Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Whither the "Peace Process"? Part I


by Ted Belman

 1st part of 2 

The peace process has not brought us one step closer to peace. Just the opposite, it has brought us closer to war. In fact the closest we have been since Israel's dramatic victory in '67.


The Annapolis Summit promoted the last iteration of it, without any success. If anything, it proved that the parties can't agree on the terms. When pundits or diplomats argue that we know what the deal is, they ignore the fact that the parties can't agree on it.

Avigdor Lieberman has rejected Annapolis and wants to return to the Roadmap notwithstanding that it went way beyond Resolution 242 of the UNSC and the Oslo Accords. It incorporates the settlement freeze as prescribed in the Mitchell Report, the security arrangements as set out in the Tenet Plan and the destination of a Palestinian state as set out in President Bush's vision speech of 2002. In that speech, President Bush set out many preconditions to the creation of Palestine. But when the Quartet joined the Roadmap, they watered them down. The Roadmap reduced Israel's rights to Judea and Samaria and to Jerusalem. It also recited the Saudi Plan against the strenuous objections of Sharon.


The reason that this bitter pill was swallowed by Israel then, and by Minister Lieberman now, is that the Roadmap demanded an end to violence and incitement and thus afforded a good defensive shield for Israel. Israel would not have to perform her obligations unless and until, the Arabs ended violence and incitement. Lieberman spelled it out in his maiden speech, [1]

I will never agree to our waiving all the clauses — I believe there are 48 of them — and going directly to the last clause, negotiations on a permanent settlement. No. These concessions do not achieve anything. We will adhere to it to the letter, exactly as written. Clauses one, two, three, four — dismantling terrorist organizations, establishing an effective government, making a profound constitutional change in the Palestinian Authority. We will proceed exactly according to the clauses. We are also obligated to implement what is required of us in each clause, but so is the other side. They must implement the document in full.


Netanyahu was silent on Lieberman's remarks and announced that his government would immediately review all elements of the peace process before announcing its position.

Meanwhile, Obama simply affirmed the two-state solution.

"In the Middle East, we share the goal of a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors. Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security."

"That is a goal shared by Palestinians, Israelis, and people of good will around the world. That is a goal that the parties agreed to in the road map and at Annapolis. And that is a goal that I will actively pursue as president."

While he committed to this goal, he did not commit to any part of the process including Annapolis. The mainstream media have misrepresented this point with few exceptions. Obama has a different process in mind, namely one where the US forces Israel to comply.

Meanwhile, the Arabs set out their position on the peace process at the Doha Summit in late March. MEMRI reported that The Doha Summit was a defeat for the Saudi-Egyptian Camp [2]


After the summit, the Syrian president called it "the most successful summit of the last 20 years." [3] Indeed, the Iranian-Syrian camp had a number of achievements at the summit:

  1. They prevented any discussion of the "Iranian threat," a concept that is at the heart of the Saudi-Egyptian alliance and over which a cold war is being waged between the two camps. [4]
  2. Stipulations were added to the Saudi peace initiative such that it would be conditional not just on Israel's acceptance of it as it stands, but also on Israel's beginning to undertake its obligations stemming from the peace initiative's authoritative documents — namely, U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338 (which, in contrast with the peace initiative itself, do not commit all the Arab states to normalization). [5]
  3. Emphasis was placed on the option of resistance in Bashar Al-Assad's speech.

This is hugely instructive. The Arabs did not support Annapolis. Nor did they support the Roadmap. Nor did they support the Oslo Accords. They went right back to Resolution 242 passed in '67 which they had utterly rejected at the Khartoum Conference in the same year. There, they insisted on "no peace, no recognition, no negotiations" with Israel. Their position has not changed though they accepted the Resolution a few years later. Such acceptance was tactical only. They had gone to war in '67 to destroy Israel just as they did in '48 and again in '73.


By supporting the resistance they are rejecting the Roadmap. By rejecting the Roadmap, they are rejecting a Palestinian state. They don't care about the Palestinians. They care about destroying Israel.

After forty years, their policy is still "no peace, no recognition, no negotiations".

So where has the U.S. been in all this. Originally she supported the true meaning of Resolution 242 which called for partial withdrawal to "secure and recognized borders." A year later, she accepted the Arab interpretation requiring full withdrawal. But by law a resolution is interpreted according to what was intended at the time and not one year later. The policy of the U.S. has been, for almost forty years, to force Israel to return to the pre '67 borders.

On December 17, 1975, Henry Kissinger met with Sadun Hammadi, Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs. A transcript of this meeting [6] was published a couple of years ago. It discloses Kissinger's attempts to assuage the concerns of Hammadi.


"Kissinger: I think, when we look at history, that when Israel was created in 1948, I don't think anyone understood it. It originated in American domestic politics. It was far away and little understood. So it was not an American design to get a bastion of imperialism in the area. It was much less complicated: And I would say that until 1973 the Jewish community had enormous influence. It is only in the last two years, as a result of the policy we are pursuing, that it has changed,


We don't need Israel for influence in the Arab world. On the contrary, Israel does us more harm than good in the Arab world [..]

We can't negotiate about the existence of Israel but we can reduce its size to historical proportions.


I don't agree Israel is a permanent threat. How can a nation of three million be a permanent threat? They have a technical advantage now. But it is inconceivable that peoples with wealth and skill and the tradition of the Arabs won't develop the capacity that is needed. So I think in ten to fifteen years Israel will be like Lebanon-struggling for existence, with no influence in the Arab world.


You mentioned new weapons. But they will not be delivered in the foreseeable future. All we agreed to is to study it, and we agreed to no deliveries out of current stocks. So many of these things won't be produced until 1980, and we have not agreed to deliver them then. [..].

If the issue is the existence of Israe1, we can't cooperate. But if the issue is more normal borders, we can cooperate.


Hammedi: Your Excellency, do you think a settlement would come through the Palestinians in the area? 'How do you read it? Is it in your power to create such a thing?

Kissinger: Not in 1976. I have to be perfectly frank with you. I think the Palestinian identity has to be recognized in some form. But we need the thoughtful cooperation of the Arabs. It will take a year or a year and to do it, and will be a tremendous fight. An evolution is already taking place.

Hammedi: You think it will be part of a solution?

Kissinger: It has to be. No solution is possible without it. But the domestic situation is becoming favorable. More and more questions are being asked in Congress favorable to the Palestinians. (Emphases added)


President Bush offered some respite from this policy in his letter to Prime Minister Sharon prior to disengagement from Gaza. [7]


First, the United States remains committed to my vision and to its implementation as described in the road map. The United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan. Under the road map, Palestinians must undertake an immediate cessation of armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere, and all official Palestinian institutions must end incitement against Israel. [..]

The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel's security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel's capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats. [..]


It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.


As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. (emphases added)


Israel should be able to rely on said letter. Bush committed to "secure, defensible borders", no "right of return" and no Arab Peace Initiative. Unfortunately, these commitments/assurances have been breached by the pressure to join the Annapolis process and the growing pressure to accept the Arab Peace Initiative. There is even talk of an imposed solution.


The EU, the PA and to some extent the U.S. are demanding Israel abide by past agreements, imaginary or real, while at the same time ignoring American commitments to Israel as set out in the Bush letter..

The Annapolis process was really a separation process, not a peace process. The central idea driving the Annapolis process from the point of view of the Government of Israel was to arrive at agreed borders endorsed by the Quartet. Israel could then have disengaged to such borders as circumstances permitted and built anywhere west of them. The issue of Jerusalem and refugees was to be dealt with later.


This was the goal of the US and the EU. They too want the "occupation" to end.

So what are we to make of the Arab Peace Initiative [8] which

  1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as wel.
  2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm

a. Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights to the lines of June 4, 1967 as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.

b. Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.

c. The acceptance of the establishment of a Sovereign Independent Palestinian State on the Palestinian territories occupied since the 4th of June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza strip, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

  1. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:

a. Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.

b. Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.

  1. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.
  2. Calls upon the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab Countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighborliness and provide future generations with security, stability, and prosperity.

If you are wondering what (4) means you are not alone. Essentially it means that if the solution to the refugee issue i.e., patriation leaves any refugees in Syria or Lebanon it is to be rejected.


At least they are offering a "peace agreement". Or are they? After the Initiative was reaffirmed in '07, AIPAC issued a Report, [9] which rejected it as an ultimatum.



The Arab League's decision last week at a summit in Riyadh to reaffirm the 2002 Arab peace initiative could serve as the basis for dialogue between the Arabs and Israel if it is used as an opening to negotiations rather than as an ultimatum. However, the current positions of the Arab League — including support for violence and the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees are not conducive to a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Israel is committed to exploring peace with the Palestinians and Arab states, but the Arabs have rejected negotiations and threatened Israel with continued violence if it does not unconditionally accept the Arab plan.


That's It In A Nutshell. Nothing has changed.

Ted Belman


(End part I)


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