Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
The Photo Before the Storm:
Peace Talks Already Failed
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, September 13, 2010
A picture is not always worth a thousand words. The recently
released photographs of Palestinian and Israeli leaders in Washington
during their first direct talks in many months certainly don’t say
It was the status quo at its best, a mere
procession of regional and US leaders before hungry cameramen. The leaders
promised “not to spare any effort” and praised the undeniable altruism
embedded in the very concept of “peace”. Israeli Prime Minister repeated
the martyr-like emphasis of past Israeli leaders regarding the “painful”
compromises and sacrifices required to defeat the many obstacles standing
before them. Mahmoud Abbas – with his expired presidency over a corrupt
Palestinian Authority - smiled, shook hands and spoke unconvincingly about
his hopes and expectations.
Jordanian and Egyptian leaders also
attended. Their presence was purely an endeavor to mark a difference
between this event and the last failed attempt at reaching a peace
agreement. When late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israel’s Ehud
Barak were herded into Camp David under the auspices of then President
Bill Clinton, Arafat was left to fend for himself without any Arab
backing. This left Barak, fully backed by the US, with all the cards. The
process was a mockery then, as it is now.
Today’s badly staged
talks are actually much less promising than the ones of July 2000. Barak
had a considerably serious mandate, while Netanyahu runs a discontented
coalition of largely rightwing fanatics. Arafat, although his popularity
had dwindled, also represented a moral authority and a unifying figure
among all Palestinian factions, including Hamas. Abbas, on the other hand,
sits on the helm of hugely discredited and ineffectual band of contractors
and self-serving politicians. More, Abbas operates with an expired
mandate, and his cabinet members are handpicked to replace the
democratically elected government of Hamas, whose members are either under
siege in Gaza or held in Israeli prisons.
Needless to say, this
latest round of peace talks is seriously lacking in legitimacy and
Firstly, Israel has no interest in guaranteeing any
positive outcome. It is hell-bent on carrying on with its colonization of
the already disconnected West Bank and East Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s
government intends on speeding up such efforts once the temporary
settlement construction freeze expires, only a few days after the second
round of negotiations resume on September 14-15. On the very first day of
talks, Israeli troops also invaded parts of northern Gaza and expanded the
so-called buffer zone by around 300 meters.
As for Abbas, the
problem is compounded. His power is truly feeble in comparison to Israel’s
political supremacy both in Tel Aviv and Washington, and also its near
total control of Abbas’ own domain in the West Bank. Knowing this, one
cannot be both realistic and still hope for ‘painful’ Israeli concessions.
Still Abbas continues to hang around. He might feel he has no other
option, as his absence would both chip away from his miniscule political
worth and risk raising the ire of Washington, his greatest sustainer.
But even if the one-year-long talks miraculously yield an
agreement, Abbas will not be able to sell this agreement to his own
people. The aging leader is barely capable of uniting his own party, which
is no longer the main player in Palestine’s political milieu. Today’s
Fatah is a different Fatah to the one under Arafat in 1993. Its corruption
has grown to the extent that it now functions as a self-serving welfare
organization, whose members get richer through international handouts and
business monopoly orchestrated by Israel.
Equally significant is
the fact that yesterday’s ‘enemies of peace’ have become the legitimate
parties that should actually be involved in any substantial talks with
Israel. They are dismissed because they insist on a paradigm shift in how
talks with Israel are conducted. They argue that any meaningful talks –
especially between vastly unequal powers - must take place with a clear
frame of reference, involving an even-handed third party, and predicated
on the concept of ‘justice’ - not Kissinger’s deceptive ‘peace process’.
The talks must also guarantee the welfare and security of the Palestinian
people in the interim, through a long-term truce guarded by the United
Nations. Peace talks held at gunpoint while the population is forcibly
starved and besieged hardly promises any positive outcome.
we can be sure of is that that the halfhearted peace attempt will garner
nothing good. If an agreement is somehow concocted, it is doomed to fail.
The Palestinian people, the absent but real party in any lasting solution,
will simply not allow it. The Palestinian collective has the tendency to
watch charades to their end, and then react at the opportune moment to
defeat them. Almost every Palestinian revolt in the past has resulted from
similar processes, the Second Palestinian Uprising of 2000 being the most
pertinent example. When Arafat was being humiliated and forced into
submission to US-Israeli diktats, Palestinians of all parties and from all
sections of society rose in anger. Israel understood the revolt as a
Palestinian attempt at extracting concessions and used unprecedented
violence to quell their revolt. Many thousands were killed and wounded,
and the rest is history.
If violence spirals this time around, it
promises to be much worse than before. Those who cling to resistance in
Palestine have been bolstered by the success of Hizbullah in Lebanon and
Hamas in Gaza. More, they are emboldened by their political legitimacy as
a result of the democratic elections of 2006. Predictably, Netanyahu will
not shy away from interpreting Palestinian protests as a conspiracy to
intimidate Israel. The problem with violence is that once it reaches a new
threshold, it rarely retreats to old parameters. What took place in Gaza
at the hand of the Israeli army in 2008-09 was frighteningly genocidal in
its scope. Future violence is likely to stay within this category.
To avoid this, Washington’s strategists really need to reconsider the
long-term consequences of their government’s policies. Obama’s
choreographers might succeed in getting a few leaders to stand in perfect
order before a crowd of reporters, but they will fail to contain the
political chaos that will ensue when the talks fail, as they surely will.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net)
is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom
Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), now available on