Prospects for Peace in Palestine and Israel
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
The November 11 death of Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Arabs, coinciding with the beginning of the second term of President Bush, creates new prospects for peace as well as new dangers. Arafat had the stature to be able to adopt a peace agreement with the State of Israel, but evidently he was not fully committed to peace, seeking to also use or condone the use of force and violence. He could not ride two horses at once.
Arafat could have promoted democracy and a market economy, but chose to exert authoritarian rule and to amass wealth into his own accounts. The intifada violence has caused hardship for the Palestinians and provides a rationale for continuing domination by Israel. Yet Arafat is honored and beloved by Palestinian Arabs for having personified the Palestinian cause.
With Israel and the U.S. refusing to negotiate any further with Arafat, the road to peace was a dead end. With new leadership, the prospects for peace now warrant optimism. But the Palestinian leadership is fragmented. There are several chiefs among the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and Arafat's Fatah movement. But there is a desire to end the conflict among the moderate leaders, and a chance that some solution will be found.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad, al-Aksa Brigades, and other violent groups reject any recognition of the State of Israel. Some Palestinians believe that Arafat's death was caused by poisoning by the Israeli government, despite the factual statement by the French doctors to the contrary. To many Palestinians, if something bad happens, it is necessarily and always the fault of Israel. With that attitude, a complete ceasefire will be impossible, since they will seek revenge. In fact, Arafat's death was not in the interest of the current Israeli government, since so long as Arafat was alive, Israel could postpone any peace agreement with the claim that it had no partner.
Now there will be great pressure from the United States, United Kingdom, Egypt, the European Union, the United Nations, and many Palestinians, for an end to the conflict. A Palestinian State will be established, but it will most likely not have effective control over the whole of its jurisdiction. After Israel withdraws from Gaza, a union of Hamas and Fatah may take effective control of that area. The Palestinian Legislative Council would have nominal but not real authority over Gaza. There would then be a peaceful, democratic, productive Palestinian state on the West Bank, and a violent, impoverished regime in Gaza. Hamas could even claim to be the rightful government in Gaza and be recognized by countries such as North Korea and Cuba.
Three elements are needed to ensure a lasting peace for the whole of Israel and Palestine. First, there needs to be a confederation between Israel and Palestine to handle mutual concerns such as water and the authority over area of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. Second, there needs to be locally-based democracy in the Palestinian areas to end authoritarian rule. Third, Israelis should pay rent to the confederation for the areas they continue to hold in Judea and Samaria, to compensate the Palestinians and acknowledge a nominal jurisdiction of Palestine.
Smart negotiation involves giving up items of lesser value to gain items of greater value, where the other party has the opposite values, placing higher value on what they receive. The Palestinians seek not just land but also dignity and and soveregnty. Let them have these. Israel should offer symbolic and financial rewards while retaining effective possession of some the settlements.
Arafat's passing, together with a new term of office for Bush, provide a window of opportunity. The United States has the power to accomplish peace, but only if plan has the right elements. There needs to be a great dialog on the plan so that this opportunity is not squandered.
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2004 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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