Defrost Middle East Peace

The peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians has been stuck for some time now with nothing happening. There is growing frustration on all sides because of the lack of progress made. While the international community may be urging both sides to return to the talks table, one should not forget that the peace talks collapsed in 2010 mainly because Israel refused to freeze settlement building in the West Bank. At that time the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is a moderate within the Palestinian movement, had repeatedly urged Israel as well as its close ally the US to freeze the settlement, seen as expansionist. The point that both Tel Aviv and Washington had failed to understand was that Abbas was willing to go along with the peace process but he was losing face among the Palestinians because of the controversial settlement by Israel. He could not be seen as giving easy concessions to the Jewish State what with the hard-line Palestinian group Hamas going to the extent of accusing the moderate Abbas of a sellout. If Israel and the US could have understood the predicament faced by President Abbas and made some sacrifice of freezing the settlement, perhaps extremist groups like Hamas could have been sidelined. Today the situation is fast changing with President Abbas fast losing ground to the Hamas. As such, one cannot fault the latest initiative of President Abbas, to seek a vote at the United Nations, to raise the status of Palestine to that of a non-member observer state. By doing so, the moderate Abbas can salvage his own political standing and relevance within the movement.

Against this latest move of the Palestinian leader, it is somewhat strange that the US is now promising that President Barack Obama would re-engage as a mediator in 2013 if Mr Abbas abandoned the effort to seek statehood. Washington argues that the U.N. vote will not fulfill the goal of independent Palestinian and Israeli states living side by side in peace, which the U.S. strongly supports because that requires direct negotiations. However why did the direct negotiation fail? Why couldn’t the US persuade Israel to put a halt to its settlement drive? It is clearly evident that the US is not an honest broker when it comes to the Middle East peace process. In fact the US Congress has now threatened financial sanctions if the Palestinians improve their status at the United Nations. Both Israel and the US ought to by now see the writing on the wall that there is even more global support for the Palestinian cause within the western countries as well. President Abbas has taken a moral position on the Palestinian cause and Israel has little option left but to impose a settlement freeze and return to the negotiating table. On the other hand whatever may be the outcome of the UN vote being pushed by President Abbas, the two-state solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace remains the only viable alternative to the depressing status-quo at present. Clearly, peace will never be secured without painful concessions on both sides. We may make tall claims about peace summits or sermons and speeches at the UN but all this has never led to any peaceful solution till today. The truth is obvious---men desire and want peace but they are unable to satisfy the basic conditions which peace demands.