Hassan Barari
The Jordan Times (Analysis)
January 12, 2010 - 1:00am

Unlike the early attempt to resume the peace process that began a year ago with much fanfare and no results, this time the Obama administration is gearing up for yet another effort to relaunch the long-awaited peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

If anything, the US administration understands that Israelis and Palestinians wasted one year in a boring game of mutual recrimination, with no seriousness on their part to get down to business and make peace within parameters everyone knows. The Arabs stood firm on their position not to move ahead without significant concessions from Tel Aviv. Many blame Barack Obama for raising the level of expectations at the beginning and then failing to follow through on his pledges. Yet, his administration seems willing to pull its act together, with assurances coming from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and American envoy for peace in the Middle East George Mitchell.

The former received two Arab foreign ministers to help create the momentum for peace, the latter is about to visit the region and deliver two letters of assurance upon which negotiations is set to resume.

Leakage from the American press shows that the first letter of assurance will be handed to Israel; in it, the United States acknowledges the demographic realities of the post-1967 war, meaning that Washington will not expect Tel Aviv to withdraw from certain areas, to enable it to maintain settlements. The second letter of assurance will be to the Palestinian Authority; in it, the US criticises Israel’s policies on settlement and assures the Palestinians that negotiation will be resumed based on the 1967 borders.

The Arabs are also paving the ground for the resumption of the peace process. A few days ago, the Saudis urged both Hamas and Fateh to meet in Damascus to iron out their differences and bring about the long-awaited national reconciliation. As was the case with Lebanon, a Saudi-Syrian understanding is a must if the Palestinians wish to succeed in their bid to reconcile. If the Saudi-Syrian efforts pay off, then the Palestinians will be able to claim that they qualify as a partner for peace negotiations with the Israelis.

With this new momentum, one is tempted to ask the following question: Are the Israelis ready for the big day? Judging by what Israel is doing, the answer is discouraging. Tel Aviv just ordered more settlement activities, thus giving the impression that Israel is not yet ready to hold genuine peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Additionally, Israel stepped up its military activities, killing innocent civilians in Gaza. Although Israel claims that this fresh attack on Palestinians is triggered by Palestinians violence, its attack is an expression of the dominance of a certain mindset that gives priority to security in the short term without really understanding the long-term security benefit it can enjoy if it agrees to a peace settlement.

Despite the fresh American effort to create an environment conducive to peace making, it remains to be seen how the two sides to the conflict are going to behave. The Arabs should do their best to convince the Palestinians that they stand to win if they put their differences aside and come up as a rational, unified player with one objective: putting an end to the occupation to establish their own state. On the other hand, the United States can do the Arabs a favour by putting the necessary pressure on Israel and having the Israelis understand that their security can only be maintained through peaceful relations with the Arabs.

If the parties fail to understand the lessons from the last round of negotiations, they are going to end up with the same failure.



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