Altered Consciousness: Standstill in the Middle East may have helped the community gain footingPublished: February 10, 2012
By now, I would argue that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is officially dead.
Last month officials from both sides convened in Jordan to try to re-initiate negotiations. As promptly as they began, the discussion to restart talks came to a grinding halt.
There are other related recent developments. The ostensibly moderate Fatah has continued the process of officially reuniting with Hamas, a terrorist group that refuses to reject armed struggle against Israel. Salam Fayyad, who actually wanted to improve the lives of his people instead of glorifying Palestinian victimhood and castigating Israel, is on the verge of being sacked. The Palestinians are continuing to pursue unilateral recognition of a state through the United Nations in complete defiance of their obligations under the Oslo Accords to negotiate with Israel directly on a bilateral basis.
Things were not always this way. From the early 1990s all the way until 2008, the two sides at least met on an intermittent basis to try to negotiate a deal. These efforts culminated in Ehud Barak’s generous offers to Yassir Arafat in 2000 and 2001 as well as Ehud Olmert’s proposal to Mahmoud Abbas in 2008. Although the Israelis were rebuffed each time at least something was happening, for better or worse.
Then Barack Obama, who made Israeli-Palestinian peace a top foreign policy priority, was elected into office. In an effort to accomplish this goal, the president essentially coerced Israel into making concessions, namely an unprecedented settlement freeze, even before talks began. This was followed by his demand that the ’67 borders be used as a starting point for negotiations. He also implicitly acknowledged that East Jerusalem was occupied territory, reneging on his promise to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over its capital during his 2008 campaign. There was never a word though on the rejection of the Palestinians, namely their refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
The results of Obama’s one-sided pressure were twofold: First, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in fact complied with America’s requests by declaring his support for Palestinian statehood, issuing a 10-month settlement freeze, loosening the Gaza blockade, and ordering the dismantlement of hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints in the West Bank. But the second impact of President Obama’s policies was that they entrenched Palestinian intransigence and recalcitrance to the point where Netanyahu’s concessions were not enough even to re-initiate negotiations, with the exception of a very brief and mostly insignificant period of talks in late 2010.
And here we are today, stuck with no progress on the creation of a two-state solution. Is this a positive or negative development? Most observers would probably argue for the latter, but perhaps there are some unintended benefits resulting from this state of inertia.
Firstly, the peace process is a huge distraction from the main threat to peace and stability in the region, which is Iran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei recently reiterated his claim that Israel was a “cancerous tumor” that must be removed from the earth. The world should focus its attention