An escalation in diplomatic efforts has also been accompanied by an escalation in Israeli pressure against the Palestinians on the ground – a high level Egyptian visit to Washington by Egyptian presidential advisor Usama Al Baz, a diplomatic European initiative being discussed in the region by way of German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and an initiative from Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres to resume some kind of political contacts directly with the Palestinian Authority.
Unfortunately, all these efforts have no chance of success whatsoever for the simple reason that they did not bring or promise to bring any change in political positions or practices. Rather, these are efforts that concentrate on procedural changes and achievements on the one hand, and which simply repeat certain components of previously failed political initiatives and efforts such as the [CIA chief George] Tenet and [former US senator George] Mitchell initiatives.
Peres’ moves have been instigated by internal Israeli politics. The growing percentage of Israelis who do not expect Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to succeed in bringing them security seems to have inspired Peres to try to add a line of political offensive against the Palestinians to accompany the unsuccessful military and economic line of offensives that Sharon has been pursuing.
But as long as Peres has not come up with substantial changes in the Israeli political position – such as a commitment to resume negotiations from the point they left off or commitment to resume the implementation of articles in the signed agreements that Israel has failed to implement, or any other sign that would signal to the Palestinians the possibility of ending the occupation peacefully – they will be doomed to failure.
The Egyptian and American efforts, which seem to include only one new element from those tried before, which is an economic aid package, has no chance of survival either because they do not aim to stop the Israeli practices of siege and campaign of killing. Neither do they give the Palestinians any prospect for ending the occupation.
These Egyptian/American efforts are instigated by internal Egyptian politics whereby the Egyptian government is squeezed between mounting public pressure to show more practical support and solidarity with the Palestinians – basically by a more hostile attitude and relations with Israel including closing the Israeli embassy and abrogating the peace treaty with Israel é and American pressure on the Egyptian government to pressure the Palestinian leadership for a more moderate position. Keeping in mind the lack of local popularity this Egyptian government has and its heavy dependence on US support, it is easy to understand the kind of motives behind their diplomatic efforts.
As long as these diplomats are unable to tell the Palestinians what they will achieve politically after the violence between the two sides has ended, it will be difficult to convince the Palestinians to remain quiet while being bombarded, killed and kept under siege. That is why initiatives that lack a political dimension and concentrate on the security “symptoms” of the conflict have no chance of success.
And as long as Sharon is still in power and as long as the Americans and/or the international community are not able or willing to force Israel to abide by international law, which for example, prohibits Israel’s settlement policy and calls on it to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for ending the occupation, the Palestinians will continue their resistance to the illegal and belligerent Israeli military occupation and Israel will continue its violent attempts to consolidate that occupation. This typical decolonization process will inevitably continue as long as there is occupation and as long as there is no political prospect for its end.
Mr. Ghassan Khatib is the publisher of the Palestine Report.