An Introduction to the Ludicrous Politics of the Middle East
"Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed." Mao Zedong
Israeli-Palestinian relations are heading towards a total cut off and violent escalation with rounds of mutual reprisals that will produce a bath of bloodshed. The political options look very bleak and total chaos is impending. It seems that democratic elections were not the way to bring positive changes for the Palestinians. The results that emerged were unacceptable and now we confront an infuriated public facing the reality of political stagnation, economic and security digression.
"The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain." Aristotle
The Palestinian political arena is now facing total isolation and there is no solution in sight. All previous political initiatives were derailed by both sides, and both sides are reluctant to find a new solution. While it would seem that negotiations are the best mechanism to move forward, it doesn't appear as the preferable option to both leaderships.
The international community is behaving in total ambiguity and has abdicated its responsibilities regarding the merits of a negotiated solution. Israeli egoism has turned into an obsession in self reliance preferring unilateral actions without even recognizing the other side. At the same time, a destabilized Hamas government finds itself incompetent to mitigate the drastic impacts of its victory while chaos and anarchy escalate and the daily confrontations between the government authorities spirals from day to day. The new cabinet appears unable to alleviate the situation and the promise of law and order and internal security disappears in the face of fighting vigilantes.
"A People that value its privileges above its principles soon loose both." Dwight D. Eisenhower
The President's latest attempt to weaken the Hamas cabinet by bringing the PLO to lead is another move that will fail. According to the Palestinian Basic Law, it is not obligatory for the Palestinian cabinet to receive the recognition and support of the PLO Executive Committee. In the past it was the Palestinian Authority, the past President, and the previous cabinets, which systematically worked on diminishing and marginalizing the authority of the PLO. Moreover, the latest Palestinian elections were a clear defeat to the PLO and its affiliated movements. The PLO should have considered the possible consequences of a Hamas victory a long time before the elections were held and before engaging Hamas in the democratic process.
Whether they like or not, the PLO should realize that there is no longer a PLO to speak of. The PLO itself has failed to prove that they are still the only representatives of the Palestinian People.
Hamas thought they would receive the support of the Arab world and that they would provide financial support to meet the Palestinian needs. Hamas was mistaken in relying on Arab support; this financial support has never reached the required level, and most previous Arab pledges were largely unfulfilled.
"Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them." Aristotle
The only realistic conclusion from the recent 30th Arab Summit in Khartoum, which was convened with the absence of nine prominent Arab leaders, is the need for either disbanding the Arab league or reforming it. The absence of the Arab leaders at the regular summit is a sign of their infidelity to the Arab nation's issues and concerns. The Arab League has once again proven its inability to meet the challenges facing the region. This negativity had reflected on the Summits' decisions. It is sad that their peace initiative adopted at the Beirut Summit was not be considered seriously by the International community and Israel.
"It is not so much our friends' help that helps us, as the confidence of their help." Epicurus
The summit was convened while the Arab world’s agenda is full of real challenges. The Palestinian issue and the peace process are and were always on top of the agenda. Some new challenges confronting the Arab leaders were raised: the Syrian file, the deteriorating relations between Syria and Lebanon, the Darfour conflict, Somalia, Iraq and its unity, the Iranian threat and other concerns. It was more than obvious that this last summit would not find solutions for all of these complicated issues, first and foremost the Palestinian issue, nor to agree on a mechanism to support the Palestinian financial and economic crisis.
"You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor." Aristotle
President Abbas was mistaken in not asking the new Prime Minister to join the talks in Khartoum, even knowing that the summit would not bring solutions, the presence of Ismail Haniyeh there could have been used as a tool to wield Arab pressure on Hamas’ intransigence. The Summit could have also been used to re-launch the Arab initiative which was adopted in Beirut summit 2002 and to force Haniyeh and the Hamas to accept it. The Arab Summit could have conditioned financial support to the Palestinian government on its recognition of previous Summits’ decisions. This Summit could have been used to bring the peace process back to its tracks and re-draw an Arab unified strategy towards peace.
"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." Heraclitus
The Israeli convergence plan will not bring an end to the conflict. It will only constrain any possible positive developments in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
"Despise the enemy strategically, but take him seriously tactically." Mao Tse-Tung
The Palestinian leadership should alter the Palestinian strategy, a new strategy should be considered that will have a better chance to achieve the Palestinian aspiration, and could put an end to the internal chaos. The President should consider disbanding the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian strategy should be based on fully embracing the Beirut Arab League Summit Peace Plan from 2002 and the Arab world should then be called upon to honestly and sincerely fill the vacuum and prevent a Palestinian economical disaster.
"The two powers which in my opinion constitute a wise man are those of bearing and forbearing. Epictetus
The only promising solution can be found in the previous Arab initiative that can also be merged with the idea of and international trusteeship for Palestine. The initiative should begin with a declaration regarding the end of the failed Oslo agreement. The Palestinian leadership, supported by the Arab world, should call for an international conference that would advance a permanent agreement, with a timetable for implementation. During the agreed period, the Arab countries should provide the means and financial support, as well the institutional building, technical, and security, and at the end of the period, the Palestinians will achieve full sovereignty. The adoption of the Arab League Initiative of Beirut 2002 should put enough moral pressure on the members of the League that they will take their commitments to Palestine more seriously.
"It is not once nor twice but times without number that the same ideas make their appearance in the world." Aristotle
The merit of this initiative is that it is combined with the idea of trusteeship that will empower the international community to end the Israeli occupation. Additionally, the Palestinian leadership should adopt less rigid positions, which have led the Palestinians to nowhere. Under an international trusteeship, negotiations between the parties would commence and it would be possible to move forward towards agreements without facing daily security crises and with a more secure economic situation. Based on the Clinton principles, which were accepted by both sides, it would be possible to advance and to secure an agreement that would redeem both sides from their daily suffering and the prolonged continuing conflict.
Khaled Duzdar is the Co-Director of IPCRI’s Strategic Affairs Unit (Khaled@ipcri.org)