A report titled “The Emperor Has No Clothes: Palestinians and the End of the Peace Process” was issued this week by the International Crisis Group, asking: “Does anybody still believe in the Middle East Peace Process?”
The bottom line of the report appears at the end of its executive summary: the current process, even if it yields some local progress, “will not bring about a durable and lasting peace. The first step in breaking what has become an injurious addiction to a futile process is to recognize that it is so – to acknowledge, at long last, that the emperor has no clothes.”
The International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict. Its president and CEO, Canadian Louise Arbour, served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2004 to 2008.
Pointing out that nineteen years after Oslo and thirteen years after a final settlement was supposed to be reached, current prospects for a two-state solution are “as dim as ever,” the report says that “the international community mechanically goes through the motions, with as little energy as conviction,” and that “the parties most directly concerned, the Israeli and Palestinian people, appear long ago to have lost hope.”
Who is to blame? Take your pick: the U.S. presidential campaign, the Arab Spring, Israel’s focus on Iran and Europe’s financial trouble have all joined to instill a hiatus of the peace process, according to the report.
Surprisingly, though, the IOG report seems to think that such a hiatus is badly needed, providing an opportunity to reconsider basic pillars of the process.
Obviously, the report doesn’t go so far as to discard the two-state solution, because it believes that “no other option can possibly attract mutual assent.” It also doesn’t recommend giving up on negotiations altogether, “for no outcome will be imposed from outside.”
What the report does suggest is “to incorporate new issues and constituencies; rethink Palestinian strategy to alter the balance of power; and put in place a more effective international architecture.”
The report does not question the popular view that Israel would have given the Palestinian their own state long ago, if only the latter ever agreed to take Yes for an answer. It puts the blame on the Palestinian leadership’s lack of vision and “irresoluteness,” but argues that they probably couldn’t behave differently.
“Whatever it (the PA) chooses to do would carry a potentially heavy price and at best uncertain gain. Negotiations are viewed by a majority of Palestinians as a fool’s errand, so a decision to resume without fulfillment of Abbas’s demands (settlement freeze and agreed terms of reference) could be costly for his movement’s future. His hesitation is all the stronger now that he has persuaded himself that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s positions are incompatible with a two-state solution.”
Still, the report continues, “a decisive Palestinian move at the UN (whether at the General Assembly or in seeking agency membership) likely would prompt a cut-off in U.S. aid and suspension of tax clearance revenue transfers by Israel. A joint government with Hamas could trigger similar consequences without assurance that elections could be held or territorial unity between the West Bank and Gaza restored. Getting rid of the PA could backfire badly, leaving many public employees and their families penniless while also leading to painful Israeli counter-measures.”
The report is essentially calling the peace process fraudulent: “The inescapable truth, almost two decades into the peace process, is that all actors are now engaged in a game of make-believe: that a resumption of talks in the current context can lead to success; that an agreement can be reached within a short timeframe; that the Quartet is an effective mediator; that the Palestinian leadership is serious about reconciliation, or the UN, or popular resistance, or disbanding the PA.”