Obama Netanyahu Abbas 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The Arab League rescued Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama from being boxed into a
corner. The onemonth extension granted to the peace process during which they
have to find a way back to negotiations provides a little room to breathe and
avoids having Obama take the direct fallout from a foreign policy failure prior
to the crucial midterm elections on November 2.
The truth is that neither
the Palestinians nor the Israelis have a strategic alternative to negotiations.
Neither side is doing the other side a favor by agreeing to negotiate an end to
the conflict. Time is working against the interests of both and neither
leadership has the luxury of waiting for a miracle.
Neither side is
interested in another round of violence nor wishes to see the economic growth of
the past two years erased by confrontations, closures, bombings, death,
destruction and despair. There is too much to lose to allow the chance of peace
to evade us once again. Netanyahu and Abbas must face the tough task of making
tough decisions. This very well may be the last opportunity for achieving a
workable, equitable partition of the land that would be the best chance of
The US will continue to try to entice Netanyahu to agree
to a settlement freeze extension for another few months and to pressure the
Palestinians to stay at the table even without a full freeze.
himself may be convinced by the sweet offers given to him as Abbas also may be,
but on both sides, domestic political constraints are far more limiting than one
IT SEEMS clear that both publics live under the illusion that
there is a strategic alternative to negotiations. Both would prefer to flex
their muscles than appear to be giving in to pressure or, in this case, agreeing
to American enticements that would lead them to compromise on tactical minutia
they raised to the level of consequence and principles.
In all honesty,
the political behavior of both sides is shameful and the political handling of
the issue by the Americans has been riddled with mistakes and
Neither Abbas nor Netanyahu is worthy of being called a
leader, nor are the Americans worthy of being called effective
The Americans, the Quartet and the parties may have to come up
with some real alternative to direct negotiations at this point, until they are
politically mature enough, or until they manage to come a lot closer to a real
agreement on issues of substance. Both sides are certainly considering
There is no doubt that both sides can take steps
unilaterally that could either have a positive outcome and lead us closer to
peace or alternatively could provoke the next round of violence. Of course, the
options being considered are those which will be considered provocations rather
than unilateral steps toward peace.
Israel could unilaterally annex
settlement blocs. The Palestinians could unilaterally turn to Western states or
to the UN to recognize a state in the 1967 borders.
reestablish checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the territories and
Palestinians could once again take up the gun and challenge the authority of the
IDF throughout the West Bank.
Unilaterally leading us back onto the road
of death and destruction is actually quite easy. It is politically expedient to
have someone to blame for all of the problems.
It is easy to restir the
pot of violence and extremism. Rebuilding a culture of hate is so much easier
than building a culture of peace.
TEN YEARS after the second intifada
that took the lives of thousands and left destruction and despair without a
single political achievement, we should understand that we must do everything
possible to advance what is believed by most of the world to be a real chance
for peace. But it seems that neither side will be wise enough to do the right
A popular right-wing Israeli leader who appears to be taking a
pragmatic path and the last of the founding fathers of Palestinian nationalism
have emerged on the world stage at a the same time. There is an American
president committed to peace and willing to devote his political collateral in
the process. There is an international community backing a solution which has
been proposed and whose price tag is known. The Arab world is anxious to put
this conflict into the history books.
There is an economic reality that
would bring great benefits to the people of both states and to all of the
peoples of the region. There is a shared threat from an emerging regional state
aiming to become a nuclear power. The stars seemed better aligned now to move
peace forward than at any time in the past decade.
What is absent is any
real call from the people of Israel and Palestine demanding their leaders become
serious about peace.
We have become so skeptical about the possibility of
peace that outside observers cannot understand why the rest of the world seems
to want it so much more than those who suffer directly from the lack of it. It
seems quite abnormal that the overwhelmingly silent majority of Israelis and
Palestinians don't even seem to care whether or not there will be peace
The vocal minorities on both sides clearly support
nationalistic options that “feel good” but are dangerous and counterproductive
to their real strategic interests.
Real leaders make real hard
Historic leaders make hard decisions, even if at their time
unpopular, because they can see beyond the moment of necessary national ego
massage that feels so good but ignores the pain that really needs to be
Netanyahu and Abbas view themselves as historic leaders. Obama
has already received his Nobel Peace Prize in advance of making peace. This trio
will either prove to be tragic figures of historical insignificance or the
masters of their own fate and the heroes of their peoples. We who observe from
the sidelines will soon be able to write their epitaphs.The writer is
the co-CEO of IPCRI (www.ipcri.org) and an elected member of the leadership of
the Green Movement political party.