Abdullah Iskandar
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
January 10, 2010 - 1:00am

On the occasion of her talks with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in Washington last Friday, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to palter about the real obstacle to resuming the Palestinian peace process. Prior to the visit of the US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell to the region, she relegated the problem of the ongoing Israeli settlements – on Palestinian territory designed to be part of the prospective Palestinian State– into a theoretical or even an academic issue. This attempt is primarily directed toward the Arab side in a bid to convince the Arabs of this theoretical solution, in light of the Israeli side’s ongoing construction of settlements, and its irresponsiveness with regards to whatever steps are required from Israel to pave the way for the establishment of the [Palestinian] state.

Whilst acknowledging Israeli settlement to be the problem, the US secretary of state considered that resolving the issues of Jerusalem and the borders would resolve that of the settlements. In other words, when an agreement over the situation of Jerusalem and the state’s borders is reached, the issue of the settlements will cease to be a problem as it continues outside of these borders. This consideration would theoretically be correct if Israel were to acknowledge East Jerusalem and the West Bank to be occupied territories, and that the negotiations’ aim is ultimately to establish a viable Palestinian state. In reality, however, Israel – particularly with its current right-wing government – is assuming the exact opposite of this notion, and is thus using the settlements to further this policy.

This novel theoretical interpretation of the peace process relieves the American administration from the obligation of applying pressure on Israel, which struck a painful blow the administration with respect to the issue of settlement. Instead, the Arab side is now on the receiving end of the administration’s pressure, which is requiring them to turn a blind eye to the settlements and come to the negotiations as long as the theoretical basis of the peace process is still intact. Thus, the American endeavors in this vein continue, heedless of the new dilemma it is hurling the process into: Does the solution lead to a cessation of settlement, or does the cessation of settlement lead to the solution?

The US administration has suggested this theoretical solution to the issue of settlement and appointed Mitchell to develop it in preparation for resuming negotiations over his next visit. However, the failure of this endeavor is predictable, at least by virtue of the Israeli rejection of any solution that includes Jerusalem and the settlements in the West Bank.

On the other hand, while Israel intensifies its policy of aggression, inflexibility, and of undermining the Palestinian state and the conditions of its establishment, the Arab side seems to be in a state of disintegration that condemns it to failure to induce any change in the balance of power in favor of the proposed solution put forward in the Arab initiative.

While main the Arab capitals are witnessing a back and forth diplomatic activity, including consultations and statements which insist on investing Arab reconciliations in the Peace Process, the Palestinian reconciliation seems more out of reach than ever before. What is more, a deliberate and coordinated tension can be noticed between Hamas and the Egyptian sponsor of this reconciliation, in such a way that eliminates the chances of the slightest possible agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian authority– an agreement which would constitute the necessary condition for the resumption of any peace process negotiations, whatever their nature may be.

If Egypt, and its role in the reconciliation and the peace process in general, is the main target of Operation Lifeline, which was coordinated and implemented under the supervision of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, and its Turkish wing this time, and by provoking a clash with Egyptian security in Rafah, then the indirect target would be all the Arab countries which still insist on the necessity of a Palestinian reconciliation, under Egyptian mediation, and which still consider the Arab initiative to be valid basis for a solution with Israel.

In other words, it seems that the Arab situation, despite what is said and declared, still suffers from the same divisions over the issue of peace which it has suffered over the past years and which has been one of the reasons why no solution could ever be achieved.


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