First Word: Can the new peace push work?

I wonder if policy-makers genuinely believe they have a fair chance of producing the desired results.

efraim halevy 88 298 (photo credit: )
efraim halevy 88 298
(photo credit: )
The powers-that-be in Washington, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Cairo, Amman and maybe Riyadh are now embarked on a major diplomatic and strategic endeavor the like of which has never been attempted in living history. It is an effort to craft the principles of a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with the full knowledge that these principles, if agreed, cannot be translated into action-orientated implementation in the immediate future. The political logic behind this initiative is that the clear political horizon that each and every Palestinian will be able to read and absorb will be so encouraging and attractive as to convince him/her to disavow any future use of force - terror - as an instrument in the struggle for statehood. Extremist Muslim groups will be marginalized and defeated by centralist-moderate forces that will assume effective control of Palestinian destiny. Thus the agreement is not primarily designed as a plan for immediate implementation, but rather as a vital tool in the ongoing effort to change the political landscape inside the Palestinian body politic. THIS NEW experiment in international relations has its distinct advantages for all parties concerned. In Israel, it will provide the current government not only with a political agenda but will also be billed as a major diplomatic achievement. The agreement will be consecrated at an international gathering in Washington attended by key leaders and players both inside the Middle East and outside its confines. Since it will be devoid of a timeline, there will not be any necessity to confront the settlers in Judea and Samaria here and now and to contend with the ugly scenes that will ensue. Israel and its current leadership will enjoy an indeterminable period of respite that will tide us over the next general election. The West Bank leadership tandem of Abbas-Fayyad have every reason to embrace this strategy; in the years to come they will receive formidable financial and economic support and will concentrate on building the security forces and institutions of government in the hope that one day they will be ready and capable of confronting and subduing the extremists, Hamas, the Jihadists and the odd motley of local warlords. It will not be necessary to solve the problem of Hamas-controlled Gaza too soon, and the principles agreed will give the leadership the possibility of revealing a glorious political vision of Palestinian statehood that will galvanize the majority to embrace peace and moderation. THE ARAB state sponsors will be able to tell their constituencies and the entire Muslim world that they have got Israel to sign off on Palestinian statehood and that, when the time comes, their policy of gradually bringing Israel to realism will have borne fruit. And, of course, the United States and the outgoing president will be able to declare success in consecrating the principles of a historic Palestinian-Israel reconciliation the likes of which have never been seen before. The ceremony will go down in history as marking the legacy of an administration that succeeded where all others failed. The game plan just described is predicated on a few assumptions: • that Hamas, weakened and humbled after its bitter-sweet takeover in Gaza, will be too feeble or too discredited to act as a spoiler; • that it will accept the non-role bestowed upon it and will timidly sulk on the sidelines; • that the Syrians, if not invited to Washington, will similarly just languish in the political sun and accept the inevitable with reverence and honor; • that al-Qaida and its tributaries will lie low and confine themselves verbally to crying foul; • that after the pomp and circumstance of the colorful Washington ceremonies, the Abbas-Fayyad tandem indeed do have a real, tangible chance to create a viable, strong and powerful West Bank entity - security-wise, politically and economically - that will overshadow all its adversaries. I SERIOUSLY doubt if all these assumptions will materialize. I particularly question the possibility of Hamas being marginalized by the current West Bank leadership. Moreover, I sincerely wonder whether the policy-makers who have crafted this new series of steps genuinely believe that they have a fair chance of producing the desired results - a viable, stable and credible Palestinian state. But why should we depend only on the assessment of persons like myself, who are no longer in office? How does a Palestinian expert, a most bitter critic of Israel, view the current situation on his side of the divide? Under the title "Shared Irresponsibility," Professor Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said professor of Arab Studies at Columbia, writes in the August 16 London Review of Books: "Fatah and Hamas have been fighting for control of a Palestinian Authority that has no real authority. The behavior of both has been disgraceful... Neither movement was able to see that such deep divisions would mean that they had even less chance of achieving their national objectives. In this they have been equally irresponsible." During recent years the intelligence leaders of Israel have given the public the benefit of their assessments on major issues in the defense and security field. For instance, the head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has periodically spoken either at cabinet sessions or at quasi-open sessions of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset. He has been authoritatively quoted at length. There is a deafening silence from these quarters as of late. One would hope that the prime minister will advise that the public be treated to such a periodic assessment before he puts his signature to the 2007 peace plan. He has every right to accept the assessment, or to reject it and act even contrary to it. After all, is this not what statesmanship is all about? But does he not owe the public some expert opinion, the like of which he gladly sanctioned in the not too distant past? The writer is a former head of the Mossad.