Ahmad Majdoubeh
The Jordan Times (Opinion)
July 30, 2010 - 12:00am

Recent high-level meetings in Washington and the region, and talk about the need for direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis on final status issues, indicate that something is in the offing.

Peace advocates in the region and abroad always find it positive when the parties to the conflict are moving in the direction of peace, or, at least, exchanging views on how to jump-start the process. Apathy and stalemate are extremely harmful to both peace and the parties involved. As long as the momentum of peace efforts is kept, there is always hope. And hope is essential.

Having said this, however, and having welcomed, in principle, what there is in the offing, one hopes the parties concerned will learn from past experiences and capitalise on what works. The Arabs and Israelis have been holding intense contacts regarding a peaceful settlement to the Palestinian issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict for decades - in particular since the mid-1970s - and they have a very good idea regarding what works and what does not.

Several lessons have emerged from such contacts, and these lessons have to be taken together as a package.

The first is that nothing but the two-state solution will work. No solution will be acceptable and durable if it does not lead to the creation of a viable, independent Palestinian state on Palestinian land, living next to the Israeli state and interacting with it. The Palestinians are not after autonomy, self rule or any other formula. What is required is a full state on all Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967.

The second is that any viable, durable peace initiative will have to take into consideration the interests of both parties, not the one with the upper hand. Negotiations are about respect for the rights of the parties involved, especially the rights of the underdog in the formula. Peace cannot work if it is based on manipulation, bluffing, cheating or imposition of the will of one party over the other.

It is no secret that the Israelis have a lot of power, not just militarily but also politically. The Israeli lobby in the US is not only powerful, but in fact it seems to be calling all the shots regarding the Middle East. If such power is used to coerce the Palestinians and pressure them into unacceptable concessions, peace will not work. The people will refuse it.

The third is that people count, not just politicians. Previous Mideast peace experiences (with Egypt and Jordan, for example) show that peace initiatives and the eventual agreements must be acceptable to the people. Otherwise, anything that gets signed will be ink on paper. Real peace, we should remind, is warm peace, not cold peace. And peace cannot be warm without the blessings of the people.

The fourth lesson is that the parties involved need to look at the overall picture, and to think ahead. When peace happens, there is expected to be a lot of cooperation, interaction, and coexistence among the parties involved. They should not, therefore, hassle over a few metres or kilometres here and there. This is especially important for Israel to realise, as it is the occupying power, and it is the one that has most Palestinian lands under its illegal occupation.

Are we talking here about states that have to be walled in or out, isolated in their own “sacred” territories, or are we talking about open borders, joint investments, free mobility of people and goods, etc? I think we are talking about the latter.

The fifth lesson is that chances should be seized when they come around. The history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is, in a lot of ways, a history of wasted opportunities. There were moments in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s when the Arabs and Israelis could have settled the conflict. Due to intransigence, and a narrow-minded vision, the opportunities were wasted. These opportunities do not come around too often. Therefore, if this forthcoming chance is not seized, the region will plunge into more despair and chaos. All will be losers.

For all of these reasons, the parties concerned (especially Israel) should come to the table in real good faith. In my opinion, sincerity, honesty, integrity and fairness are the real base for peace.

We hope this forthcoming initiative will live up to these expectations. Otherwise, we are back to square one.


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