Osama Al Sharif - As is turns out that the Obama vision for a Middle East peace is a flop. Too
much hype and drumming about, but in the end the decade-old political stalemate
has become the proverbial elephant in the room. Washington has run out of ideas
and the Palestinians have no more chips to put on the table. The Arabs stand by
their peace initiative, a great accomplishment that was never really
appreciated by the international community. Israel, for the moment, appears
If the peace talks ever resume they will be an exercise in futility; too
much noise but no lasting breakthroughs. The stumbling blocks are real enough
and it now appears that the peace train has finally run out of steam. It’s a
great loss to all because the alternatives are horrifying. There are too many
scenarios to ponder, but none look good for the Palestinians who had struggled
heroically for decades, and against unbelievable odds, to achieve their
The two-state solution, with all its drawbacks, had arrived at least twenty
years late. Even when it was seriously embraced by the United States, in the
early Bush Jr. years, the elements that were needed to put this thing together
had already unraveled.
At one point in time Israel had decided that it can give back Gaza,
negotiate over the Golan, delineate final borders with Lebanon and Jordan, but
it could never leave the West Bank, or allow the Palestinians to have their
independent state there. Whatever the Arab world was putting on the table, and
it was a lot, it could never equal in worth the territories Israel calls Judea
and Samaria. Jerusalem was always off limits.
It is a sobering reality, one that Arabs and Palestinians never fully
absorbed. It is one that Israel had invested in for decades in collusion with
the Americans. And as this reality sinks in, the daunting possibilities for the
future open up.
The demise of the peace process, the one that was launched in Madrid,
negotiated in Oslo and celebrated in the White Rose garden is dead. It is
foolish to believe otherwise. This is good news for the radicals on both sides
of the divide. The Israelis began their systematic dismantling of the peace process
right after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by a Zionist zealot.
The Palestinians, and the Arabs behind them, hung on but failed to read the
scribbling on the wall. The election of both Ariel Sharon and George Bush in
2000 was followed by Al Aqsa Intifada and the siege of Yasser Arafat until his
mysterious death in 2004. Gaza was vacated by Sharon but was never free of
Israeli hegemony. The war on terror and Israel’s assaults on Lebanon and Gaza
left the region in tatters. The Palestinians were slowly nudged off the center
stage. Their historic tragedy of Palestine was cleverly diminished.
So it is no wonder that President Obama’s optimism, and that of the rest of
the world, vis-à-vis the prospects of realizing peace in the Middle East, was
greatly exaggerated. In truth the Road Map had become irrelevant as do all
previously agreed to understandings and agreements between Israel and the PNA.
None of the future scenarios look good or promising. Jewish settlements in
the West Bank have dynamited the foundations of the future Palestinian state.
For millions of Palestinian refugees and their host countries the gruesome
specter of resettlement is looming large. The best that the PNA can achieve is
a sort of enlarged self-rule over disjointed Palestinians enclaves with
lucrative economic incentives. Gaza is unlikely to be united, politically, with
the West Bank.
This is how the current Israeli government of Benyamin Netanyahu and his
ultra right allies see things. And this is precisely what they will keep
promoting to the Obama administration.
Countries which host large number of Palestinian refugees will reject this
scenario-as they had done for years. But the region is in disarray and no
sovereign government can survive without economic aid and political support. It
is easy to destabilize little countries, employ all sorts of pressure and
convince leaders to see things in a different light.
From Israel’s vantage point such schemes can work. Fundamental beliefs can
be amended and principles are always negotiable. Such change in perceptions is
already happening. In the view of many, Iran is more dangerous to the region
than Israel. Islamists terrorists hate both Arab governments and Israel.
America’s enemies can also be those of Arabs and Israelis. The strategic
doctrines that had governed this region for decades are shifting fast.
Israel’s vision for the future of the Middle East will likely permeate
through foreign and Arab capitals. Should we be shocked if Obama adopts
variations of this new vision soon?
Israel is an occupying power that has the force and the political backing to
maintain its occupation. The Palestinians can hardly rely on Arab support as
they fight their last political battle. Off course they could resist and they
must, but to do so they have to unite and find ways to get out of the
entanglements of almost 20 years of fruitless negotiations with their