FM: John Whitbeck
Transmitted below, for the record, is my final pre-Annapolis advice to
the Palestinian participants in today's breathtakingly brief Annapolis
meeting. It was sent last Thursday -- and not taken.
While, in my view, a golden opportunity has been missed, a unilateral
"firm deadline with consequences" pronouncement along the lines
suggested could still be made at any time during the coming months when
it is blindingly obvious that "negotiations" are leading nowhere -- or
nowhere that any Palestinian (even a "moderate" one) would wish to go.
However, realistically, this (as well as any other desirable
development) must be viewed as unlikely so long as the West Bank Fatah
leadership considers its enemy to be *not* the Zionist occupiers of
Palestine and oppressors of the Palestinian people, with whom they
appear to be the best of friends, but, rather, the domestic political
rivals who soundly defeated them in the most recent Palestinian elections.
Of the many tragedies suffered by the Palestinian people over the past
century, this must rank among the worst.
meeting, in the absence of the minimum requirements for their attendance
which they had previously proclaimed, had been seriously interested in
stimulating meaningful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, rather than
simply in pleasing the United States (or protecting themselves from its
displeasure), they too would have set a firm deadline with consequences
-- in their case, for the continuing availablity of their
extraordinarily generous offer, pending and largely ignored since March
2002, of permanent peace and a full normalization of relations with
Israel in return for Israel's compliance with international law, making
clear that the "Arab Peace Initiative" would expire and be "off the
table" if a definitive Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement were not
signed by that deadline.
The visible absence of any backbone or seriousness on their part may
well stretch the already gaping gap between certain pro-American (hence
pro-Israeli) Arab rulers and their pro-Arab populations to the breaking
point, producing a truly "New Middle East" quite different from the
illusory one of which Condi Rice thought she had perceived the "birth
pangs" while supporting last year's Israeli assault on Lebanon.
On the available evidence, such a truly "New Middle East" is more likely
than peace to result from the Annapolis meeting.
If there is to be justifiable hope, rather than justified despair, there
must be firm, near-term deadlines for results, and failure to meet these
deadlines must have clear and compelling consequences. The world cannot
afford a revived so-called "peace process" which is yet another
Unfortunately, the minimalist, last-minute "joint understanding" and the
speeches delivered today by George W. Bush, Ehud Olmert and Abu Mazen do
not even hint at a different objective, let alone a different result.
----- Original Message -----
*From:* John Whitbeck <mailto:email@example.com>
*To:* Ahmed Qrei <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> ; Saeb Erakat
*Cc:* Nabeel Shaath <mailto:email@example.com>
*Sent:* Thursday, November 22, 2007 8:42 PM
*Subject:* The Palestinian Speech at Annapolis -- A Suggestion
Dear Abu Ala and Saeb,
It appears that, notwithstanding solemn public pledges not to go to
Annapolis unless Israel agreed in advance to certain minimum terms
essential to offer any realistic hope that a renewed "peace process"
would not be simply yet another time-wasting farce, a decision has now
been made to go to Annapolis in the absence of any Israeli agreement to
any of these minimum terms. I have no doubt that you are acutely aware
of the profound embarrassment and humiliation that this climbdown
represents for the Palestinian people.
However, I believe that there is still one hope to justify your presence
The world will be listening to the Palestinian speech to be delivered at
Annapolis (which I hope will be delivered in English, as were the
speeches at Madrid). This speech therefore offers a *huge* opportunity
to seize the initiative and reset the agenda in a manner which both
serves the interests of the Palestinian people and galvanizes the
attention and constructive efforts of the world.
I would suggest that the Palestinian speech conclude along the following
--- The Palestinian people have devoted two decades to pursuing peace
with some measure of justice through a "two-state solution".
--- What a decent "two-state solution" potentially acceptable both to
most Palestinians and to most Israelis would have to look like is well
known and has been for many years -- not simply in broad outline but in
--- The Palestinian people are prepared to pursue with utmost sincerity
and good faith *one final effort* to achieve a decent "two-state solution".
--- However, if, by the date six months from today, a definitive peace
agreement has not been reached and signed, the Palestinian people will
have to consider seeking justice and their liberation through democracy
-- through a single state in all of Palestine/Israel, free of any
discrimination based on race or religion and with equal rights for all
who live there.
You may or may not recall that I was in Madrid in October 1991 to
contribute ideas for the Palestinian speeches delivered at the
conference which launched the "peace process". One of my proposals, that
Palestine call for the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 to be
placed under a United Nations trusteeship with the United States as the
administering power pending an act of self-determination such as had
occurred with other UN trust territories, was enthusiastically received
by Nabeel Shaath.
Nabeel phoned President Arafat to seek his his approval of this
proposal, which he received at once -- but subject to a lethal
amendment. The Madrid Conference was formally held under the joint
sponsorship of the United States and the vanishing Soviet Union. With
this in mind, President Arafat instructed that the speech should propose
a UN trusteeship under the *joint* administration of the United States
and the Soviet Union.
And so it was. This amended proposal was included in the second of the
two Palestinian speeches, delivered by the late, justifiably revered
Haider Abdel Shafi, and attracted confused media interest for about 24
hours, after which the obvious impracticality of a joint American-Soviet
trust territory consigned the idea to an early (and deserved) demise.
I have often wondered whether the fate of the Palestinian people since
Madrid might have been less catastrophic had this proposal been made in
its original, coherent form and been pursued vigorously thereafter.
Perhaps not. However, I am absolutely certain that, whether one prefers
a "one-state solution" or a "two-state solution", the proposal set forth
above would serve the best interests of the Palestinian people and
restore both hope and pride.
Please seize this opportunity.
PUBLICATIONS OF THIS ARTICLE:
September 8, 2007 -- ARAB NEWS (Jeddah)
September 13 -- JORDAN TIMES (Amman)
September 14 -- CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR (Boston)
September 17 -- AL-QUDS (Jerusalem)
September 20 -- AL-AHRAM WEEKLY (Cairo)
September 24 -- AL-DUSTOUR (Amman)
October 10 -- LA VANGUARDIA (Barcelona)
November 2007 -- WASHINGTON REPORT ON MIDDLE EAST AFFAIRS
PALESTINE: DEMOCRACY NOT ZIONISM
By John V. Whitbeck
With some sort of "meeting" or "conference" to "kick start" the "peace
process" (date, place and participants to be determined) now being
touted by the Bush administration, there is at least the appearance of
an understanding in Washington of the importance for the region and the
world of solving the "Palestinian problem".
However, if this problem is ever to be solved, it must be redefined and
clearly understood. Those who truly seek justice and peace in the Middle
East must dare to speak openly and honestly of the "Zionism problem" --
and then to draw the moral, ethical and practical conclusions which follow.
When South Africa was under a racial-supremicist, settler-colonial
regime, the world recognized that the problem was the ideology and
political system of the state. Anyone outside the country who referred
to the "black problem" or the "native problem" (or, for that matter, to
the "white problem") would instantly have been branded a racist.
The world also recognized that the solution to that problem could not be
found either in "separation" (/apartheid/ in Afrikaans) and scattered
native reservations (called "independent states" by the South African
regime and "Bantustans" by the rest of the world) or in driving the
settler-colonial group in power into the sea. Rather, the solution had
to be found -- and, to almost universal satisfaction and relief, was
found -- in democracy, in white South Africans growing out of their
racial-supremicist ideology and political system and accepting that
their interests and their children's futures would be best served in a
democratic, non-racist state with equal rights for all who live there.
The solution for the land which, until it was literally wiped off the
map in 1948, was called Palestine is the same. It can only be democracy.
The ever-receding "political horizon" for a decent "two-state solution",
which, on the ground, becomes less practical with each passing year of
expanding settlements, bypass roads and walls, is weighed down by a
multitude of excruciatingly difficult "final status" issues which
Israeli governments have consistently refused to discuss seriously,
preferring to postpone them to the end of a road which is never reached
-- and which, almost certainly, is intended never to be reached.
Just as marriage is vastly less complicated than divorce, democracy is
vastly less complicated than partition. A democratic post-Zionist
solution would not require any borders to be agreed, any division of
Jerusalem, anyone to move from his current home or any assets to be
evaluated and apportioned. Full rights of citizenship would simply be
extended to all the surviving natives still living in the country, as
happened in the United States in the early 20th century and in South
Africa in the late 20th century.
The obstacle to such a simple -- and morally unimpeachable -- solution
is, of course, intellectual and psychological. Traumatized by the
Holocaust and perceived insecurity as a Jewish island in an Arab sea,
Israelis have immense psychological problems in coming to grips with the
practical impossibility of sustaining eternally what most of mankind,
composed as it is of peoples who have themselves been victims of
colonialism and racism, view as an abomination -- a racial-supremicist,
settler-colonial regime founded upon the ethnic cleansing of an
Indeed, Israelis have placed themselves in a virtually impossible
situation. To taste its bitter essence, Americans might try to imagine
what life in their country would be like if the European settlers had
not virtually exterminated the indigenous population and put the few
survivors out of sight and out of mind and if almost half of today's
American population were Indians, without basic human rights,
impoverished, smoldering with resentment and visible every day as the
inescapable living evidence of the injustice inflicted on their ancestors.
Americans might try to imagine further that Canada and Mexico were
independent Indian states, still unreconciled to the European conquest
and colonization of the land between them and with populations much
larger than that of the United States. This would not be a pleasant
society in which to live. Both colonizers and colonized would be
progressively degraded and dehumanized. The colonizers could,
rationally, conclude that they could never be forgiven by those they had
dispossessed and that no "solution" was imaginable. So it has been, and
continues to be, in the lands under Israeli rule.
Perhaps the coming "meeting" or "conference" will be the last gasp of
the fruitless pursuit of a separationist solution for those who live,
and will continue to live, in the "Holy Land". Perhaps those who care
about justice and peace and believe in democracy can then find ways to
stimulate Israelis to move beyond Zionist ideology and attitudes toward
a more humanistic, humane, hopeful and democratic view of present
realities and future possibilities.
No one would suggest that the moral, ethical and intellectual
transformation necessary to achieve a decent "one-state solution" will
be easy. However, more and more people now recognize that a decent
"two-state solution" has become impossible.
It is surely time for concerned people everywhere -- and particularly
for Americans -- to imagine a better way, to encourage Israelis to
imagine a better way and to help both Israelis and Palestinians to
achieve it. It is surely time to seriously consider democracy and to
give it a chance.
/John V. Whitbeck, an international lawyer who has advised the
Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel, is author of
"The World According to Whitbeck"./