Prospect for an Israel-Palestine settlement

Published: April 28, 2014
Email
The writer was foreign secretary from 1994-97 and also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran (1992-94) and the US (1990-91)

The writer was foreign secretary from 1994-97 and also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran (1992-94) and the US (1990-91)

It is now becoming increasingly apparent that, the efforts of Secretary Kerry notwithstanding, there is little chance of getting the two-state solution that has theoretically been the goal he has been pursuing in the Israel-Palestine talks he has brokered since July last year. Currently, as I write this, the Israelis have walked out of the talks because of the announcement by President Abbas that the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), controlling 38 per cent of the West Bank and Hamas had reached a reconciliation agreement. Whether the PLO-Hamas agreement will be implemented remains open to question. Many such agreements have been reached in the past but have foundered because Hamas will not willingly yield the power it exercises in Gaza.

Circumstances have changed in Gaza. The change of leadership in Egypt and the persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood, with whom Hamas had a close relationship, have brought in their wake new restrictions on the use of tunnels from Gaza into Egypt and an end to the supply of subsidised fuel from Egypt. Economic conditions in Gaza have deteriorated. Unemployment in Gaza has risen according to reliable statistics from 18.7 per cent in 2000 to 38.5 per cent in the last quarter of 2013. Today, more than 57 per cent of Gaza households are deemed to be ‘food insecure’ and 70 per cent are recipients of food aid. But is this enough to drive the Hamas leadership to accepting PLO leadership and more importantly, to change the stance it has adopted on Israel?

The reaction in Israel has been to call off the talks with Netanyahu saying, “Whoever chooses Hamas does not want peace”. He described Hamas as “a murderous terrorist organisation that calls for the destruction of Israel”.

In less provocative language, the message from Washington was the same. The State Department spokesperson said, “Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties…”. “It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist.”

The Palestinian argument that in the past the Israelis has used the pretext of divisions in the Palestinian ranks to delay peacemaking and were now using the reconciliation of the Palestinians as an excuse for the same purpose, seemed to find little traction in Tel Aviv or Washington. Similarly, little serious attention has been given to President Abbas’s statement that “there is no contradiction at all” between reconciliation and negotiation and that Palestine “remained committed to establishing a just and comprehensive peace based on the two state principle”.

The Kerry effort to get a two-state solution started in July last year and nine months had been agreed upon as the period in which the talks would be brought to a point where a ‘final solution’ of the dispute could be announced. The current imbroglio seems to suggest that the prospects of an extension beyond April 30th are now very slim if not non-existent.

This was to be expected. From the start, Israel’s hard-line Prime Minister Netanyahu had little interest in progress on this track, choosing instead to use the enormous influence Israel enjoyed in Washington to divert attention to the threat that Iran’s possible acquisition of nuclear weapon capability posed to Israel and more generally, to peace in the Middle East.

Despite American pleas, he refused to halt settlement activity. He balked at the release of the final installment of Palestinian prisoners that had been one of the basic demands of the Palestinians for the talks. He insisted on Palestinian recognition of Israel as a ‘Jewish’ state.

With the Arab world in disarray and Israel indisputably the dominant power of the region, Netanyahu’s extremist followers seem intent on the short-sighted policy of thwarting the creation of a viable Palestinian state. The international community and the Americans, in particular, have to take account of what this can mean for the further spread of the cancer that is now eating away at moderation and tolerance in the Muslim world.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2014.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (11)

  • unbelievable
    Apr 28, 2014 - 12:36AM

    The international community and the
    Americans, in particular, have to take
    account of what this can mean for the
    further spread of the cancer that is
    now eating away at moderation and
    tolerance in the Muslim world.

    Rubbish. Declaring Palestine as independent state gets you what? Certainly doesn’t bring peace and the World doesn’t need another country which has multiple militias roaming the countryside which don’t report to the elected govt .. the World has enough instability as a result of Lebanon, Pakistan and Syria “non state” actors.

    Recommend

  • IceSoul
    Apr 28, 2014 - 12:47AM

    Only the naive can expect a two state settlement when the difference in power between the parties is so great. America no longer has the kind of leverage over Israel that is once did, at present, they can’t force any settlement.

    According to me, the only permanent settlement can be the official annexation of Palestinian lands by Israel.

    Recommend

  • tauseef
    Apr 28, 2014 - 7:13AM

    informative article. America, for all its claims to be a non partial negotiator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, failed in making Israel agree to a Palestinian state despite earlier statements from Netanyahu for the creation of a Palestinian state. It is no more a secret that America cannot enforce anything on Israel that will help create a Palestinian state. In such a scenario it is wise for the Palestinian people, be it PA or Hamas, to join hands and declare to be part of Israel i.e., renounce sovereignity and hand over control to Israel. That should force Israel to rethink its stubborn moves and start thinking about creating a Constitution. All the farce of notions of Jewish state will come into fore when people of Palestine decide to join Israel and demand a Constitution as is expected from a country that calls itself to be a democracy.

    Recommend

  • Parvez
    Apr 28, 2014 - 2:28PM

    For this to get a direction…….the Muslim world has to unite…….and this will not happen. Simply because they lack the brains to make it happen…….they were tribal in essence and remain so in mindset even today and this makes it all the more easier to create a divide-and-rule atmosphere, that ALWAYS works.

    Recommend

  • Rao
    Apr 28, 2014 - 7:34PM

    The author is terribly biased and towing the usual line condemning Israel. Isn’t Hamas a terrorist organization and Palestinians had the full backing of Islamic world when lobbed thousands of rockets into Israel? Is it not true that Islamic nations have been united in their design and efforts to wipe out Isreal and waged three wars , yet never gave up the vowed determination do it once again.?

    Surrounded by 100 million hostile Arabs, Israel is the only democratic country with 25% Arab as its full fledged citizens, in Middle East. It is prosperous, liberal and has been successful . That is why others want to destroy it.

    It is best for Palestinians declare Israel as a state a friend and come out of its barbaric tribal existence. Then it can flourish too.

    Recommend

  • Saif
    Apr 28, 2014 - 10:16PM

    What are the odds of any of the following events happening?
    1)Sun risimg from West.
    2)Turkey accepted as an EU member.
    3) Palestinians getting their state.
    If I were a gambler, I would bet my money on number 1.

    Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Apr 28, 2014 - 11:07PM

    The Palestinian were not complaining until 1948 when the US/UK assisted the Jews, with massive military assistance, to steal most of Palestine from the Arabs. The so called Kerry negotiations were never intended to work. The Jewish section is annually given several billion dollars, and the Palestinian Arabs, to all intents and purpose, practically nothing, and very little assistance of any kind.

    Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Apr 28, 2014 - 11:39PM

    @Rao:
    Dear Rao,
    You are not biased are you?

    Recommend

  • unbelievable
    Apr 29, 2014 - 5:55PM

    @tauseef:

    America, for all its claims to be a
    non partial negotiator in the
    Israeli-Palestinian conflict, failed
    in making Israel agree to a
    Palestinian state despite earlier
    statements from Netanyahu for the
    creation of a Palestinian state.

    Aid gets your some leverage .. not servitude. Recommend

  • Solomon2
    Apr 30, 2014 - 9:21PM

    @Sexton Blake: It’s preposterous to claim that “The Palestinians were not complaining until 1948 -” For example, even in 1921 when Churchill visited Gaza he was greeted by a crowd of 150,000 Arabs screaming “Death to the Jews!” (Manchester, The Last Lion, page 702.)

    Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    May 1, 2014 - 4:34AM

    @Solomon2:
    Dear Solomon2,
    You are quite right. The Palestinians knew by 1917 what mischief the British were planning as a result of the Balfour Declaration. It was not until 1948 that the axe dropped and the full enormity of the combined UK/US/Jewish plan became evident to all Palestinians. .

    Recommend

More in Opinion