Monday, November 1, 2010
Bleak Future For The Middle East
By Hassan A. Barari
This comment was published in Jordan Times on 2/11/2010
Few could forget the fourth of November 1995 when Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin delivered his last speech. Some 400,000 - of the once vibrant peace camp - had gathered to express their support for his policies of peace with the Palestinians. Few moments after, a zealot student from Bar Ilan University shot him dead.
A few days ago, the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, stood in the same place, commemorating Rabin’s memory. Absent that night were the hundreds of thousands that once belonged to the Israeli peace camp. Only a few thousand people attended the event. The modest turnout came as a statement about the retreat of the peace camp in Israel. No one can claim that there is a powerful peace camp in Israel any more.
Much has changed in 15 years. Israel’s society moved to the right in a way never expected before. Nowadays, it is simply not possible to think of a peace coalition in Israel. Israelis, on the whole, gave up on the possibility of making peace with the Palestinians. So did the latter, for that matter. Much troubling is the fact that the gap between the two sides has widened, becoming unbridgeable.
It is hard to avoid the feeling that with the advent of new actors (Iran and its proxies), the situation has been further complicated. For instance, how can Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sign a peace agreement in which he has to concede much to the Israelis? It is unthinkable. This accounts for his refusal to resume peace negotiations with the Israelis until they freeze settlement activities.
The Palestinian leadership is both week and isolated. Additionally, Palestinians lost hope and are more preoccupied with daily life issues, such as moving from one city to another, which can take hours thanks to the existence of Israel’s provocative checkpoints.
On the other hand, the once positive third party (the United States) is no longer influential. The American influence in the region as a whole has waned considerably. Implicit in all statements coming from Washington is that the administration cannot force either party to the conflict to make peace.
Coupled with this is the ascendance of Iran as a player that can spoil any effort to bring about peace in the Middle East. If the peace process fails, which is a likely scenario, Iran and its proxies will have reason to celebrate.
Israelis and Americans alike understand this logic yet seem incapable of pushing the peace process forward. The problem is that many Israelis believe that the status quo is sustainable.
Contrary to what they claim, peace is not on the agenda. Many in our region, chief among them King Abdullah, warned repeatedly that in the absence of peace, Israel’s security cannot be maintained.
It is easy to understand that a war could erupt if the process fails.
Under the circumstances, the nice words uttered by Peres last Friday rang hollow; the reality on the ground is bleak.
The majority of pundits and analysts believe that peace is an illusion. The two parties cannot simply wake up tomorrow and sign a peace agreement even if they would like to see this eventuality. Anyway, Peres’ words were unheard. The main TV stations in Israel refused to broadcast the event alive. This can only mean that the audience and viewers in Israel no longer believe in the message that Peres tried to convey.
In a nutshell, there is no peace camp in Israel and the way to influence Israel is through Washington.