The Daily Star (Editorial)
December 18, 2007 - 11:31am
http://dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&article_id=87537&categ_id=17


Monday's gathering in Paris of donor countries to support the widely hoped-for establishment of a Palestinian state was necessary but not sufficient. Without the funds that were pledged, any form of Palestinian independence that might be negotiated as part of a peace agreement to end the Israeli occupation would be a flimsy thing indeed. The more important litmus tests are yet to come, however, and each demands unprecedented levels of seriousness from both the principals and their American mediators.

First and foremost, Israel has to stop sabotaging the peace process. Israel's leaders have said they want Palestinian statehood, but their actions have repeatedly eroded the trust of their Palestinian interlocutors - and undermined the credibility of those interlocutors in the eyes of their own people.

Even that will not suffice, though, if the Palestinian government doesn't do enough to regain the respect of its constituents. Like the Lebanese people, the Palestinians have been cursed by years of dismal governance by bunglers and crooks, and now they have the added mess of the Hamas-Fatah split with which to contend. There will be little point in creating a Palestinian state if its coffers and institutions are going to be pillaged and ignored, and if its two largest factions are going to wreck everything anyway by making war on one another.

Finally, it is the United States which alone has the authority and the power to ensure that the status quo is forever altered. France has done its part by hosting the aid conference and by demanding in no uncertain terms that the Israelis stop building illegal colonies on occupied land. Moscow is hosting the next event, a gathering designed to add substance to the optimistic but hollow diplomacy that took place at Annapolis last month. Only the Americans, though, can "deliver" a rational Israeli position that makes possible the negotiation of an agreement that amounts to something other than a Palestinian surrender.

This issue will be decided by US President George W. Bush's willingness to invest what he described after having been re-elected in 2004 as "political capital." Despite past history, he and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, still get the benefit of the doubt in many quarters. If they do not start soon to deliver, though, opponents of the peace process will become increasingly confident and, perhaps, increasingly obstructive. "We told you so," they will say. "Reviving the peace process was just a ruse," they will add. And they will be right.




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