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Ali Jarbawi: Boiling Point

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  • World View
    A PALESTINIAN VIEW Boiling Point by Ali Jarbawi November 6, 2006 Bitterlemons.org Our region with its vital resources and strategic location is at a boiling
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2006
      Boiling Point
      by Ali Jarbawi
      November 6, 2006

      Our region with its vital resources and strategic location is at a
      boiling point, and the course of events here has a direct impact on
      international stability. From here, a world war could break out.
      Conversely, from here global peace could prevail.

      It is widely understood, except in the US and Israel, that the
      Palestinian-Israeli conflict is at the center of regional tension, in
      the sense that reaching agreement on this conflict would be key to
      defusing the regional situation. But because the United States and
      Israel have not accepted this opinion, instead relying on the use of
      overwhelming force, the situation has been complicated by greater and
      greater resentment of US and Israeli policies and thus further escalation.

      To address the powder-keg regional situation, efforts must start with
      Palestine-Israel, and any successful conclusion to this conflict must
      achieve the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people. But
      endeavors toward a settlement of this conflict have been exerted over
      the past 15 years, and these endeavors were characterized by Israeli
      intransigence and complete American bias toward Israel in an attempt
      to impose a settlement on the Palestinians. This led to the complete
      failure to reach any positive conclusion from lengthy and open-ended

      The failure did not result from the porous mechanisms of the
      negotiating process alone--even though this had significant negative
      impacts--but also from the lack of any real desire among the Israelis
      and Americans to reach a satisfactory settlement to this chronic conflict.

      The success of any future attempts at re-launching the political
      process will depend on a change of both intentions and mechanisms.
      Specifically, there must be recognition of not only the principle of
      the two-state solution but also the realization of this solution
      according to international resolutions regarding borders, based on the
      status quo of June 4, 1967. Without this initial recognition, all
      attempts at imposing a settlement on the Palestinian side will fail.

      There are those who believe that since the process is in such a
      crisis, the best and most successful way to turn it around is to adopt
      a gradual step-by-step approach in order to rebuild trust between the
      two warring sides in the interim. It is argued that going directly to
      final status negotiations on all aspects of the settlement will only
      lead to another eruption of the already disastrous situation.

      The proponents of this interim approach say a step-by-step settlement
      will allow the sides to reach partial agreements that accumulate with
      time, increasing trust and leading, inevitably, to a settlement.
      However, critics of this approach say it has been tried in the past
      and failed to produce a final settlement, because the stronger
      party--that is, Israel and America--controls the course of the
      negotiating process and can halt interim steps at any point that suits
      its interests.

      For the weaker party--the Palestinians/Arabs--there is no way to
      guarantee that each step will follow the next, if the stronger party
      is not willing to let it happen. Basically, the stronger party
      controls the negotiating process, the course of the interim period and
      hence its final outcome.

      In light of the failure of Oslo and its interim stage, some now insist
      that a reactivation of the peace process requires the immediate entry
      into final-status negotiations. The advocates of this approach insist
      that reaching a settlement depends on finalizing the fundamental and
      thorniest issues immediately so there is no opportunity for either of
      the negotiating parties, but especially the stronger party, to
      reconsider, procrastinate or retreat.

      We can take it as granted that there can be no imposed settlement. Any
      imposed settlement will generate neither peace nor stability in the
      region. But in order to reach agreement, two conditions must obtain.
      First, the goal of the process must be clearly defined, i.e., an end
      to the Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent
      Palestinian state on the basis of the borders of pre-June 4, 1967.
      Secondly, a specific time period should be stipulated that would allow
      the parties gradually to reach that goal.

      The Quartet needs to move away from the idea of "constructive
      ambiguity" when it comes to the goal or timeframe of the process. Only
      then is there hope for a political horizon to alleviate the growing
      pressures not only here but in the region.

      Ali Jarbawi is a professor of political science at Birzeit University.
      [Ramallah, West Bank]

      NOTE: "Constructive ambiguity" is a deliberate tactic of Semitists. By
      refusing to reveal their actual position or their intentions they can
      continue to evade communication and get the other person to make
      sacrifices while they sacrifice nothing. This is as true on a personal
      as a political level. This is the tactic used by, for example Hillel,
      a student Zionist organization, when they arrange a charity
      fundraising event with the Muslim Students' Association, while making
      their "friendship" dependent on the non-discussion of Israel. Then
      they write a front page news story about their peace initiative.



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