311_Netanyahu, Clinton, Abbas and Mitchell at table.
(photo credit: Moshe Milner / GPO)
As expected, the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are now six feet under. On Monday night, Israeli and US officials confirmed that the Obama administration is abandoning its effort to renew the freeze on settlement building in the West Bank. As the NY Times reported:
“After three weeks of fruitless haggling with the Israeli government, the Obama administration has given up its effort to persuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to renew an expired freeze on the construction of Jewish settlements for 90 days, two senior officials said on Tuesday.
“The decision leaves Middle East peace talks in limbo, with the Palestinians refusing to resume negotiations absent a settlement freeze and the United States struggling to find another formula to bring them back to negotiations. It is the latest setback in what has proved to be a tortuous engagement for President Obama.”
TORTUOUS INDEED. And now that the talks have officially failed, the region is once again on the verge of dangerous and violent times. Before things spiral out of control, now is the time for Obama to embrace this failure and move on to the only step that can save the two-state solution, playing the Wild Card: endorsing Palestinian unilateralism.
The White House must begin to fully appreciate this option, since there are calls in Palestine to begin steps towards unilateralism in the very near future, and not wait for Palestinian Authority PM Salam Fayyad’s declaration of independence in August 2011.
In fact, just this week, three South American countries – Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay – have decided to announce their recognition of the Palestinian state.
What the Obama administration must understand is that unilateralism should not be perceived solely as a route taken out of frustration from the failure of peace talks. It is a solution, a route that will be taken to set into play a new dynamic – and a new set of international laws that will begin to be applied to an independent Palestine.
But many say, despite Fayyad’s partial success in institution building, that there is no way a viable state will be ready by the summer of 2011. This is true. Fayyad has done well but the Palestinian economy is not prepared to breathe on its own. The only thing that keeps it alive is donor aid, and there is little to make for a vibrant private sector – not to mention the daily obstacles of occupation.
So no, of course a state won’t be ready. But that’s not the issue. The issue is about shifting the problem from “should there be a Palestinian state” to “how do we get this state to work properly and give it full sovereignty over its territory.”
This is exactly what happened in Kosovo 2008. The Russians vetoed its declaration of independence, just as the US will most probably do with the Palestinians (unwisely, I must add). But Kosovo is in a way a “fait accompli.”
The question today is not whether there should be an independent Kosovo any more – it’s about how to make it work now that it’s a fact on the ground.
GOING BACK to the negotiating table would be a big mistake. As former Mossad intelligence officer and coeditor of Bitterlemons Yossi Alpher points out, continuing with fake negotiations will jeopardize not only Fayyad’s achievements, but also those that the US itself has invested so much in, such as the work of Keith Dayton, who recently left the region after five years of hard work as the US Security Coordinator for Israel-Palestinian Authority in October.
Amongst other things, Dayton oversaw the training of Palestinian Authority forces, and is considered by many to be a key factor in the drop of terror emanating from the West Bank:
“Rather than trying to sit the reluctant sides down to reach an elusive comprehensive solution within a year, the US should be capitalizing on Dayton’s achievement in order to foster an indirectly-negotiated but internationally- recognized partial solution that capitalizes on the Palestinian unilateral state-building initiative and concentrates on borders, settlements, water and security.”
In his November 14 Haaretz op-ed, Zvi Barel articulates why the recognition of a future unilateral declaration will actually help the process:
“International recognition of a Palestinian state should not undermine the negotiations. Except that under the new circumstances the negotiations will be between two states of equal status. If Israel announces that it will cease negotiating as punishment, well, that is already what has been happening for a while. Israel will annex the settlements, as further sanctions? In any case they function as an inalienable part of Israel and even without official annexation they are part of the whole, at least according to the prime minister.”
And to all those who threaten that a unilateral move would be a violation of the Oslo accords, Barel sets things straight:
“For its part, Israel is threatening that if the Palestinians will take
such a unilateral step, it will consider this a fundamental violation of
the Oslo Accords and can consider itself free of all its obligations.
Interesting. In an interview on Israel Radio in 2002 Netanyahu said that
‘the Oslo Accords are null and void – after all, what is left?’”
Although all the recent signs point to Obama vetoing any Palestinian
move in the Security Council, now that the talks have died, his
administration should rethink the current route and consider the Wild
Card as an option. Anything is better than sitting around and watching
Israel obstruct any movement forward.The writer is a Tel Aviv-based journalist. He blogs at www.972mag.com where this article originally appeared.