Common Ground News Service (CGNews) – January 12, 2006

 

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A Bridge over Troubled Waters

Khaled Duzdar *

 

Jerusalem - The daily dramatic developments concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict make it difficult to predict the proper remedy for solving the conflict or anticipating an acceptable realistic cure for its end. The next three months will be critical during which time the lines will be drawn for the future relations between the two sides that will determine any new future prospects for peace making.

 

On the Palestinian side, the situation is still vague as to whether the elections will be carried out as scheduled or postponed. If elections are postponed will the delay bring with it a new wave of violent incidents? Will the elections create a new chapter in Palestinian history that will bring real positive changes enabling Abu Mazen to finally solve the massive spreading chaos and empower his authority? If Hamas wins the elections will we witness a new zealot's theocracy in the region? Or will the Palestinian Authority cancel the results and imposes a Coup d'etat, like in Algeria, that will lead to a prolonged vendetta between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority?

 

In a situation where the Authority loses control and vigilantes rule the street, Fateh militias will continue to destabilize the society painting themselves as the “nation's saviours” when in fact they will become the “Achilles' heel” of the society. Even today Abu Mazen finds himself in a deep mess confronting many enemies all working for their own interests and agendas. The national agenda has been forgotten and even his party is fragmented beyond recognition. It is clear even before the elections that Fateh has lost its monopoly of control. The public seems to be fed up with Fateh which opens the way for a Hamas victory with an overwhelming majority!

 

In the Israeli arena, things are no less confusing. The new Kadima party and the sickness of Prime Minister Sharon will reshuffle the cards again. Who is going to replace Sharon as Prime Minister? What platform will they develop regarding the peace process? Will the newly elected Prime Minister continue with Sharon's unilateral policy? The unilateral policy gave Prime Minister Sharon overwhelming public support. Will the coming Israeli government keep the same momentum? If the Likud, headed by Netanyahu, returns to the political scene, what will be the Likud policy? What will be Netanyahu's vision for peace? Or if Peretz and his Labour Party are going to be given the opportunity, will Peretz create a momentum to advance peace with the Palestinians?

 

The conditions in both the Israeli and Palestinian arenas are difficult and more complicated than ever before. It appears that we are entering a vacuum with little chance of advancing the peace process over a long period of time. This vacuum is not due to the absence of a platform but the absence of the man who sets the rules (Sharon). It will be difficult for any new Israeli Prime Minister to finish what Sharon started. Does any other Israeli leader have the strength, the determination and the public backing to continue dismantling the settlements and the occupation? If not, then the future of no solution and continuing conflict will leave deeply negative effects on the two sides.

 

With grave possibilities for these negative developments, it is worthwhile to already begin examining future Israeli-Palestinian relations. Is there going to be a bridge over very troubled waters? The principle of a two state solution is the only possible one for the two nations to achieve their national aspirations. The road map for a two state solution and its parameters are well known to all. There seems to be a general consensus amongst both peoples for the need for a peaceful solution which will put an end to the bloody conflict and reciprocal bloodshed. But with all of this known, the way to get there is still quite remote.

 

There is only one way to reach any solution to the conflict – through negotiations. Negotiations are still the only valid option. In order to begin a new negotiated process both sides must stop claiming that there is no partner on the other side. Agreements can be reached. They can be implemented gradually under an agreed framework and timetable. The Palestinian state can gradually build its institutions. There needs be a freeze in creating new facts on the ground as these will only worsen the situation. Negotiations need to focus on the qualities of the two states and how best to guarantee the viability of the Palestinian state and the peace process as a whole.

 

The two sides need to overcome the mistrust between them which is their main obstacle. The building of trust is first and foremost dependent on the will of the two leaders. Both sides now need leaders who are trustworthy and who will both hear and heed the call of their people who want an end to the conflict. We need leaders who will advance the mission of building a "Bridge over Troubled Waters."

 

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* Khaled Duzdar is the Co-Director of the Strategic Affairs Unit of IPCRI – the Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information www.ipcri.org