Will Something Come of it? Adam Keller’s evaluation of the Middle East Roadmap

Israelis and Palestinians, we have all seen it before – promising
ceasefires broken into terrible scenes of bloodshed, partial
withdrawals which ended with the tanks coming back even more
brutally, prisoners released and arrested again.
Can it possibly end differently this time around?

2003.07.02

“Will it work this time? Maybe, just maybe.” You can hear it from
Israelis and from Palestinians, from committed peace activists to shop-
keepers who had voted for Sharon: a mixture of hope and scepticism,
still prevalent on the third day of the fragile “hudna” – Arabic for “cease-
fire,” a concept drawn from an ancient Islamic tradition which has in
the past year entered into day to day Hebrew.

Israelis and Palestinians, we have all seen it before – promising
ceasefires broken into terrible scenes of bloodshed, partial
withdrawals which ended with the tanks coming back even more
brutally, prisoners released and arrested again.
Can it possibly end differently this time around?

The reasons for scepticism are many and obvious. The Israeli military
commanders make no secret of not having wanted this cease-fire –
which is potentially more dangerous than the Palestinian rogue groups
who so far defy the cease-fire. (Ironically, they are not drawn from
Islamic militants, but from outlying groups of the Fatah organization,
the central structure of which was all too successfully targeted by the
IDF.)

There is a fundamental difference of opinion on what the whole thing is
about. Sharon, his ministers and his generals are stridently demanding
the disarming and dismantling of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. In this
demand, which would inevitably entail a full-scale Palestinian civil war,
Sharon seems to be backed by the Bush Administration. For their part,
the Palestinians have undertaken to enforce the cease-fire and prevent
attacks on Israelis, including attacks on soldiers and settlers – which
was among Palestinians a long-debated point. But they also made
abundantly clear that they have no intention whatsoever of presenting
Sharon with the spectacle of bloody battles among Palestinians in the
streets of Gaza.

Assuming that this major hurdle will be somehow overcome, a far more
fundamental discrepancy remains unresolved. When Sharon speaks of
“a Palestinian State,” he means a truncated series of enclaves
embracing no more than half of the the West Bank, and surrounded on
all sides by Israeli-held territory studded with military camps and
settlements. Hardly a “viable state” as envisaged in the famous
Roadmap.

In furtherance of that aim, Sharon is continuing full ahead
with settlement construction, fully authorized by the government and
paid for from its budget – while the much-trumpeted “dismantling of
unauthorized settlement outposts” has dwindled into unconvincing
farce. Moreover, Sharon is busily marking out his version of the
eventual border in the form of the so-called Separation Fence
(“Apartheid Wall” as the Israeli and Palestinian protesters call it: http://www.gush-shalom.org/thewall/index.html).
Day by day, as this monster advances across fields and olive
orchards, Palestinian villagers continue to lose their land and livelihood –
notwithstanding the public expression of displeasure by National
Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice.

Why still feel even a bit of hope? Not just because people are alive who
might be dead otherwise, nor just because some manifestations of the
occupation such as roadblocks in the Gaza Strip have been moved
away.

What is far more significant is the general feeling on both sides that
the military option has been tried to the full and beyond. No Israeli
general could point to significant results to be expected from
continuing to hold down the Palestinian population. Nor can Palestinian
militants credibly promise any good result of further suicide bombings.
The two societies are exhausted; the two economies ravaged.
Palestinian poverty goes much deeper but also more and more Israelis
are unable to make ends meet.

As many commentators remark, the “War of a Thousand Days” is
ending – if it is indeed ending – in a stalemate, with no clear victor.
Considering the enormous discrepancy in economic and military power
such a result is an enormous tribute to Palestinian endurance and
steadfastness.

In a way, the very scepticism on both sides could turn out to be a
blessing. One of the inbuilt failures of “Oslo” was that a preliminary
agreement which left the most important issues open, was
ceremoniously presented as if peace had already been reached.
Everything thereafter could hardly be anything but a let-down. This
time, with expectations extremely low among Israelis and Palestinians
alike – any surprises would have to be for the good.

Author: Adam Keller

News Service: Gush Shalom: Press release

URL: http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1962