Crumbling principles

The peace process is more than broken - yet the Quartet seems to be itching to return to failed policies.

September 22, 2006 03:28
3 minute read.
Crumbling principles

rice livni 88. (photo credit: )


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If it ain't broke, don't fix it, the saying goes. But the flip side is also true: If it is broken, don't keep doing the same thing and pretending it's not. The Middle East peace process is more than broken; it's in shambles. Yet the Quartet, while stressing on Wednesday "the urgent need to make progress," seems to be itching to return to the rut of previous failed policies. In its statement's key sentence, the Quartet welcomed "the efforts of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to form a government of national unity, in the hope that the platform of such a government would reflect Quartet principles and allow for early engagement." Though this ostensibly means that the Quartet's three conditions - recognizing Israel's right to exist, ending terrorism, and accepting previous agreements - remain in force, the statement tellingly did not list them, and only requires that that the PA "reflect" them before the floodgates of direct financial aid to the PA are reopened. Western aid is already flowing to the Palestinians through a mechanism designed to bypass Hamas. But clearly, if the EU and the UN had their druthers, aid would resume to the PA itself now. That the situation is dire in the Palestinian areas is clear. What is not is why the international community should fund so much of the PA's budget - even if the Quartet's conditions were met - rather than expecting the PA to allow and foster a working economy that would sustain itself. If there is a "humanitarian crisis" as a result of the held-up aid, it can be dealt with in two ways: the Quartet deciding to ignore its own conditions, or Hamas deciding to meet them. Rather than implying that it might allow its conditions to evaporate, the Quartet should have reiterated those conditions and stressed the urgency of the PA meeting them in order to alleviate the Palestinians' dire situation. What Hamas is looking for is the right to keep attacking Israel without losing international assistance. This was what happened previously under Yasser Arafat, but when Hamas took over the contradiction between the PA's umbrella for terrorism and European support became too great. If the Quartet abandoned its conditions, it might be doing Hamas a favor, but it certainly would not be helping Palestinians, Israelis, or the cause of peace. That cause only begins with fulfilling such basic requirements as ending terrorism and accepting Israel's right to exist. In this respect, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's speech to the UN on Wednesday, which goes beyond minutiae to the essence of the problem, is worthy of study. "For the Jewish people, Israel was established to be our national homeland. It was the solution for Jewish refugees, the realization of Jewish rights," Livni explained. "And this is the true calling of the future state of Palestine: a national homeland for the Palestinian people - the solution to Palestinian claims, the fulfillment of Palestinian dreams, the answer for Palestinian refugees wherever they may be. "If Palestinian leaders are unwilling to say this, the world should say it for them. Instead of giving false hope, it is time to end the exploitation of the refugee issue, and begin to resolve it on the basis of the vision of two states, two homelands. This is the real and only meaning of the two-state vision. It requires each people to accept that its rights are realized through the establishment of its own homeland, not in the homeland of others." Livni is right. If the Quartet wants a two-state solution, it must expose the real obstacles to it: not just terrorism, but the idea that Palestinians have a right not only to their own state but to usurping the State of Israel as well. Israel has amply demonstrated not only its willingness but its desire to divide the land in exchange for peace. The Arab side, far from abandoning the "right of return," continues to reiterate it - including in the "prisoners' document" that is the expected basis of a Palestinian unity government. The cause of peace cannot be advanced while those attempting to do so refuse to expose, much less denounce, the continued attempt to demographically deny a homeland to the Jewish people.

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