Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Launhing pad for a realistic effort?

Nov.27, 2007

Launching pad for a realistic effort?

THE PROTESTS that were held on Tuesday in towns across the West Bank and Gaza City were not against the idea of making peace with Israel. Surveys and opinion polls have established that the vast majority of Palestinians favour a negotiated settlement to end the Israeli occupation of their land on the basis of their legitimate rights but they believe that the US initiative formally launched in Annapolis is stacked against their interests and rights.
Tuesday's demonstrations reflected the Palestinian frustration over what they see as the peace at gunpoint that they would being forced to enter with Israel at some point under the auspices of the United States.
The intensity of the protests would have been considerably less and more positive had the Israeli leadership under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert been more forthcoming in conveying their "good-faith" intention — if indeed they do have it — by making more goodwill gestures as releasing Palestinian prisoners and easing the choking blockade that has paralysed Palestinian life in the West Bank. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would have gone to Annapolis with a stronger mandate to make peace had Olmert met his proposals for prisoner release and removal of blockades that cripple Palestinian movements and economic activities.
It is clear that Olmert has reserved such gestures to be made in piecemeal during the actual negotiations with Abbas that are expected to follow the Annapolis meeting. And the Palestinians are also aware that they would be forced to grant major concessions in return for every one of the piecemeal gestures.
The Palestinians understand very clearly that when US President George W Bush speaks of "difficult compromises" for peace in the Middle East he has only the Palestinians in mind because, in his thinking, they are the only ones expected to partly give up their territorial and political rights in the effort for an agreement with Israel.
That is at the root of the whole problem. The US is keeping a safe distance from living true to binding UN resolutions that reflect international legitimacy and various other documents related to conduct of nations based on the right of everyone to self-determination and to life in security, stability and dignity. Not only that, the US is helping and supporting Israel's refusal to live up to the same international commitments and obligations that Washington is demanding from other countries.
The Palestinian on the street is not really bothered whether Abbas and Olmert issued a joint statement on their intention to make peace. They want a realistic shift in Israel's adamant and stubborn insistence on peace on its own terms, and they have yet to see the slightest change in Israel's thinking and belief in military solutions to every problem.
The Palestinians should not be and could not be accused of being rejectionist. They believe that as things stand today, they stand to lose the most and gain the least.
They want genuine peace that is based on the rights that the UN Charter and every international convention, charter and treaty offer to everyone but that are denied to them. They refuse to accept assurances and promises that they know would not be honoured. They want realistic moves on the ground, and that is where the US faces the challenge if it is genuinely interested in salvaging its lost credibility. Would Annapolis be the launching pad for a genuine and realistic effort?