Monday, January 26, 2009

Editorial: The Peace Process is Irreversibly Over - Paul Woodward

War in Context, January 26, 2009 - If you did not see it already, watch Bob Simon’s report, “Is Peace Out Of Reach?” from last night’s edition of 60 Minutes [posted here yesterday - Ed]. In the history of American reporting on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, this is an exceptional piece of journalism. But don’t just watch it — share it by email, embed it on your web site and do whatever else you can to enlighten other Americans who at this time understand so little about the core issues behind the conflict....

As President Obama’s Middle East Envoy for Peace, George Mitchell, makes his way to the region this week, he should keep in mind a statement that Osama Hamdan, Hamas’s representative in Lebanon, made in a speech in Beirut yesterday. Hamdan said, “the peace process is irreversibly over.”

This bears repeating:

…the peace process is irreversibly over.

There are commentators who will say that this statement is an expression of intransigence and belligerence coming from a resistance movement dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

Far from it — it is merely a statement of fact. Indeed, it is an assessment of an objective reality that is remarkably lacking in venom.

Just suppose that we were at a juncture where 1,300 Israelis had just been brutally killed, 5,000 were wounded, many in a grave condition, 20,000 houses had been destroyed and tens of thousands were now homeless.

Suppose in such a situation Israel’s leaders were to declare that the peace process was irreversibly over, we would now be commenting on their remarkable composure. We would marvel that they would bother making a political statement and not simply a blood-curdling cry of vengeance.

Hamas on the other hand, in spite of the devastation of Gaza, is still committed to politics.

The political imperative of the moment is one of clarification. Hamas sees that Palestinian unity and a Palestinian national movement cannot be built on an illusory foundation.

Meanwhile, Tzipi Livni claims that the carnage in Gaza has advanced the peace process. This is an Orwellian, obscene, and outrageous insult to common sense. It displays a sociopathic view of human suffering.

But it also serves as a reminder and confirmation that Osama Hamdan is right: the peace process is irreversibly over.

If this is a conclusion which can commonly be agreed upon, where do we go from here? Is this not a conclusion that will feed utter despair or a justification for endless conflict?

I believe not.

Political change can only gain traction when it is rooted in objective reality. We can only advance from the conditions we actually inhabit.

For several years now the peace process has floundered because of a glaring contradiction between Israel’s stated aim — a two-state solution — and its actions, which consistently advanced in the opposite direction.

By its own choice, Israel has abandoned the goal of a two-state solution. The so-called peace process has provided the water and the sustenance that has allowed the occupation to flourish.

America has been the enabler. It has provided a stage upon which a pantomime of peace could be performed. It has quite effectively silenced those who would disrupt the performance and insisted that we all silently enjoy a show whose tedious enactment perpetually held out the promise of a happy ending.

“When Israel supports a solution of two states for two people, the pressure won’t be on Israel,” Tzipi Livni correctly observed over the weekend.

George Mitchell’s duty, the duty of the international community and of all Palestinian leaders, is to say: the game is up, the show is over. The charade has gone on for long enough. Israel has stated its position on the ground. It’s words have proved to be of no consequence.

Given the realities and ignoring the empty declarations, where does Israel want to go from here?

  • Democracy: a one-state solution in which Jews and Palestinians have equal rights;
  • Ethnic cleansing: a state that solidifies its Jewish identity by purging itself of every non-Jewish element; or
  • Apartheid: the explicit formalization of what is already a practical reality.

These, as Bob Simons correctly observers, are Israel’s choices. America can no longer serve as Israel’s shield in its efforts to conceal a painful reality.

Paul Woodward is the Editor of War in Context and Managing Editor of Conflicts Forum.

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