The Jordan Times (Opinion)
October 23, 2008 - 8:00pm

It is a foregone conclusion that the Arab-Israeli conflict is difficult to resolve. A wide variety of obstacles stand in the way of a solution. While most have to do with Israel’s intransigence, internal politics, hidden agendas and long-term aspirations in the region, some have to do with exaggerated reliance on the US’ and the international community’s part to intervene and facilitate peace.

No one denies the role the US can play - has in fact played - in attempting to resolve the conflict. Europe, as a close neighbour and a party well informed of the complexities of the conflict, is also important.

Had the Arabs and Israelis, over the years, been able to meet and negotiate on their own, they would not have needed the US, Europe or UN. At a number of critical moments in the past, the Arabs and Israelis needed the intervention of the said three parties, both as facilitators and as patrons of the peace process.

While the intervention of these parties is still far from satisfactory, there were undeniable moments of success and progress. But reliance on these parties (and others) is not without its disadvantages or problems. In general, the UN has not been very effective. Europe is important, I believe, but its role is tied directly to that of the US. The US is crucial.

But US involvement has its limitations. For one, US priorities change - at times rapidly. For the most part of his two terms, US President George W. Bush has been focusing more on fighting terrorism than on resolving the Middle East conflict, for example. Additionally, US administrations change and there are many dead periods and much lost time: virtually the last year of an outgoing administration’s tenure and the first year of a new administration. During these periods, peace efforts freeze.

In light of this, of the fact that the Arabs and Israelis have already met each other in negotiations, should not they wean themselves of the US and other parties and start negotiating directly?

Arabs and Israelis are the direct parties to the conflict. They, more than anyone else, know what the real problems are and what a satisfactory solution is. Furthermore, they, and not anyone else, have much to gain or lose, based on the success or failure of the negotiations.

Should not they then forget about the US and other partiers and start a process on their own?

Now that there is a new leadership in Israel, that the friction among the Palestinian Authority and Hamas has somewhat lessened, that the Syrians and the Israelis have met under Turkish patronage, and that Israel is sending signals to Lebanon to negotiate, the time seems ripe for an initiative from within the region - one that involves the concerned parties directly, with or without (better without, in my opinion) external intervention or facilitation.

Countries like Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, I am sure, will not spare any effort to assist.

Arabs and Israelis should not tie the fate of the peace process, and their fate, to the US, nor should they waste time.


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