September 11th, 2010 10:39 EST
Americans Don't Have The Whole Mid-East Peace Talks Picture
A guide to the Arab-Israeli peace talks
Editor`s note: Born into a military family, Craig Perkins served in the U.S. Army, principally military intelligence but also infantry, armor, and research and development. After retiring he worked as a U.S. Department of Justice statistician analyzing first jail/prison data and later crime victim data. Since retiring he lives with his wife in Chantilly, Va.
By Craig A. Perkins
As the news of another determined peace effort flashed across the various news channels, I am sure there were a set of responses: 1) not again, 2) this time for sure, and 3) who cares. I grudgingly admit falling among the first group. Below are a few reasons for foreboding on such an important endeavor.
Hamas and Iran: the ignored elephant and the elephant handler Hamas is a terrorist organization, no doubt. It is a terrorist organization that has not fired so much as a single bullet at an American. Its hated enemy is Israel.
Hamas is the freely elected government of Gaza. Before and after the election, Hamas was the only organization furnishing desperately needed social services:
1. Hamas ran all health-care services in Gaza, including both pediatric and adult dental care, prenatal care, psychological counseling and childhood nutritional services.
2. Hamas ran all schools and provided scholarships for study abroad.
3. Hamas provided waste removal and treatment along with water purification.
Only this fundamentalist group provided and still provides all critical social services in Gaza.
While Hamas smuggles weapons into Gaza, it also brings in much needed forbidden supplies: medicines, food, feminine hygiene products, construction materials, hospital and school supplies.
The reality inside the Gaza Strip is that someone bombs something, killing innocents. Then in retaliation someone shells something and more innocent people die, prompting another mindless round of bombings, shellings and killings.
Who started this insane cycle of endless slaughter is about as important as whether the chicken or the egg came first "an interesting intellectual discussion with no practical application. Israelis understandably hate and justifiably distrust Hamas. Gaza residents understandably hate and justifiably distrust Israel.
So what does Hamas get out of a peace deal? Absolutely nothing. Hamas leadership calculates that Gaza residents gain nothing with peace and lose nothing with violence. With such a mentality Hamas sees no reason to promote peace in the region.
After the Israeli incursion into Gaza when the army wantonly destroyed about 60 percent of all infrastructure, there was little interest in letting bygones be bygones.
The Israeli navy has prohibited Gaza fishermen from deep-water fishing in an attempt to eliminate smuggling. Decades of shallow-water fishing have decimated fish beds. The Israeli navy has fired upon and at times sunk Palestinian fishing trawlers.
Iran is using Hamas and Hezbollah (a pure terrorist organization) as tools of foreign policy. Since neither the West nor Israel will enter into a dialogue with Iran, Teheran has little incentive to rein in Hamas.
The civil war within the Iranian ruling elite minimizes any chance to conduct a successful negotiation. It`s much like the back-and-forth within the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. When any Democrat suggested diplomatic discussions with the Soviet Union or the People`s Republic of China, the Republicans denounced such efforts as soft on communism. A similar situation now exists in Tehran: any member of the ruling elite suggesting rapprochement with the West is accused of being soft on Western decadence and Israeli Zionism.
Two kinds of Zionists American Christian Zionists, a growing segment of the Republican Party, believe that the way to precipitate the return of the Messiah is to see the growth of Israel and the final great battle, Armageddon. The Israeli military grows, increasing the chances of war in the region (at least in their world view). Then with war comes the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ.
American Jewish Zionists pour millions of dollars into the American political system to elect national office holders who offer unconditional support for Israel.
Weak U.S. President With approval ratings in the middle to low 40s President Barack Obama cannot face down the outcry that would follow if the United States forced Israel to make unpopular concessions to achieve a peace pact. If the President were more popular, with approval ratings in the high 50s, then the U.S. administration would have more room to maneuver.
With U.S. foreign policy seen as unqualified support for Israel by all major players in the Middle East, no player believes the United States can be an honest broker in these negotiations. The Palestinian Authority will see any suggestions through the prism of a U.S. tilt towards Israel on all matters. Would the West Bank residents really trust the Obama administration to be balanced and fair?
Finally, no American president in such a weakened political state would dare begin talks with Iran for fear of the inevitable accusation of being weak on terrorism.
Weak Israeli Prime Minister With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sitting atop a paper-thin coalition, the extreme factions of the governing majority have a great deal of power and are insisting on not merely a continuation of the building program on the West Bank but also an expansion with a commitment to the dream of Greater (Eretz) Israel. If the prime minister agrees to a halt to any building program on the West Bank, the extreme factions of his coalition would walk out, forcing new elections, which Netanyahu cannot survive politically.
An additional impediment to peace talks is the insistence on Jerusalem as the capital of a Greater Israel. Right now, Israel is digging up a 400-year-old Muslim cemetery to allow the Netanyahu government to erect condominiums.
Weak Palestinian Prime Minister Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas does not have any latitude to make concessions. For Abbas, discussions must resolve: 1) occupation of the West Bank, 2) the Palestinian right to return to Israel, 3) partitioning East Jerusalem, and 4) control of the water.
Abbas must convince West Bank residents that there is something to gain with peace and something to lose with continued violence. Right now the Palestinians see little gain in a peace settlement, particularly one that permits Israel to remain in control of 5 to 15 percent of the West Bank.
Second, Abbas must show that Hamas violence against Israel is hurting Palestinian prospects in the West Bank, no easy task.
Finally, the Palestinian Authority must insist that Israel extend the building freeze that is now in place. Abbas must demonstrate to his constituents that he can force Israel to make concessions.
Conflicting core issues For Israelis, bilateral talks must begin without preconditions. For the Palestinian Authority, all negotiations must work towards resolving a set of core issues.
Israel now controls the flow of potable water in this parched land. At times, Israelis shut down the water flow to the Palestinian farmers, allowing their crops to die.
To the Palestinians, expansion of the Israeli settlement program on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem is an open, festering sore. The existence of about 500,000 Israelis living on the West Bank and the imminent expiration September 28 on building on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem is truly a complicating issue.
The Palestinian position is that continued building after the moratorium will cause an immediate termination of talks. But if Netanyahu does not extend the building moratorium, his rejectionist coalition partners, like the foreign minister, will walk out of the government.
The partitioning of Jerusalem and the continued Israeli claim that the entire city is their capital promises that all negotiations will be great theater.
Right of return is a core issue to all Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority insists Israel needs to permit all Palestinians driven out since 1947 to return to their original lands, which are now in Israeli hands.
The end of occupation of the West Bank is a critical issue. During previous negotiations Israel offered to return 95 percent of the occupied territory, which the Palestinians immediately rejected. The Palestinians demand a 100 percent handover of the West Bank.
Who will control both sides of any established border? Israel insists that border security will remain in their hands. The Palestinian Authority demands the right to control their frontier.
This present peace effort has the support of Jordan and Egypt. There are other major regional players missing. Syria harbors Hamas leadership and Saudi Arabia funds many of the Palestinian efforts.
Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia proposed eight years ago a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza in exchange for full normalization of relations with Israel. That would mean, most importantly, Arab recognition of Israel`s right to exist. It`s a big plan, calling for a sea change in attitude, and it would require the Arab League`s approval. It holds forth great sacrifices and great rewards. If it were proposed by Abdullah II of Jordan it would not have the same authority because Saudi Arabia is the home of Wahhabism, which has fueled the flames of Muslim radicalism
Of course, without Iran and Hamas, all efforts to achieve some form of a peace accord may be futile.
Unfortunately, rejectionists in Israeli and Palestinian camps have an all too large veto stamp.
But there are futile causes worthy of a noble effort. I believe this is such an endeavor. For the sakes of innocents on both sides of this war, let us hope there is at least one miracle left in the bag.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal Latte first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers New review of Far from Algiers
Artists Hill, Literal Latte fiction first prize
Djelloul Marbrook Blog
His mother`s art: www.juanitaguccione.com His aunt`s art: www.irenericepereira.com