Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Two-State Israel? Really?

It was a hopeful time. Mid-1990s and people really believed that Israel and Palestine could actually pull off a negotiated Palestinian “self-government” settlement. “The Oslo I Accord or Oslo I, officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements... was an attempt in 1993 to set up a framework that would lead to the resolution of the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict. It was the first face-to-face agreement between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

“Negotiations concerning the agreement… were conducted secretly in Oslo, Norway…and completed on 20 August 1993; the Oslo Accords were subsequently officially signed at a public ceremony in Washington, D.C., on 13 September 1993 in the presence of PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and U.S. President Bill Clinton [pictured above]. The documents themselves were signed by Mahmoud Abbas for the PLO, foreign Minister Shimon Peres for Israel, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher for the United States and foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev for Russia

“In 1994 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize following the signing on the Oslo Accords, ‘for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East.’” Wikipedia.

A second agreement followed almost immediately: “The Oslo II Accord (1995). Division of the West Bank into Areas, in effect fragmenting it into numerous enclaves and banning the Palestinians from some 60% of the West Bank. Redeployment of Israeli troops from Area A and from other areas through ‘Further Re-deployments’ Election of the Palestinian Legislative Council (Palestinian parliament, PLC), replacing the PA upon its inauguration. Deployment of Palestinian Police replacing Israeli military forces in Area A. Safe passage between West Bank and Gaza. Most importantly, start of negotiations on a final settlement of remaining issues, to be concluded before 4 May 1999.” Wikipedia.

Neither accord guaranteed statehood for Palestine, but U.S. policy and the direction of negotiations moved in that direction, and today, in one form or another, the majority of the countries in the world recognize a separate Palestinian state (not the U.S. or Israel, of course).

I’ve blogged about Israel’s “Arrogant Isolationism” (March 19th), and there has been a war of words between the Obama Administration and Israeli’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu on whether or not he has effectively recanted his pledge that there would be no independent Palestine during his political leadership. So let’s take as a given that he will accept that two-state notion and see whether such an outcome is remotely possible under current circumstances. It’s been two decades since Oslo II, and there really hasn’t been much movement, but there has been a whole lot of violence.

Frankly, it seems that even the United Nations doesn’t believe that a negotiated solution between these feuding parties is even possible anymore: “Israeli settlements on occupied land wanted by the Palestinians may have already killed a possible two-state solution, said the United Nations Middle East envoy on [March 26th]s as he suggested the U.N. Security Council should take action on the peace process… Palestinians seek a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967. Most countries view Israel's settlement building on occupied land as illegal…
“‘Illegal settlement activity simply cannot be reconciled with the objective of a negotiated two-state solution and may kill the very possibility of reaching peace on the paradigm of two states for two peoples,’ outgoing U.N. Middle East envoy Robert Serry told the U.N. Security Council…

‘I frankly do not know if it is already too late,’ he said… Serry also said that if the Palestinians follow through on a pledge to halt security coordination with Israel then it could be the ‘final nail in the coffin’ of the Oslo peace accords of the mid-1990s.

“He said if the Israelis and the Palestinians are not ready to resume negotiations but show they both still believe in a two-state solution then the international community should consider presenting the parameters for the peace process.” Reuters, March 26th. But even as a new U.N. envoy slides into place, hope is dying fast:

Council veto power the United States has traditionally shielded its ally Israel at the United Nations. But the United States has said it would ‘reassess’ its options on U.S.-Israel relations and Middle East diplomacy after Netanyahu took a stand against Palestinian statehood during his election campaign.
“In December, the United States voted against a Palestinian resolution calling for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and the establishment of a Palestinian state by late 2017.

“Serry, a Dutch national, will be replaced by Nickolay Mladenov, of Bulgaria, who was most recently the U.N. special envoy to Iraq. ‘Upon leaving ... I cannot but express an overriding feeling that I have been part of a peace process in which a can is kicked down an endless road,’ said Serry, who described himself as ‘disheartened’ after seven years in the role.” Reuters. Everyone is asking, where do we go from here? The viable answers still seem to elude the rest of us as well.

I’m Peter Dekom, and it is time for the world to decide if peace can happen or if this powder keg is simply going to erupt without end, threatening to embroil us all in that Evangelical wish: Armageddon.

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