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Israel-Palestine:When will the Parties try a different approach?
by Hezron H.N Nyawachi
2010-10-06 08:56:57
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The direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians are suffering an abrupt break given the expiry of 10 month freeze on settlements that was announced on November 25 2009 and lapsed on September 26 2010.

The US administration is trying to cajole the right-wing Netanyahu government to a further 60-day freeze by offering it security guarantees-read military hardware- but the likelihood of the same happening is minimal.

Even so, analysts are questioning the philosophy of the extension: what does Barack Obama hope to achieve in the two months and how does it mean to the negotiations?

US midterm elections are up in November and campaigns are heating up in US states with democrats slated to lose their majority in Congress. The initial announcement of the settlement freeze by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indeed cleverly hinged on the timing of the mid-term elections.

Given the same approach, and if Democrats still hold the majority, progress in Mid-East peace will remain dismal, and when Republicans rule the roost; progress will be the same like before: more settlements with more blame levelled on Palestinians for not being worthy peace partners.

Since Oslo, more and more Israelis have carved in land demarcated as Palestinian in international instruments with settlers now numbering more than 500,000 beyond the green line. For 17 years, Palestinians negotiated under settlement construction, why not now, most Israelis wonder.

More and more Palestinians are sceptical that peace talks can continue amid more and more of their land on which they hope to build a state being confiscated. On the other hand, Israelis posit that negotiations years past went on amid building on settlements, and any insistence of freeze by Palestinians is an excuse to derail peace in the Holy Land.

We need not look elsewhere: the philosophy of settlements is simple: to change the demographic balance in Judea and Samaria and make the division of land for peace impossible. Settlements from Oslo years to today are a hindrance to genuine peace efforts.

Reading in the Economist, ‘When Ehud Olmert, Israel’s previous prime minister, embarked on direct negotiations with the Palestinians, settlement construction was concentrated within or close to the likely borders of Jewish territory, on the assumption that other land would be evacuated. By contrast, at the end of Mr Netanyahu’s freeze on settlement building, construction work has restarted deep inside the West Bank. Plans are even under way for a new Jewish shopping mall.’

No party will gain from the impending collapse of the talks, but it is also true that US will suffer image problems as a guarantor and honest broker for peace.

President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace prize mainly because of the perception that his administration was a game-changer on important matters of foreign policy. Morestill, his great speech in Cairo on June 4 2009 would just be grandstanding if the US will not put action where its words are.

Lead Washington strategist Lee Hamilton contends that "U.S. at some point will have to weigh in with its ideas as to how this matter can be resolved." The Israelis and Palestinians, he said, simply aren't up to it, and Obama will have to intervene’

When the diplomacy began from proximity talks meetings to now the suspended ‘direct talks’ we warned that the process will go nowhere if parties will not realise that this is their own funeral and play honest peace games.

As long as Israelis want peace without giving up West Bank and Palestinians want a state without all inclusive negotiations, exertions by well meaning diplomats like George Mitchell will make the ‘bad play’ that this peace making process is really bad.

Look at the PLO. As long as they are playing alone without the blessings of the rulers of Gaza there is no peace process. Consider the restive right- wing coalition in Israel. As long as parties like Shas and Yisrael Beitenu are left to shed their right wing credentials even in international meets like the UN annual summit when Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman rubbished the process as a ‘non-starter’, the intentions are laid bare. He publicly contradicted Israel’s official policy on peace process.

We have seen this movie before and we know how it will end. With regional hegemonies like Iran spreading their wings, the failure to achieve concrete steps towards peace only adds coal to the fire.

Yet there is nothing new neither party needs to make advances to the other for sustainable existence. The Roadmap, Clinton Parameters, Arab Peace Initiative all provide a basis for the founding of peace between the two descendants of Abraham.

Says Shimon Peres, “You can call yourself a decision maker, but if you are not ready to donate, to sacrifice life, to take risks—not because your country is being attacked but because peace is being put into danger—then it’s more of a perception than reality.”

Before the US comes in, now is the time for Netanyahu and President Abu Mazen to declare to the world where they are going next with the peace process. Israel making difficult the peace talks and Palestinians giving up on negotiations just serve the agenda of retrogressive elements in the region.


Hezron Nyawachi, is a fellow at the Institute of African progress

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