Placing the Israeli cart before the Palestinian horse

The basic snag remains that the most the Israelis can offer the Palestinians is less than the minimum the Palestinians can accept.
Sunday 16/09/2018
A Palestinian man runs to help an injured protester shot by Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, last May 11. (AP)
Running on hot coals. A Palestinian man runs to help an injured protester shot by Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, last May 11. (AP)

US President Donald Trump’s latest attempt at finding a solution to the long-standing Arab-Israeli dispute has been rejected by Palestinians and Jordanians as unrealistic. There are certain processes that need following in any negotiations if one hopes to achieve results but Trump thinks that all the harsh realities of the conflict, the wars, the occupation and the terrorism that grew out of this conflict can be bypassed by placing the proverbial Israeli cart before the Palestinians’ horse, if they even have one.

Or is it the other way around?

Regardless, resolving the Arab-Israeli dispute requires far more than wishful thinking and a half-baked plan thrown on the table as though it were a gambling chip in one of the casinos Trump has owned.

It would help the US administration if it had someone on its team who knew more about the recent history of the region and who understood what makes the 70-year-old Arab-Israeli dispute continue despite multiple attempts at trying to unravel this Gordian knot.

Let me clarify that statement: If the Trump team included someone somewhat unbiased who understood the Palestinian point of view.

The missing ingredient is trust. The Israelis do not trust the Palestinians and the Palestinians do not trust the Israelis. This is where the United States came into the picture in the past as a reliable moderator, despite Washington’s traditionally leaning more towards the Israelis.

Unfortunately, the Palestinians feel this is no longer the case. What little credibility Washington had with the Arab side went out the window as the administration chose to pre-empt the process when Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the US Embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

This and Trump’s decision to significantly cut financial aid granted to the Palestinians hardly qualify the United States as an acceptable go-between in the search for a lasting peaceful solution in the Middle East.

The result of decades of negotiations — at times intense — and more than a dozen international conferences, several UN Security Council resolutions and peace talks at the highest level, often attended by presidents, prime ministers and heads of state — and not by a son-in-law with no experience in international politics — have yet to produce a reliable path to peace.

Conferences such as the Oslo Accords, the Madrid conference, the Wye River agreement, the Taba Talks and a slew of others have boiled down the basic requirements needed to achieve a just and lasting peace to four major hurdles.

Four points on which all sides agree must be addressed if there’s to be peace in the Middle East:

1) The status of the final borders of the state of Israel and the future Palestinian state must be determined. Internationally recognised borders guaranteed by superpowers should establish a solid start to a lasting peace. This would guarantee both sides there would be no encroachments of territory. Recognition of the borders by all sides would recognise the two states’ right to exist. This has been rendered more complex with the building of illegal Jewish settlements on occupied lands.

2) The status of Palestinian refugees. Among Lebanon (450,000), Syria (526,000) and Jordan (2 million), there are approximately 3 million registered refugees demanding “the right of return.” There are the 1948 refugees, those who fled Palestine at the creation of the state of Israel, and then there are the 1968 refugees, the second wave, which left when Israel occupied the West Bank of Jordan and Arab East Jerusalem. This is not counting the nearly 1.3 million refugees in Gaza.

3) Security for Israel is of prime importance. Israel demands — and needs — the right to live as any other country once a peace treaty is entered. It needs international guarantees.

4) The status of Jerusalem as the capital of both states.

The closest the parties have come to reaching an agreement was when, in his parting days, US President Bill Clinton tried to push forward an accord but it was too little too late.

The basic snag remains that the most the Israelis can offer the Palestinians is less than the minimum the Palestinians can accept and the most the Palestinians can offer the Israelis is less than the minimum they can accept.

Until a minimum level of trust can be established, there is little hope of reaching any settlement in this dispute. Given the position adopted by the Trump administration, it does not look like this may happen anytime soon.

13