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Articles in English


Pioneer Journalist Nellie Bly

Glass Ceiling in Media

Joint Distribution Committee: "Grandpa's Safe Haven"

A Conversation with Arianna Huffington

Culture Gaps and Gaffes: Perception Is Everything

A Reluctant Freelancer

A Conversation with Helen Thomas

Israel vs. the United Nations

Yasser Arafat—Legacy or Lunacy?

No Peace, No Process?

The Israeli Press Reacts to the Road Map: Bumpy Road Ahead

The Israeli Press Reacts to the Prisoner Exchange with Hizbollah

Israel’s Security Fence—Back To The Wall

A Woman President in the White House?

New York Stories:
Freedom of Speech

New York Stories:
9/11—Tilting at Windmills

German Press on Iraq: Front Line Berlin

Bush Takes On Europe—Again

A European in New York

Jewish Lawyers Defending Anti-Semites?

Cooperation and Competition — American Jewry and Israel's Development

In Memoriam Yehuda Amichai

In Memoriam Hildegard Knef

2000... And the Emperor Still Has No Clothes

 

 

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The Paradox of the Separation Fence

United, Rather
Than Divided

The separation fence—intended to separate between Israelis and Palestinians, between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza—could achieve just the opposite and, in the long run, knit the two people together under one democratic government.

Unilaterally separating the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from Israel—thus preventing a viable Palestinian state—will permanently prevent a two-state solution and make Palestinian independence impossible.

But that's not all. Within a decade, Jews will become a minority on both sides of the fence.

Let's assume the Palestinians would openly declare that they have given up their dream of an independent state. What if they would instead start demanding, "one man, one vote" for each Palestinian living in the West Bank and Gaza and claim the right to partake in Israel's democracy?

What if they were to fight the "fight of Mandela" instead of the "fight of Arafat?"

Ironically, Israel's right-wing parties and settlers will have to agree on some sort of two-state solution within the next 10 years, at the very latest, in order to keep the dream of a "Jewish state" alive.

 

Home Page > Articles in English > Peace Process


 

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Abu Ala Against Arafat

Abu AlaAbu Ala, "with his enthusiastic smile, embodied for millions of people on both sides the hope and longing for a better future of peace and serenity, commented Tel Aviv's liberal Ha'aretz in its editorial (Sept. 9, 2003). "Exactly a decade ago, Ahmed Qureia, better known as Abu Ala, burst into the Israeli consciousness....The man who represented the PLO in the secret negotiations in Oslo embodied for millions of people on both sides the hope and longing for a better future of peace and serenity. Now, with the announcement...of Qureia's appointment as the new prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, it is difficult to say his emergence at center stage raises much enthusiasm in Israel.

"There have been too many disappointments since Oslo, too many missed opportunities, too much innocent blood has been spilled in recent years to hang much hope on a change of personnel in Ramallah. However, Qureia's mere readiness to accept the challenge was noteworthy. The conditions he is presenting—more energetic involvement by the United States and Quartet members in lifting the Israeli threat against Arafat—are evidence of political wisdom. Upon assuming office, Qureia will face two tests: He will have to restrain the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror organizations, as well as the Tanzim, affiliated with his own movement, and he will have to preserve his independence from Arafat."

According to Tel Aviv's right-wing, religious Hatzofeh
(Sept. 9), however, "Arafat's decision to charge his confidant Abu Ala with the responsibility for forming a new government effectively means that the PLO Chairman has decided to reassume his position at the top of the Palestinian leadership....[S]ooner or later, Washington will have to reconsider its policy and reach the conclusion that as long as Arafat holds the steering wheel, it will be impossible to advance the policy anchored in the road map....It is not only the hudna which has come apart, but the road map ceased to exist at the moment that Hamas and Islamic Jihad toppled Abu Mazen and restored control to Arafat and his cohorts."

Yediot Aharonot concluded that the Israeli government, too, was to a certain extent responsible for Abu Mazen's demise. "What does the government have to offer Arafat's successors? If we look at the precedent set by Abu Mazen, the begging conclusion is that Sharon's government has no real and courageous proposal for the Palestinians in the post-Arafat era....Arafat flourishes when the Palestinians are being suffocated under the burden of occupation. The end of the occupation is therefore the most correct and effective method to end the Arafat era in the Middle East. Any other process will only strengthen him and his cursed grip."

 

"The Palestinian Leadership Didn't Supply the Goods"


Sharon, ArafatThe fall of Abu Mazen's government came as no surprise but was met with disappointment. Yediot Aharonot commented in its editorial (Sept. 8) that whereas most Israelis would say that Abu Mazen did not survive because "Arafat didn't let him and won't allow any chance for a settlement or normalization," most Palestinians would say that Abu Mazen failed because "he simply didn't supply the goods." The editors referred to a Palestinian opinion poll, which indicated that support for Hamas, and other rejectionist groups, increased as support for Abu Mazen's government decreased. "This, if you like, is the true infrastructure of terror, born out of Palestinian desperation, and impervious to any American or Israeli pressure," Yediot Aharonot continued. "The real war on it is not fought with helicopters, but with opening a ray of hope for a people that lives in poverty and humiliation. True assistance to Abu Mazen isn't bombing [Hamas' spiritual leader] Sheikh Yassin, as the security establishment argues, but proving to the Palestinians that his way is to their benefit. Arafat can best be neutralized not by expelling him, but by generosity to those who constitute an alternative."

Hatzofeh suggested (Sept. 8) that Abu Mazen "also disappointed those who didn't expect very much from him in the first place," and the paper suggested that Abu Mazen, Israel, and the United States know that it was Yasser Arafat who undermined Abu Mazen. The editors declared, "The time has come to remove Arafat from the scene and simply expel him from the region....[H]e leads the Palestinian terror machine, prevents any possibility of diplomatic progress by the Palestinians [and] is torpedoing any attempt to stop the wave of terror and violence."

Egyptian political analyst Abdel-Moneim al-Said summarized the deadlock in the peace effort in the liberal Saudi daily al-Watan on Sept. 4: “The lesson we’ve learned about the Arab-Israeli conflict is that it just goes from bad to worse. The interests and future of whole peoples have become contingent upon the conflict. If things are left as they are, leadership will pass to Hamas and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin to decide the fate of 300 million Arabs. If leadership passes to the moderate Arab states, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, then the Arab peace initiative (land for peace with Israel and regional cooperation) is the strategic entry point for changing the political culture of the whole region. The general direction of the Arab world depends on decisions we take now and if the road map dies, then the future of the entire Arab region will move the way of suicide and suicide bombers.”

"[T]he deadly suicide bombing in Jerusalem...is proof that [Palestinian militants] did not keep their word," commented Ze'ev Schiff in Ha'aretz (Aug. 20). "[The] attack, the first such incident since the declaration of the hudna at the end of June, marks a personal failure for Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and for [Palestinian Defense Minister Mohammed] Dahlan himself....This deterioration in Palestinian society—which maintains only an extremely thin layer at its top that is called the 'Palestinian Authority'—strengthens those who think that it is impossible to control what happens in the territories."

Jordan's Al-Rai countered (Aug. 21): "If the Israeli army was unable to 'root out terrorism,' how can Dahlan succeed?"

According to the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyasa (Aug. 23), violence by Palestinians against Israel would in the end hurt their own people. “In Jerusalem we saw the terrorist attack and its bloody effects. Does this in any way help the Palestinians? Whoever is behind this attack is a lunatic. The Palestinian prime minister must eradicate these lunatics because they harm the Palestinian people and also Arab-Arab and Arab-West relations.”

Also an editorial in the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds
(Aug. 21) voiced despair over the renewed carnage. "No one here thinks that the killing of children, mothers or the elderly...helps the cause of Palestinians for liberation. Acts like these, as well as those perpetuated by the Israeli government of assassinations, destroying homes, etc, do show that the conflict is reaching a new level—in which both sides believe that the most awful damage has to be inflicted to the other side to meet their goals and in the process forgoing human civilization. The most important thing seems to be to kill as many of 'the other side' as possible, no matter whether innocent or not, children or otherwise...and it goes without saying that children have very often been the victims. Both sides lose...there will be no winner as the violence starts anew."

"With this inevitability, we must realize that the Palestinian Authority's effectiveness, whether of its officials or institutions, to defy Israeli and American pressures is limited," opined Salih al-Qallab of the London-based Saudi-owned daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat. "Obviously, one of the by-products of this latest bombing [in Jerusalem, Aug. 19] will be an increase of pressure on Arafat and Abbas. The worst-case scenario would be if the Palestinian leadership does ultimately comply with this pressure and it reluctantly accepts the plan to dismember what are called terrorist networks. If this indeed does happen, then the Palestinian civil war will finally erupt despite the long years of trying to keep this possibility in check. Once this becomes a part of the Palestinian reality, it will engender a never-ending cycle of killing. Thus in conclusion, Hamas will bear the historical responsibility for the civil war if it does break out, because Hamas' actions pushed the Palestinians over the brink. And forever more, Hamas will be blamed for its national betrayal."

 

"No One Will Win"

"One thing has been seared in the mutual consciousness, after 1,000 days and 3,000 killed: No one will win here," wrote Yediot Aharonot on June 30. "Both sides' leaders can still talk about forcing a decision, and try and define it in inflammatory, or just unclear, terms. The peoples already know that everything is rubbish....The more we and they rid ourselves of the illusion of victory, the day will be closer in which the two boxers will finally be able to go back to their corners and lick their wounds."

The Aqaba summit, as Yoel Marcus put it in his editorial in Ha'aretz (June 6), "provided the real test for the leaders on both sides to assess their determination to create a situation that offers no hope to crazies and extremists."

He is right. Both people still want to live in peace, and were it not for extremists, they could have achieved their dream a long time ago. Those extremists, however, don't stand idly by with their hands behind their backs and watch their goals being shattered. After Aqaba, their killing spree continued unabated. It is up to the Palestinians to continue to curb extremists. If they won't, the Israelis will. For Israel, the immediate task is to dismantle settlements and prevent a civil war with hard-line settlers. It won't be easy, but, as the evacuation of Yamit in the Sinai in April 1982 has shown, doable.

And now, with Arafat gone, the Palestinians can finally move forward.

Only strong leaders will be able to make peace in the region, and Israel will have to assist in keeping the Palestinian government, now under Abu Mazen and Abu Ala, together. Only legitimate leaders can achieve anything in the region, and the Palestinians have to decide once and for all in which direction they are heading with their upcoming Jan. 9 2005 presidential elections.

 

Show Me the Money!

Putting the blame on the main players on the Israeli and Palestinian sides was never enough. Arab nations, too, will now have to do more than give lip service to the Palestinian cause. In 2002, 11 Arab states pledged a mere US$8.2 million to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) fund to ease the plight of Palestinian refugees—Bahrain, Brunei, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates; Egypt and Oman did not contribute a single dollar. Just as a comparison: Tiny Norway paid $14 million into the fund and Sweden contributed $20 million. The United States pledged $120 million (which will rise soon to $200 million); the European Commission gave $79 million, and the United Nations $13 million.

"A Road Map Paid for in Euros," read a headline in London's Financial Times (July 18, 2004). The article, written by the European Commissioner for External Relations, Christopher Patten, argues that without assistance from the European Union (E.U.), "There would have been no Palestinian interlocutor for the negotiations now under way." According to Patten, between November 2000 and December 2002, the E.U. gave nearly $280 million in financial aid "to keep the Palestinian administration alive and sustain the most basic of public services." Then, in 2004, the E.U. contributed $245 million to the Palestinians, the United States gave $315 million and Saudi Arabia, the largest donor in the Arab world, paid $115 million.

The meager contribution of the Arab states is a pitiful attempt to keep the situation of the Palestinians as dire as it is. In 1952, the UNRWA set up a fund of $200 million to provide homes and jobs for the refugees, but it went untouched. In August 1958, the former director of UNRWA, Ralph Garroway, proclaimed: "The Arab states do not want to solve the [Palestinian] refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don't give a damn whether the refugees live or die." Jordan was the only Arab country to welcome the Palestinians and grant them citizenship (to this day, Jordan is the only Arab country where Palestinians as a group can become citizens). King Abdullah considered the Palestinian Arabs and Jordanians one people.

The Palestinians receive a little more than $1 billion a year from outside sources, making them the world's largest recipients of international aid, with nearly $300 per person in annual payments for 3.5 million inhabitants.

Where does the money go? Surely not to the refugee camps that breed hatred and terrorism, where 4.5 million Palestinians continue to live in poverty and filth. Sixty percent of the Palestinians live below the poverty line. And yet, UNRWA spends $400 million a year to assist Palestinian refugees. Those refugees, however, are still exploited as martyrs for the Palestinian cause, and their plight is deliberately kept unresolved.

In the United States, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had been considering giving $300 million aid "to help the Palestinian Authority (PA) deal with Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups responsible for attacks on Israelis." The Bush administration also pledged continuing its policy by aiding the PA directly "to improve its intelligence and security apparatus."

On July 9, 2004, the New York Times reported that the initial installment of this first direct U.S. monetary assistance to the Palestinians, amounting to $20 million, "will be given out in the coming days." The money was intended to improve basic services in Palestinian areas being vacated by Israel, including road, sewage, and water projects. In the long run, the goal is to gradually reduce the influence of Hamas, which runs a network of schools and welfare services for Palestinians. In early September, the European Union followed the U.S. lead and declared Hamas a terrorist organization.

In November 2004, after Yasser Arafat's death, the Bush administration announced that it would provide an additional $23.5 million in aid to the PA to help conduct presidential elections (scheduled for Jan. 9, 2005), to establish security, meet the PA's payrolls and to upgrade infrastructure in Gaza.

A July 2004 survey among 1,000 Americans found that an overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens, 74.1 percent, oppose sending what now amounts to $213 million in annual aid to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

According to Abraham D. Sofaer, a legal adviser to the Department of State from 1985 to 1990 and the principal negotiator of the 1989 accord that returned to Egypt the Israeli-held area of Taba in the Sinai, "The U.N. and the United States have allowed these terrible practices [of Arabs and Palestinians exploiting Palestinians] to continue for years....The problem is that the road map...expects to bring an end to Palestinian violence against Israel without addressing the reasons why the Palestinians have deliberately and repeatedly chosen that path." (Commentary, May 2003)

On Dec. 17, 2004, the New York Times reported that the United States, Europe and Arab countries "were considering greatly increasing — maybe even doubling — aid to the Palestinians.... A four-year package of $6 billion would be forthcoming...if the elections occurred successfully and if the new government cracked down on militant groups.... The World Bank says the package would be the largest per person international aid program since World War II."

 

Unwilling to Listen

Few Israeli commentators seemed surprised by the continuing violence immediately after the Aqaba summit. "The war with the Palestinians will only reach its end when both sides collapse," the editors of Yediot Aharonot predicted on June 9. "No one believed anything ended or began at the summit….No one is willing to listen anymore."

Amos Oz has been optimistic that both sides are equally pragmatic about peace talks and follow through. But there are others who have stopped believing in miracles. "[In Aqaba], the American wise man, U.S. President George W. Bush, echoed Shimon Peres in a bygone era, calling on both sides to continue negotiating despite the killings," wrote Ofer Shelach in Yediot Aharonot on June 9. "Tomorrow, maybe the day after that, Bush’s determination will come to an end as a result of the past few months, and he will once again leave us alone with our troubled soul. The noise that you hear now is not the sound of an orchestra accompanying the ceremony [in Aqaba]. It’s just a bunch of terrified people who are whistling in the dark."

There is one thing the critics of peace talks still haven't grasped: Compromise is not a sign of weakness. A country armed to the teeth can be weaker than a country willing to make concessions for peace. The Israelis don't want intimate friendship with the Palestinians, nor do they want Arafat to be their brother. They just want to rid themselves of the burden of being held responsible for every ill that has befallen the Palestinian society. For Palestinians seem to blame everybody but themselves—or, for that matter, their Arab neighbors—for their plight.

A sincere peace process bearing fruits would give the Israelis moral backing to defend themselves if they have to. Peace with the Palestinians would primarily set the boundaries of how to deal with this new unit under international law, should Israel be threatened again. Thus the peace process is not evidence that Israel is falling to its knees; instead, it serves to separate two worlds that neither can nor wish to live together. Within this new reality, another Intifada would be equivalent to a declaration of war—which in turn could be fought with every legitimate means in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

 

Israel's Fighting the Enemy Within

The failing morale of Israeli soldiers, the lack of will to fight that began with the 1982 Lebanon war, had a deep psychological and very human basis: The enemy was no longer concrete, had no army, did not threaten Israel's borders, but came instead from within. During the first Intifada, Israeli soldiers became police officers, dealing with guerrilla fighters and stone-throwing children. The army, praised for its morality, was expected to "break the bones of civilians." Any attempt to weaken the Palestinian Authority during that time strengthened Israel's new position as an occupying power. The situation was no longer tolerable to most Israelis. The peace talks were begun by politicians who were tired, not of fighting but of having to defend themselves against civilians, against an insubstantial, nonmilitary enemy, and against a biased world opinion.

Politicians in the Middle East came to realize that, given the dangers of fundamentalism, they could not continue as before. It is no longer the old enemies who are ready to attack; new forces are at work. If Israel had attempted to fight Hamas a few years ago, the world would have continued to view Israel as the aggressor. Israel's hands were tied, despite its military strength.

After concessions that did not, in fact, threaten Israel's security, the Jewish state had found in the Palestinian Authority an accomplice that, while it continued to feel sorry for itself, still could be an ally who had the most to lose from terrorism. But with the launching of the second Intifada, the Palestinian Authority chose to set its own people back by decades.

 

"We Are Sick of a Handful of Terrorists!"

Fighting terrorism is no longer only Israel's problem, as the events of September 11 and the war on terrorism have proved, but neither can Israel rely on the Palestinian Authority to completely eradicate terrorists roaming the autonomous territories. The peace efforts require international cooperation and a sense of solidarity in order once and for all to take a position that makes terrorism unacceptable, wherever it may occur.

Since Oslo, the situation in the Middle East has involved everyone, inside and outside the region, making it no longer just Israel's responsibility. We know that the Palestinians can do an adequate job of stopping the violence—if it suits them—and stem the incitements and justifications for violence against Israel within the Palestinian education system. And we also know that most Palestinians want to live in peace with the Israelis. Ahmed Tibi, Arafat's former political adviser, said many years ago: "I have had enough of Palestinians doing these things to Israel. We're sick of letting a handful of terrorists destroy our dream of peace. We must finally begin to prevent terrorism."

If it should finally become possible, with Palestinian help, to fight Hamas, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, and Islamic Jihad, the world might not become a better place but certainly a safer one. Still, Israelis and Palestinians would not automatically become friends—it will take many generations to build trust—but at least they could be allies living side by side, each within their own borders.

 

Status Quo at All Costs?

There is still a long way to go until then. Only now will we see how far the Israeli's strength and spiritual power can go. Anyone who has ever lived in Israel knows what sacrifices years of war have demanded from Israeli society. Important domestic issues that challenge every new country—like the status quo between religion and state, social problems, gender equality, and economic challenges—had to take a backseat to security and defense issues. The need for a strong military, for being tough, secured a machismo and chauvinistic outlook on all aspects of life in Israel within the Israeli society.

In the long run, no state can simply ignore pressing social issues. With the start of the peace process 10 years ago, there was a chance for the country to build itself up again from within. For the first time in their history, Israelis had the feeling that they could live in a normal country and could finally worry about other problems. The failure of Oslo and a looming all-out war on many fronts has propelled Israel back into a state of "status quo at all levels, at all costs, and by all means."

 

Can Terrorists Get Tired of Fighting?

The second Intifada undermined Israeli morale and destroyed any semblance of trust toward the Palestinians. The renewed peace process will not guarantee that there won't be any suicide bombings in Israel. But Israel must be able to defend itself, without isolating itself. Those Palestinians who really want peace must finally raise their voices — and holding on to Arafat's legacy can only backfire.

Much is at stake: The issue is supporting those Israelis and Palestinians who are tired of war. Only then will Israel's existence and dignity and that of the Palestinians be ensured. A peace process can never be the sole cause of terrorism—it is the response to it.

But there can be no permanent peace until: a) the Arabs of the region openly accept the existence of Israel as a permanent, sovereign state; b) Israel accepts the Palestinian right to independence; and c) Israel is finally granted a place in the regional grouping of Middle Eastern states and given the opportunity to serve on the U.N. Security Council (where Israel is the only country that has no say) and other U.N. bodies.

"A road map to peace is a fine thing," summarizes Sofaer in his May 2003 essay in Commentary. "But if it is based in denial and wishful thinking, it will be rightly doomed."

 


For further reading:

Comparison of United Nations Member States' Language in Relation to Israel and Palestine as Evidenced by Resolutions in the U.N. Security Council and U.N. General Assembly,
published by the United Nations Association of the United Kingdom (UNA-UK), August 2004

"Why Israel Killed Ahmed Yassin," Israel Foreign Ministry

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1515 (November 2003), endorsing the road map

Israel's official statement on U.N. Resolution 1515

Israel-Palestinian Negotiations: Diagram

Guide to Mideast Peace Process, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Key Documents

Background information on the Geneva Accord and full text (in Hebrew)

On the Geneva Accord: "Accord Offers Best Chance for Peace," by Jimmy Carter, Nov. 3, 2003

Mapping a Middle East Peace, April 2003
Road Map Unveiled, Assailed, May 2003
Road Map Revived, June 2003
(World Press Review)

"Israel and the Palestinians" (BBC)

Timeline of the Mideast Conflict (BBC)

Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Israeli-Arab Conflict (Jewish Virtual Library)

The Arab-Israeli Conflict (International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism)

The Road Map in Hebrew (Ha'aretz)

Transcripts of the Speeches Held at Aqaba (Ha'aretz)

"Mideast—Land of Conflict" (CNN Special Report)

United Nations: "Question of Palestine" Resolutions/Analyses on the Mideast conflict and the road map

Background on the Road Map (The Council on Foreign Relations, New York)

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)

"Managing European Taxpayers' Money: Supporting the Palestinian Arabs, A Study in Transparency", August 2004

Palestinian reactions to Abu Mazen's speech at Aqaba (The Middle East Media Research Institute—MEMRI)

Chronology of recent terrorist attacks in Israel (Anti Defamation League, New York)

Palestinian and Israeli Fatalities Sept. 27, 2000—Aug. 12, 2003 (International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism)

"Prisoner Release—Veering Off the Road Map" (Eli Kazhdan, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

U.N. Security Council Resolutions (U.S. Department of State)

U.N. General Assembly Resolutions 1947 and 1948 (U.S. Department of State)

"Unilateral Separation As Road Map Insurance"
(Gerald M. Steinberg, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

"Defensible Borders For Israel"
(Dore Gold, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Interactive Map of Israel

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

 

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