Arab News (Editorial)
April 13, 2009 - 12:00am§ion=0&article=121464&d=13&m=4&y=2009

Lest it not be clear or be forgotten, Palestinians and other Arabs are spelling out what a peace settlement in their view entails: The two-state formula in accordance with the agreed references, particularly the Arab peace initiative. These policy positions, recently expressed by the chief Palestinian negotiator in Palestine, and in neighboring Jordan where Arab foreign ministers met to review of the Middle East peace process, were meant to reiterate the ways of reaching peace. Given how many years the Palestinians have been announcing the terms of statehood, it might seem odd to even have to mention it, but in light of the ascendancy of Benjamin Netanyahu in Israeli politics, a reiteration of peace conditions is in order. Netanyahu inaugurated his new government with the pronouncement of the death of the Annapolis agreement.

It is true that a year of negotiations did not produce tangible results, but no results of any kind are being anticipated now. Netanyahu failed to bring the Kadima Party into his ruling coalition because he refused to comply with Kadima leader Tzipi Livni’s demand that he support the creation of a Palestinian state. The new Israeli government brought together every shade of Israeli extremism. It consists of those who reject peace, those who want to expel the remaining Arabs from Israel, and those who maintain that Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians and Arabs is one of permanent warfare. In light of this, it is not hard to predict how the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak government, backed by settler and extreme religious parties, will function.

As for the Arab peace initiative, which envisages recognition of Israel by all Arab states in exchange for Tel Aviv vacating all Arab territories it occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, it will not remain on the table forever, although it is debatable what effect withdrawing the initiative will have on Israel which never accepted it to begin with.

Israel can never be talked about without underlining its utter dependence on the bottomless economic, military, technological and diplomatic support of the US. But Lieberman and Netanyahu could lead Israel into a head-on collision with President Barack Obama who wishes to see significant progress toward a two-state solution and soon. Obama is working hard to improve relations with the wider Muslim world. Netanyahu and Lieberman may become the biggest barrier to his hopes. Inter-Palestinian rivalry was not mentioned in the recent announcements by the Arabs even though a full settlement probably cannot be achieved in the absence of Palestinian unity. If Fatah is playing the lead in the process, Hamas must, too, have a role. But the US and Europe have excluded Hamas from the peace process because it refuses to meet three demands: accept the two-state solution; accept past treaties and agreements; and renounce violence. Now, ironically, Israel under Netanyahu and Lieberman also does not accept the two-state solution; Lieberman refuses to accept Israel’s past commitments; and Israel has never renounced violence. Israel under Netanyahu and Lieberman mirrors Hamas’ politics. Will Israel now become just as unacceptable as Hamas to Europe and the US? No. Therein lies the problem, not in the intransigence or obduracy of any Israeli politician.


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