A friend of mine, in reading my comments yesterday on the peace process, responded by saying that “you know, there will never really be peace in the Middle East.” (Well, close enough, anyway). And while it’s not impossible, he’s quite right in that it’s wholly implausible, at least in the near future. Their is a total lack of political will, on either side, to make any concessions at this point. And who could blame them? After the last major “initiatives” failed, the process has stalled completely.
Much of the blame has fallen to Arafat for this, though that is only partially true. He has. without a doubt, consistently failed to reign in militants during the latest uprising and violence. Granted, Sharon has provided the Palestinian leadership no real oportunity to do so, as this would require some form of reciprocation from the Israeli leadership. Not to mention Sharon also provided the spark with his visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in September, 2000. Much discussion has also laid blame on Arafat, for his unwillingness to accept less than a fair amount of land in return for permanent borders (see Slate for an excellent discussion on why the negotiations failed). If an outside government attempted to impose these kind of conditions on, say, New Jersey, I don’t think they would be accepted by the leadership there, either.
Of course, the whole situation arises from the catch-22, summed up quite nicely by Ghassan Khatib, labor minister in the Palestinian Authority, who writes on BitterLemons.org of the new “Roadmap”:
This repeats the long-standing American mistake present in both Tenet and Zinni’s attempts, and tries to mix the cause with the effect by adopting the Israeli understanding that the Israeli occupation and its atrocities are a response to Palestinian violence, while Palestinians understand their resistance to be an effect of the Israeli occupation and reoccupation, the killing of Palestinian civilians, collective punishment and other violations of Palestinian human rights.
The statement strikes to the heart of the intractability of the issue, and underscores the comment made by my friend last night. Unless a political leadership emerges, on one side, if not both, that is willing to take the risk and break the cycle, all the “roadmaps” in the world won’t make a difference.