Source: Gush Shalom
Secretary of State John Kerry says it's premature to write off Mideast peace talks
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Source: Gush Shalom
In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee he explained how the actions of the Israeli government had torpedoed the "peace process." They broke their obligation to release Palestinian prisoners, and at the same time announced the enlargement of more settlements in East Jerusalem. The peace efforts went "poof."
"Poof" is the sound of air escaping a balloon. It is a good expression, because the "peace process" was from the very beginning nothing more than a balloon full of hot air. An exercise in make-believe.
JOHN KERRY cannot be blamed. He took the whole thing seriously. He is an earnest politician, who tried very very hard to make peace between Israel and Palestine. We should be grateful for his efforts.
The trouble is that Kerry had not the slightest idea of what he was getting himself into.
The entire "peace process" revolves around a basic misconception. Some would say: a basic lie.
Namely: that we have here two equal sides of a conflict. A serious conflict. An old conflict. But a conflict that can be solved when reasonable people of the two sides sit down together and thrash it out, guided by a benevolent and impartial referee.
Not one detail of these assumptions was real. The referee was not impartial. The leaders were not sensible. And most importantly: the sides were not equal.
The balance of power between the two sides is not 1:1, not even 1:2 or 1:10. In every material respect -- military, diplomatic, economic -- it is more like one to a thousand.
There is no equality between occupier and occupied, oppressor and oppressed. A jailer and a prisoner cannot negotiate on equal terms. When one side has total command of the other, controls his every move, settles on his land, controls his money flow, arrests people at will, blocks his access to the UN and the International courts, equality is out of the question.
If the two sides to negotiations are so extremely unequal, the situation can only be remedied by the mediator supporting the weaker side. What is happening is the very opposite: the American support for Israel is massive and unstinting.
Throughout the "negotiations" the US did nothing to check the settlement activity that created more Israeli facts on the ground -- the very ground whose future the negotiations were all about.
A PREREQUISITE for successful negotiations is that all sides have at least a basic understanding not only of each other's interests and demands, but even more of each other's mental world, emotional setup and self-image. Without that, all moves are inexplicable and look irrational.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, one of the most intelligent people I have met in my life, once told me: "You have in Israel the most intelligent experts on the Arab world. They have read all the books, all the articles, every single word written about it. They know everything, and understand nothing. Because they have never lived one day in an Arab country."
The same is true for the American experts, only much more so. In Washington DC one feels the rarefied air of a Himalayan peak. Seen from the grandiose palaces of the administration, where the fate of the world is decided, foreign people look small, primitive and largely irrelevant. Here and there some real experts are tucked away, but nobody really consults them.
The average American statesman has not the slightest idea of Arab history, world-view, religions, myths or the traumas that shape Arab attitudes, not to mention the Palestinian struggle. He has no patience for this primitive nonsense.
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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)