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The Peace Process

 The Peace Process

For decades now it's been all process and no peace. Tomorrow we are
launching a delegation of the Council for the National Interest
Foundation on a two-week visit to Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and
Lebanon to see if there are any new ideas they can bring back looking
toward the still nebulous conference-to-be in Annapolis. Here's an item
provided by Ray Close that underscores how discouraging things have
become and how much a new idea is needed. Bob Keeley

*Regarding strategy for Annapolis:
*
This column by Rami Khuri contains some very powerful points that could
be used effectively in explaining why it is now necessary to abandon the
failed step-by-step peace process in favor of moving directly to the
definition and negotiation of final status issues.

Ray Close

*Clarity from experienced public servants*
By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It is very refreshing when law, international responsibility and human
courage converge in the remarks or actions of a single person. This
occurred earlier this month in New Zealand in a talk by Karen Abuzayd,
Commissioner General of UNRWA, the United Nations agency that provides
humanitarian aid and basic social services to Palestinian refugees. She
made a few points that are noteworthy precisely because international
officials rarely speak with such clarity, moral force and political
urgency. I quote her at length for the pertinence of her remarks:

She noted that "one of the most alarming but least acknowledged aspects
of the present situation is the loss of Palestinian faith in the
international community's ability to act in their best interests ...
Palestinians are bewildered by what they see as willful inaction,
disinterest and mixed messages from the once-trusted international
community. Over the past several years, Palestinian civilians have borne
the brunt of the armed conflict with Israel. They cannot understand why
the stipulations of international law, including human rights law and
international humanitarian law, appear to be ignored in the occupied
Palestinian territory. They fail to see how their freedom of movement
and other freedoms can be trampled upon with such impunity, or why
fundamental legal injunctions pertaining to proportionality and
restraint in the use of force can be so blatantly ignored. They also
marvel that alongside preparations for a peace conference and an
emerging momentum for peace, the occupying power regularly caries out
ruthless military operations, complete with house demolitions, arbitrary
arrests and population displacement.

"Palestinians are puzzled by the adversarial policies that the
international community has initiated, supported or acquiesced in, fully
aware of their severe implications for the ordinary people of Gaza and
the West Bank. They did not expect that their participation in
democratic elections in 2006, acclaimed as free and fair, would provoke
15 months of harsh sanctions that included the prohibition of
remittances from abroad and the non-payment of salaries of civil
servants.  And Palestinians did not imagine that the declaration of Gaza
as 'hostile territory,' opening the way for the suspension of fuel,
electricity, water and banking services, would be welcomed in some
quarters and greeted with a deafening silence in others."

She also feels that this grim situation can still be turned around. It
requires political peace-making that is inclusive, and does not boycott
or exclude anyone for purely political reasons. This would help restore
integrity to the Palestinian political establishment, and allow
mediators to work in a balanced and even-handed manner, keeping their
eye on the ultimate goal of a negotiated agreement that serves
Palestinians and Israelis alike.

When I was reading her remarks, I happened also to have an opportunity
to talk with Alvaro de Soto, the recently retired UN diplomat from Peru
who has 25 years of experience in conflict mediation and peace-making
around the world. He negotiated the El Salvador agreement some years ago
and then the Cyprus framework that was presented to referendums of
Turkish and Greek Cypriots. His last post was the UN special coordinator
for the Middle East peace process.

When I asked him what was the main lesson of his experiences as related
to the current stalled Arab-Israeli peace process, he replied: "The need
to have unity and integrity of third party mediation efforts, and
clarity of strategy."

Echoing some of Abuzayd's prescription for progress, he suggested that
the Quartet (the US, EU, UN, Russia) that was supposed to oversee the
"road map" to Israeli-Palestinian peace needed review and revision.

"It was a good idea in its time," he said, "but perhaps due to
difficulties that have arisen partly from Quartet actions, its
usefulness should be reviewed with a view to considering whether it
needs some adjustment. I'm afraid the Quartet has gone off in a
direction that discourages, among other things, the building of vital
consensus among the Palestinians, which is necessary if any real
progress is going to be sustainable over time.* An opportunity was
missed when the Quartet failed to support the national unity government
the Palestinians formed early this year with Arab assistance."
*
The Oslo process has not worked as envisioned, and both Palestinians and
Israelis have moved away from it, he said.

"We have to ask if there is still a basis for proceeding on Oslo lines,
or if we need to consider an entire paradigm shift. The road map may
have outlasted its time. The step-by-step approach has not worked well,
and we should look more toward addressing the core final status issues,
but this is hard to do in the absence of a strong Israeli government and
with a fractured Palestinian body politic. Putting people on terror
lists and refusing to engage them is a serious drawback that needs to be
reviewed also, because there must be a unified approach to engaging both
sides of the conflict. A national unity government would have been the
right way to move in Palestine, but an opportunity was missed there."

Rami G. Khouri

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