Oct 11th 2015

The Absence Of Real Commitment To Peace

by Alon Ben-Meir

A noted journalist and author, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. Ben-Meir holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. His exceptional knowledge and insight, the result of more than 20 years of direct involvement in foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East, has allowed Dr. Ben-Meir to offer a uniquely invaluable perspective on the nature of world terrorism, conflict resolution and international negotiations. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Ben-Meir's frequent travels to the Middle East and meetings with highly placed officials and academics in many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Turkey provide him with an exceptionally nuanced level of awareness and insight into the developments surrounding breaking news. Ben-Meir often articulates

Regardless of what Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas stated in their speeches at the United Nations General Assembly, neither is genuinely committed to negotiating a peace agreement based on a two-state solution. Both leaders were engaged in empty rhetoric and slogans for domestic consumption instead of proposing new, credible, and constructive initiatives to resume the negotiations that could lead to a peace agreement, which should have been the thrust of their appearances at the UNGA. That, however, was not and still is not the case.

Peace is becoming ever more elusive as both sides continue to hold onto what appear to be irreconcilable positions when in fact Israeli-Palestinian coexistence is here to stay. Regardless of how much longer the conflict persists, they are stuck together and must choose between peace or perpetual self-consuming violent hostilities, which are escalating at the time of this writing.

Had both sides been truly committed to reaching a peace agreement, they would have made the necessary compromises to make peace years if not decades ago.

Thus, for Netanyahu to proclaim that he is ready to resume peace negotiations unconditionally means nothing, and for Abbas to merely demand the release of a handful of prisoners, an end to the expansion of settlements, and international recognition means even less.

Netanyahu and his coalition partners publicly claim that the entire land extending from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River is the land of Israel and that Israel is not an occupying power, giving them every right to build settlements anywhere on its biblical land.

Conversely, whereas Abbas professes to seek peace based on a two-state solution, he is weak and his hands are tied as there is a significant constituency within the Palestinian body politic led by Hamas and other extremist groups that still demand that all of Mandated Palestine become the State of Palestine.

Moreover, instead of preparing the public for the necessary concessions needed to reach an agreement, he continues to make untenable demands, such as the “right of return,” which further hardens the Palestinian public’s stance.

To demonstrate their true commitment to peace, Israeli and Palestinian leaders must rethink their inescapable reality. They must muster the courage to come forth and together announce that, given their people’s desire to live in peace and the inevitability of coexistence, they are absolutely committed to reaching a peace accord and would do so under any circumstances.

To that end, they will have to be prepared to undertake many significant measures before and during the negotiating process to begin building the pillars for sustainable peace, including:

First, establish rules of engagement that can advance the negotiating process so that solving one conflicting issue can facilitate or lead to a solution of another.

In this regard, it is of paramount importance to commence the negotiations by first establishing the parameters of the future Palestinian state (leaving Jerusalem’s final borders until its eventual status is determined) to give Palestinians a clear view of such, and the confidence that they are moving toward statehood.

This will logically and practically lead to facilitating the negotiations over the future of much of the settlements along the 1967 borders as well as addressing important aspects of Israel’s national security concerns, which Netanyahu links to the final contours of the borders.

Second, end public mutual recrimination and any direct or indirect incitements in order to maintain a positive atmosphere during and beyond the negotiating process.

Third, disallow any violent incident by either side from disrupting the negotiations. As the late Yitzhak Rabin once invoked, “Fight terrorism as if there is no peace process; pursue peace as if there is no terrorism,” so that no provocation, regardless of the source, can derail the negotiations.

Fourth, share with the public any progress made in the negotiations as well as some of the difficulties being encountered without finger pointing, in order for the public to develop a vested interest in the negotiating process and also be prepared for the concessions needed to reach an agreement.

Fifth, make security cooperation transparent to send a clear message that Israeli-Palestinian full collaboration on all aspects of security will continue, and any inadvertent security breaches by either side will be dealt with, with full cooperation between their internal security apparatus.

Sixth, provide regular briefings for the press to engender public discussion which will assist in the development of a national consensus in support of peace and raise expectations for reaching an agreement.

Seventh, cultivate trust by ensuring that the Israeli and Palestinian governments, and their respective civil societies, play a constructive role throughout the negotiations to nurture mutual trust, which is indispensable throughout the negotiations and beyond.

To that end, the following measures must regularly be undertaken from the day the negotiations commence: organize tourism between Israel and Palestine; encourage Israeli and Palestinian sports teams to train and compete together; prompt Israeli and Palestinian students to mingle with their counterparts; host joint art exhibitions for Israeli and Palestinian artists; hold joint forums to discuss conflicting issues; support women-led groups in their efforts to make their voices heard and wage peace; and organize roundtable public discussions between Israeli and Palestinian religious and secular scholars to foster a better understanding of the nuances of the conflicting issues.

Eighth, modify textbooks to reflect the historic narrative more accurately to mitigate the psychological impediment between the two sides, especially those issues with historic, religious, or national security implications, which are embedded in the public psyche.

Ninth, brief all political parties or factions in Israel and Palestine about the negotiating process to mitigate some of the intense opposition to the many compromises that will have to be made.

Finally, invite high level representatives from the US and the Arab states (particularly Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan), as well as European representatives from England, France, and Germany, to monitor, facilitate, and encourage the negotiating teams to move forward and use the Arab Peace Initiative as the overall framework for a comprehensive peace.

To be sure, even a cursory review of past negotiations clearly demonstrates that neither Netanyahu nor Abbas was ready or willing to undertake such critical measures, neither in advance nor during the negotiations, which speaks volumes about their complete lack of commitment to reaching a peace agreement.

Only when they adopt these basic prerequisites will they demonstrate their true commitment to making peace. Indeed, all of their speeches and public statements ring hollow as they continue to wallow in self-denial and defy reality to the detriment of their peoples.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jul 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "So we are left with herd immunity and viable treatments as the world’s only realistic near term solution. Sweden has been roundly criticized and shunned by its neighbors for embracing herd immunity at the outset of the pandemic. It has paid a price for having done so based on accelerated infection and death rates. But while the jury will remain out for some time to come about the wisdom of having done so, Sweden may prove to have been ahead of the curve in its approach. Herd immunity is an option that should be seriously considered by the world’s governments, for a safe and effective vaccine could be many years away, and may not be achieved at all. PICTURE: Daniel Wagner.
Jul 5th 2020
EXTRACT: "The war on Yemen begun in 2015 by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has been a failure militarily and a vast drain on resources that, in the age of Covid-19, neither country can any longer afford. Not only has the war been Saudi Arabia’s Vietnam, it has inflicted untold human damage on Yemenis. UNICEF has a new report out warning that millions of Yemeni children are on the brink of starvation. Yemen, with a population of about 28 million (think Texas), is one of the poorest countries in the world. Saudi Arabia, with a citizen population of some 21 million, is one of the richest. The United Arab Emirates, with a citizen population of a little over 1 million, is likewise very rich. Both have waged a high-tech air war on the indigenous Yemeni Houthis, but in the past year have pitched their Sunni proxies against one another."
Jun 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "The facts are clear: the wealthiest 0.54%, about 40 million people, are responsible for 14% of lifestyle-related greenhouse gas emissions, while the bottom 50% of income earners, almost 4 billion people, only emit around 10%. The world’s top 10% income earners are responsible for at least 25% and up to 43% of our environmental impact. Most people living in developed countries would fit into this category, meaning you don’t have to consider yourself rich in order to be globally affluent. Even many poorer people in wealthy countries have a disproportionately large and unsustainable resource footprint compared to the global average."
Jun 24th 2020
EXTRACT: "To be sure, the American Dream was always more aspiration than reality. Economic, social, and intergenerational mobility have always fallen short of what the myth of the self-made man or woman would lead one to expect. But with social mobility now declining as inequality rises, today’s young people are right to be angry."
Jun 19th 2020
EXTRACT: "There is only one way to repair America’s reputation, regain the trust of allies, and ensure that the US can act as an effective counterweight to China: address the root causes of the cracks that Trump’s disastrous presidency has exposed and widened. This is in line with the vision advanced in 2011 by two military strategists, Captain Wayne Porter and Colonel Mark Mykleby, using the pseudonym “Mr. Y.” Porter and Mykleby argued that national security depends not only on the capacity to respond to threats from foreign powers, but also – and perhaps more important – on the “application of credible influence and strength.” That influence, in turn, depends on America’s success in providing a “pathway of promise” for US citizens – and a model for the world."
Jun 14th 2020
EXTRACT: "The most critical question then is not how far Trump will go to promote his treasonous agenda, but for how long Republican leaders will silently accept and subserviently enable Trump to destroy the basic moral tenets and values on which this Union was founded, and which they swore to uphold and protect...............Of course, shame on us if we continue to be surprised by Republicans’ continuing silence, because as we all know, even when presented with overwhelming evidence that Trump committed crimes against the American people, Trump’s Republican stooges in the Senate exonerated him following impeachment almost unanimously...................The Republican leadership, to be sure, has made its bed. It has committed moral suicide. History will judge them harshly for their treason and betrayal of the nation, including all of those who have lived and died throughout our history to foster and protect our safety, integrity, and freedom."
Jun 9th 2020
EXTRACT: " Governments can do nothing about the quotidian offenses of living as a black person in America – the empty taxis that refuse to stop, being mistaken for employees in supermarkets, the myriad intentional and unintentional insults. Many now in the streets won’t be satisfied unless the result of this national spasm is improved schools, health care, and job opportunities for minorities – a fair shake for black people. What will happen when America once again falls short of honoring its professed values?."
Jun 8th 2020
EXTRACT: "It should be apparent to most observers of international relations that the Chinese government wants the world to play by its own set of rules. Beijing appears to believe that China’s rise and its assumption of global leadership positions are an inevitable extension of earlier periods in its history, when it was the world’s most powerful country. This is often at odds with the global norms that have been established – with China’s participation, it is worth adding – since the 1940s. While this is clearly the Chinese century, few outside of China would agree that Beijing’s global leadership is either inevitable or necessarily desired – certainly not on the Chinese government’s terms."
Jun 4th 2020
EXTRACT: "Many Americans are clearly horrified by their president’s crass and incendiary words. But will their disapproval be offset by anxiety about violent social unrest? Will age-old racial prejudices, often unspoken, or even acknowledged, still make them vote for the false security of a coarse white bully?  Much will depend on how hot this summer gets. If people think rationally in November, it is hard to imagine that enough of them would vote to keep this appalling administration in power for another four years. But fear is reason’s worst enemy."
Jun 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "For starters, many Americans have accepted that they live in a winner-takes-all society of deepening inequality. While the wealth and incomes of those at the very top continue to grow, tens of millions of Americans struggle to afford health care, childcare, and other basic goods. This story has been told many times over. But what often goes unremarked is that the responsibility for managing the social costs of this system has been offloaded onto the police."
May 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "Obamagate is the latest conspiracy theory to be pushed by US president, Donald Trump. It started on the morning of May 10, when Trump retweeted the word “OBAMAGATE!” By the next day, the Obamagate hashtag had accrued over two million tweets and another four million by the end of the week. Trump has repeatedly reused the slogan on his Twitter feed since and it has been promoted by right-wing influencers including Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and many others....You are not alone if you’re confused by what Obamagate actually is or why Trump is tweeting about it."
May 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "Not all aspects of our near and medium-term future can be foreseen at this juncture of the Covid-19 pandemic, but we now know enough to make some hypotheses about what is likely to change, based on what has already changed. The future is sure to look very different than it did before this decade began, regardless of whether a vaccine is found. If a vaccine is found, it is unlikely to be tested, approved, manufactured, and efficiently distributed to the world’s population of nearly 8 billion people for years. Bearing in mind that there is no vaccine for any coronavirus, what is likelier is that the world will be living with Covid-19 as a part of our ecosystem for many years to come – possibly permanently. That means that our new normal is probably already here."
May 21st 2020
EXTRACT: "LONDON – The new Franco-German proposal for a €500 billion ($547 billion) European recovery fund could turn out to be the most important historic consequence of the coronavirus. It is even conceivable that the deal struck between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron might one day be remembered as the European Union’s “Hamiltonian moment,” comparable to the 1790 agreement between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson on public borrowing, which helped to turn the United States, a confederation with little central government, into a genuine political federation."
May 19th 2020
EXTRACT: "In April 2011, Donald Trump, then considering a run for the presidency the following year, said that he had sent investigators to Hawaii to check out rumors that President Barack Obama wasn’t born there, but in Kenya, which would disqualify him for the presidency. His investigators, Trump declared, “cannot believe what they’re finding.” I can find no record of Trump being challenged on this outlandish claim at the time. In the fall of 2016, Trump, now the Republican presidential nominee, was convinced by his staff that he had to abandon this “birther” nonsense. He did so reluctantly, charging – also with no evidence – that such rumors had actually been initiated by his opponent, Hillary Clinton. There, in a nutshell, is Trump’s modus operandi: he’s not just a liar but a fabulist, seemingly unconcerned with whether his fictions will be exposed. If they are, the world simply moves on as he invents fresh distractions."
May 19th 2020
EXTRACT: "Li, a doctor, was purportedly silenced and chastised by Chinese officials for warning on December 30, 2019, about a new virus in the Wuhan hospital where he worked. When it became evident that he was on to something serious – so serious, in fact, that it ultimately killed him – the Chinese government changed its tune and celebrated Li’s bravery. If only that had happened sooner, the argument goes, the world would have avoided this horrific pandemic.................... But that’s not what happened."
May 9th 2020
EXTRACT: "Jana Winter and Hunter Walker at Yahoo News broke the story that 11 Secret Service agents have tested positive for the coronavirus. Likely some of them served in the West Wing. This week it was revealed at that a US military valet who brought Trump food came down with the virus, sending Trump into a “lava level” rage. Two aides to Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive. Some observers are afraid that the virus is circulating in the West Wing itself."
May 6th 2020
EXTRACT: "There has been much debate around the world about the source of the COVID-19 pandemic, ranging from a laboratory to Wuhan’s seafood market to some other form of animal-to-human transmission. While there is no proof (yet) that the virus may have been inadvertently released from one of the two biological research laboratories located at Wuhan, there is evidence that viral release has occurred in the past, and a host of additional data that point to a laboratory connection. "
May 4th 2020
EXTRACT: "A better bet is that nothing will be the same. Wealth will be destroyed on a catastrophic scale, and policymakers will need to find a way to ensure that, at least in some cases, creditors take part of the hit, a process that will play out over years of negotiation and litigation. For bankruptcy lawyers and lobbyists, it will be a bonanza, part of which will come from pressing taxpayers to honor bailout guarantees. Such a scenario would be an unholy mess."
Apr 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "We need the twenty-first century’s two superpowers, America and China, to set the example, by burying their rivalry and uniting all of humankind around a collective response to the current crisis, and to those that await us. As COVID-19 has taught us, the old international system can no longer guarantee humankind’s safety and security. We cannot afford to be taught that lesson twice."
Apr 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "It should come as no surprise that Trump has abused his power in orchestrating the federal response to the pandemic. For example, he made sure that Colorado received 100 much-needed ventilators, and made sure that Colorado voters knew it, in order to help re-elect troubled incumbent Republican senator Cory Gardner.  More alarming, Trump effectively threatened to wage germ warfare against US Postal Service workers by denying them congressionally approved virus-mitigation aid unless the USPS quadrupled rates on packages. Trump’s actual target was Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post."