On to Geneva, The Israeli / Palestinian Peace Process

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I was in Jerusalem when news of the Geneva Accord broke in the Israeli newspapers. Ariel Sharon, the Israeli piñata, exploded with rage. On the eve of the signing of the accord December 1st, Sharon is still exploding. Hmmm. Must be something useful going on.

Sharon has been a very destructive influence on Israel. He has shattered public confidence, alienated the young and decimated the Israeli economy. In Sharon’s eyes, anyone who questions his suicidal leadership is a traitor.

Indeed, you could say Sharon has been the ultimate suicide bomber: his suicidal policies have exploded the myths of Israeli economic and military superiority. Israel has been laid low by a rag tag band of Palestinian adversaries. Now he is reduced to opposing peace.

Of course, pro-Israeli supporters will tell you-without a touch of irony-that "Israel is a democracy" and that "people voted for Sharon." Indeed they did. Putting aside the question of the sanity of anyone who would support Ariel Sharon as a leader, just what is Sharon so exercised about now?

The Geneva Accord is a detailed document that seeks to outline a final settlement. It picks up where the Taba negotiations in 2001 ended. It is satisfactory to neither side. But because of the careful manner in which the contents of the Accord were negotiated and drafted, the Accord represents an utter repudiation of Sharon’s claim there "is no one to negotiate with." The Accord lays bare the bankruptcy of Sharon’s hopelessly inept and mendacious leadership

In recent days Sharon has been reduced to lunatic ravings. He has threatened to "impose" a "peace" on Palestinians, and to impose "painful concessions" on himself? What is that man smoking?

Is the Geneva Accord the be-all and end-all to peace? Of course not. But the mere announcement that it has been negotiated, and the mere fact that it will be signed with great fanfare in Switzerland on Monday, is a dagger pointed at the heart of Sharon’s evil agenda.

Israelis complain there are insufficient security guarantees in the Accord. Guess what? There are no security guarantees anywhere, any more. There are no security guarantees in Chicago, New York or Washington. When the alternative is perpetual war, there is great security in taking risks for peace.

Palestinians complain the "right of return" has been surrendered. The right of return can never be surrendered. The historic injustice imposed on Palestinians by American and European politicians after World War II will stand and speak for itself.

But I have learned two things in the law that are helpful to analyzing this Accord. First, even a bad settlement is preferable to a good trial. I recently helped settle a case where the attorneys could not agree. I knew the settlement was unfair, but I also knew that a fair settlement might arrive after the victim’s death. We worked out the best deal we could.

Whether the Accord is a good deal or bad deal is functionally unimportant. I believe that once peace breaks out, these two peoples will come together. Future generations will ask: how could our ancestors have been so violent, for so long? Both Palestinians and Israelis have contributions to make to each other. The Accord is an agreement that can serve as the foundation for peace.

Second, lawyers know that when everyone is unhappy, you are probably as close to a fair deal as can be expected.

Why has Sharon reacted so violently against the Accord? Why have pro-Israeli journalists such as Charles Krauthammer in the United States condemned the process?

First, the Accord was negotiated with the active assistance of the Swiss, the British and other European countries. The United States, whose impact on the Middle East has proven so disastrous, had no role in the process. American inaction, and incompetence, has been trumped by European action. The Accord represents a "new Europe" trouncing American foreign policy in its own (new) backyard, the Middle East. Without firing a shot.

It is not surprising the U.S. has only gradually warmed to the Accord.

Second, while Palestinians are left with a somewhat nebulous limit on their physical right to return, there is no ambiguity where Israeli settlers are concerned: Out! Sharon’s decade-old dreams of conquest, occupation, colonization and
subjugation of the Palestinian people are shattered.

Third, it must stick in Sharon’s craw that Yasser Arafat has been able to insert himself in the process of the Accord, and therefore in the process of peace, while Sharon has not. The utter stupidity of American policy, in marching in lock step behind the Israeli regime in isolating Arafat, has also proven to be bankrupt, idiotic and counterproductive.

Mr. Arafat is no choirboy. But the hard reality for Americans has to be that there are no choirboys in the Middle East, on either side. Therefore, when you see people singing, don’t cavil they are singing out of tune. Encourage them!

What is the bottom line? America loses this round, Europe wins. Sharon is on the way out, Arafat lives to fight another day. And a new generation of leaders on both sides is taking charge from an older generation that has squandered chance after change to negotiate peace.

If, as polls suggest, 80% of the Israeli people want peace, and I believe they do, this is a deal they can live with. If, as we know they do, Palestinians also want peace, this is an Accord that can lead to a nation.

Full disclosure: I wear many hats in the Israeli – Palestinian conflict so my views are impartial but not completely so. I have heard Yossi Beilin privately on more than one occasion. He is an outstanding future leader for Israel. I meet privately with Israeli as well as Palestinian leaders in my trips to the Middle East. I am an active supporter of and participant in the Israeli peace movement. As any reader will readily grasp, I am a supporter of Palestinian national rights. And, in the middle of this cacophony, I seek to follow a course that will benefit and serve American foreign policy and the needs and interests of Illinoisans. Whew.

Peace be with you.

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