Why does the current excitement about a revived ‘peace process’ appear contrived (I’m reminded of my departed friend Max Fishman, who always referred to it as the “piss process”, and not only to make fun of Peres’ accent)?
Why does it all seem like empty words?
Jonathan Spyer finds two basic reasons:
Firstly, because the two leaders, Olmert and Abbas, lack credibility with their respective publics. Indeed, a sizeable part of Abbas’s public currently lives under the rival Palestinian Authority maintained by Hamas in Gaza. The very existence of that authority raises the question of in whose name exactly will Abbas and Fayad be negotiating, and who will feel bound by any agreement they might reach.
Olmert, meanwhile, has been deeply unpopular among the Israeli public since the Lebanon War last year, and surely lacks the authority that would be required to order the large scale removal of West Bank Jewish communities as part of any deal…
Secondly, there is the more fundamental issue of intention. The peace process of the 1990s collapsed not because of a misunderstanding, but because of the fundamentally irreconcilable positions of the sides – most crucially, on the issue of the Palestinian refugees of 1948 and their descendants.
The Israeli left thought that the Palestinian ‘right of return’ was a sort of metaphor, which required only a bit of empathy and a few ritual expressions of guilt to be satisfied. They found out they were wrong. The issue of the refugees remains the single most defining element of Palestinian nationalism. It is also an issue on which Israel cannot concede without ceasing to exist as the expression of the national rights of the Jews – its very raison d’etre.
But if there’s no chance of success, why bother?
The revived ‘peace process’ is part of a rearguard action intended to solidify the ranks of the regional opponents of Iran and of revolutionary Islamism. The so-called axis of moderation – Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan – do not wish, by aligning with the US and Israel, to leave Iran and its allies to champion the cause of the Palestinians – still the greatest ‘legitimating card’ in regional politics. There is therefore a need for something to seem to be happening on the Israeli-Palestinian track.
Read all of Spyer’s analysis here.
The leaders of the democratic nations involved in this charade, Israel and the US, are not doing their constituents a service by maintaining the fiction that there is a diplomatic process that can lead to a true peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Continuing in this direction is especially dangerous for Israel, since it involves the arming of her enemies as well as pressure to make concrete concessions that will reduce her security, particularly when the “process” collapses — as it is certain to do.