What the ISG report forgot to say about Palestine

Daily News Egypt
6 Min Read

The recently released Iraq Study Group report enthralled people from all sides of the political spectrum in the Arab and Islamic world. One might even say the report set a precedent by meeting with the approval of almost everyone in the region–a rare and unique instance indeed. Of course, each party used and read the report according to its own perspective. The “moderate regimes commended the report for calling for direct American involvement in solving the Middle East’s problems, especially the core question – ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – because leaving the conflict unresolved and allowing Israel a free hand to continue its unilateral measures against Palestinians and against their land has caused serious embarrassment to these regimes. On the other hand, “hard line countries, mainly Iran and Syria and the forces they support, called the report proof of the need for the United States to fundamentally reconsider its policies in the Middle East. There are two key sentences in the report. One refers directly to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and states that the US “does its ally Israel no favors in avoiding direct involvement to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. The other goes on to say that by pursuing a comprehensive regional campaign – the so-called New Diplomatic Offensive -Washington “would help marginalize extremists and terrorists, promote US values and interests, and improve America’s global image. The Bush administration was sent a clear message by Hamas’ victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections last January. That message was that the political process after the 1991 Madrid conference has been a complete failure. Notably, the report refers to Madrid rather than the subsequent Oslo process as the model to follow for progress. A byproduct of the failure of Oslo has been the failure of Fatah, which pursued the Oslo process. Thus, failing to meet Palestinian national aspirations, Fatah failed at the polls. The radicalization of Palestinian society is not the result of growing “fundamentalism, but a result of Palestinian suffering deepened while and because illegal Jewish settlement building has accelerated and the West Bank wall and other punitive and oppressive Israeli measures against Palestinians have been implemented. All this, despite the Palestinian “moderate calls for peace. In this context, when the report talks about the “need for direct US involvement, a crucial term is missing: neutral. The US was directly involved during the Clinton administration, and that was one of the main reasons for the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Why? Palestinians finally saw clearly that the US could not and would not exert real pressure on Israel to achieve a just and permanent peace. The Iraq Study Group report supports a negotiated peace between the Palestinians and Israelis that could lead to a Palestinian state according to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the land for peace formula. However, it fails to mention the “Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 or “the 1967 borders or “an international peace conference. I don’t believe those terms were missing by accident, especially under the authorship of two figures known for their experience in the Middle East. The report gives impetus to “moderate Palestinians to renew, yet again, their calls for a resumption of the negotiation process, a process that we have already seen will waste 10 or 15 years and lead nowhere as long as vague terminology such as “based on Resolutions 242 and 338 continues to be used. Camp David II negotiations were “based on these two resolutions and such language failed to pressure Israel to withdraw from all territories occupied in 1967 – the only genuine hope for the success of a two-state solution. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Egyptian leadership and the Arab Peace Initiative, even Hamas, have all recently talked about the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the 1967 borders. Even the Europeans have started to call for an international peace conference to solve the Palestinian cause, once and for all. The timing of the report will be crucial for the next US administration. This one is beyond hope. But should that next administration translate the report’s recommendation for active diplomacy to mean yet another round of fruitless negotiations, it will only serve to provide Israel with more time to consolidate its “facts on the ground, culminating finally in a Camp David III. Once again, it will result in failure. Was it so difficult for those who prepared the report to provide the specific features of the future Palestinian state they envision? I don’t think so. Khader Khader is a media analyst with the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center. This commentary first appeared at bitterlemons.org, an online newsletter publishing contending views of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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