best, a new door would emerge to free Palestinians from decades of despair and indignity.

 

Linda S. Heard is an author and columnist specializing in Middle East affairs.