FM: John Whitbeck
Transmitted below is an assessment of "Annapolis" by Marwan Bishara,
posted today on the website of ALJAZEERA ENGLISH, for which Marwan is
now the senior political analyst.
Short on peace, long on process
By Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst
Previous talks have failed to find a solution that provides for
between Israelis and Palestinians [AFP]
Hosted by the US president and supported by Arab, European and other
foreign ministers, Palestinian and Israeli leaders are expected to
re-launch their long stalled negotiations in Annapolis on Tuesday.
Judging from its high attendance and low expectations, Annapolis is
more likely to help three sitting ducks, Olmert, Abbas and Bush, than
advance the cause of peace in the Middle East.
The summit also helps the "peace president" silence his domestic Iraq
policy detractors as the "war president" tries to isolate his Middle
East rivals like Iran who reject a pax Americana in the region.
One hopes that the meeting this week will walk in the footsteps of the
"Annapolis Convention of 1786" that paved the way for US constitution
However, once the ceremony ends and real diplomacy begins, Annapolis
2007 will enter the diplomatic lexicon as another summit that
sacrificed peace for the sake of process.
If the run-up to the meeting is any guide, the morning after Annapolis
promises more of the same Israeli rejection of deadlines, frameworks
or principles for the negotiations that we have witnessed so far.
Israel has succeeded with Washington's help in making any progress in
negotiations conditional on full Palestinian implementation of its
absurd security demands as outlined by the 2002 US-authored
International Roadmap for peace and Israel's reservations on it.
According to the Israeli government, the handicapped Palestinian
Authority must destroy the "infrastructure of terror" by outlawing the
likes of Hamas and imprisoning its fighters.
Short of a civil war, this can only lead to setbacks rather than breakthroughs.
It also holds the entire diplomatic enterprise hostage to sabotage by
opposition from both sides; one that renders the freedom of each and
every Palestinian dependent on guaranteeing the security of each and
Like all previous attempts before it, the 1993 Oslo Accords signed in
Washington, the 1994 Interim Accords signed in Cairo as well as the
2002 International Roadmap, have tried and predictably failed to
attain peace through a bilateral process dictated by Israel and
supervised its American ally.
Seven years of flawed process
Since the Oslo agreement was signed between Palestinians and Israelis,
six other interim accords have produced an unbalanced peace that
privileges Israelis, discriminates against Palestinians, and inflames
Unlike peace based on the balance of power, such as between Egypt and
Israel, the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians
reflects a chronic and continuous imbalance between an aggressive
occupation that cannot impose its will and bruised Palestinians who
will not surrender.
So instead of arriving at a comprehensive peace agreement, Israel
insisted on interim accords that allow it to dictate the pace of
progress in a transitional process where agreements are reached in
phases and implemented in stages with Israel holding veto power at
For the Palestinian Authority to carry its civic responsibilities or
negotiate the freedom of its people, it had to continuously prove its
security worthiness to Israel by cracking down on "extremists".
In the end, the so-called peace process that promised the Palestinians
freedom and unity delivered despair and division.
In short, the "peace process" produced a precarious mode of
equilibrium characterised by instability and recurring violence
between occupier and occupied. It also led to intra-national
instability for both Israel and the weaker Palestinians.
Seven years of destruction
After the failure of the Camp David Summit in 2000, Ehud Barak, the
Israeli prime minister, dismissed Arafat's Palestinian Authority as
"no partner" for peace, and his successor, Ariel Sharon, went on to
carry out what Israeli scholar Baruch Kimmerling called "politicide"
against the Palestinians or the destruction of the political and
security infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority.
Mahmoud Abbas took power in 2005 [AFP]
Bankrupt and entangled with charges of corruption, Fatah embraced the
US-supported Mahmoud Abbas as future president in 2005.
However, Israeli humiliation and indifference have undermined his
attempted reforms and overtures.
Moreover, Israel's undermining of all outside mediation, and
specifically of the bridging proposals by James Wolfensohn,
International Quartet (US, UN, EU and Russia) special envoy, and
Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, compelled the ever
disenchanted Palestinians to hand Hamas a majority of the legislative
Instead of engaging Hamas through dialogue, the US and Israel enraged
the Palestinians by sanctions that crippled Palestinian economy and
deepened political tensions between an Islamist party eager to govern,
and a power-addicted secular Fatah eager to rule.
Predictably, their disagreements became violent as Hamas took over the
besieged Gaza strip and Fatah of the occupied West Bank.
Fourteen years of failure
Israel's collective punishments and Jewish settlements expansion,
which tripled since the beginning of the diplomatic process, have
emerged as the engine of instability and violence. Those policies
increased tensions and deepened the antipathy towards the negotiations
among Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Dissatisfied Israelis changed six governments in dozen years while one
of their own assassinated former premier Yitzhak Rabin.
Feeling betrayed, the Palestinians grew more bitter and more divided
as vicious cycle of violence fed onto accusations against of Fatah
doing Israel's dirty work, and contributed to Hamas's popularity as
the political underdog and spokesman for the marginalised and the
One dozen years later, the misery of the besieged Palestinian
territories is paralleled only by the anxiety of a deadlocked Israeli
The more Israel segregates the Palestinians behind high concrete walls
and barbed fences, the more it ghettoises Jewish communities and
settlements behind security towers.
Practical conditions and a miracle
For any future diplomatic process to succeed, it must be short on
process and long on peace. This is possible if three important
conditions are met.
The United States and Israel have refused
to deal with Hamas [AFP]
First, the negotiations must be based on solid legal grounds with a
limited timeframe and well-defined endgame of two-state solution
separated by the 1967 borders.
The same needs to apply to Jerusalem - an open city and the capital of
two states. Any changes on the borderline must be negotiated on the
basis of exchange of territories equal in quality and quantity.
Likewise, no solution is possible without Israel admitting its
historical and moral responsibility for the refugee question in a
spirit that paves the way towards the implementation of their right
for return in a fair and creative ways.
Second, security measures should be implemented as part of an
integrated and bilateral commitment to safeguard life and property,
not as unilateral means to demean the Palestinians and take over their
Improving Palestinian living conditions free of fear, roadblocks,
harassment and prisons will improve security conditions for both
peoples. Likewise, Palestinian unity needs to be seen as a necessary
step that underlines not undermines security.
Lastly, peace must be comprehensive to be lasting and therefore should
include the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.
And it must be understood that if the parties can not arrive at an
agreement by the assigned deadline, Israel must be pressured to
withdraw from all occupied lands in favour of a UN trusteeship.
Otherwise, Israel will not have a real incentive to make a true effort
to accommodate the Palestinians.
It will take a miracle for a US administration that sees the Middle
East through Israeli eyes and the Palestinian issue through the prisms
of the "war on terrorism" to pressure Israel to allow for a sovereign
viable and livable Palestinian state to emerge sooner rather than