Uzbeki beki stan stan

Oh No, Not Another Blog Post on the Arab-Israeli Conflict

In Ben Kurland on December 27, 2011 at 11:53 pm

The other day I attended a discussion with the Palestinian General Delegate (Ambassador) to the UK, Professor Manuel Hassassian hosted by the International Affairs society at my University. The most disappointing part of the entire two hour rhetorical lecture was the tone of utter hopelessness buried deep in every point Prof. Hassassian made.

To my best attempt at a summation of his point, he claimed the Palestinian side of the conflict has engaged the UN to ask for recognition because of the Israeli side’s complete lack of compromise. He asserted that the US is biased and therefore worth disgracing at the UN. Then he readily admitted the need to re-approach both the actors he sought to embarrass in order to come to a final agreement.

It is my opinion that the failures of the current peace process are not the negotiating points currently on the table. These points are able to be overcome and outlines for agreements exist. In my opinion the failures are threefold and lie with the elite political actors on both sides: 1. neither side is willing to admit their own failures in the peace process, 2. both sides engage in demonization of the other side and blames the other side for the failure to come to an agreement, and 3. neither side is actually ready to actually compromise on any of the necessary issues.

Just take a look at the speeches made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN when Mr. Abbas formally requested Palestinian statehood on September 23, 2011. I’ve put some quotes from each representative into the table below relating to the three failures I mentioned before. Both speeches are full of examples; I have only pulled out a few. Keep in mind, however, that both politicians are savvy enough to know their audience and change their rhetoric accordingly. You can still see a trend though.

Mahmoud Abbas Benjamin Netanyahu
1. neither side is willing to admit their own failures in the peace process “Over the past year we did not leave a door to be knocked or channel to be tested or path to be taken and we did not ignore any formal or informal party of influence and stature to be addressed. We positively considered the various ideas and proposals and initiatives presented from many countries and parties.” “…people say to me constantly: Just make a sweeping offer, and everything will work out. You know, there’s only one problem with that theory. We’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked.”
2. both sides engage in demonization of the other side and blames the other side for the failure to come to an agreement “But all of these sincere efforts and endeavors undertaken by international parties were repeatedly wrecked by the positions of the Israeli government, which quickly dashed the hopes raised by the launch of negotiations last September.” “The core issue here is that the Israeli government refuses to commit to terms of reference for the negotiations…” “The truth is that so far the Palestinians have refused to negotiate. The truth is that Israel wants peace with a Palestinian state, but the Palestinians want a state without peace. And the truth is you shouldn’t let that happen.”
3. Neither side is actually ready to actually compromise on any of the issues necessary. For the sake of this section, however, you have to remember that both sides are in front of the international community, they would never admit to not being ready to make concessions. You can see the hesitation, however, in the preconditions they put on returning to the negotiating table. Abbas only briefly mentions returning to negotiations once and even so with qualifications, saying, “Here, I declare that the Palestine Liberation Organization is ready to return immediately to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference based on international legitimacy and a complete cessation of settlement activities.” “It is neither possible, nor practical, nor acceptable to return to conducting business as usual…. It is futile to go into negotiations without clear parameters and in the absence of credibility and a specific timetable. Negotiations will be meaningless as long as the occupation army on the ground continues to entrench its occupation. “All these potential cracks in Israel’s security have to be sealed in a peace agreement before a Palestinian state is declared, not afterwards, because if you leave it afterwards, they won’t be sealed. And these problems will explode in our face and explode the peace.”

So what is my point? Merely that neither side is willing to establish a peace building process. Both are happy developing their own narratives which drive each side farther and farther apart. I mean to demonize neither side and, if the history of replies to blog posts about this conflict are any indication, I could very well be attacked as being both anti-Israel and anti-Palestinian. I am neither. I am merely recognizing an impasse when I see one.


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