On Monday September 27, I saw a photo of the balloon release in Revava and read the words, (already oft quoted), from the Yesha Council leader from Shomron, Gershon Mesika in Kiryat Netafim;
"From this stage, I turn to Hussein Obama and tell him, the land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel."
Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is calling for restraint even as Palestinian President Abbas looks for guidance in a series of meetings with the PLO and the Arab League. It appears that the words of the American President at the United Nations and all the efforts of his minions were not enough to overwhelm the prior commitment of the Israeli Prime Minister to his coalition partners.
So where do we go from nowhere? There are endless analogies that all end in the failure of the direct negotiations that were so painstakingly engineered by the United States. The one that comes to mind first is that you can't make it happen if you want it more than the principals. The Prime Minister of Israel put together a coalition government that was supported in part because the majority of its members didn't believe that peace was possible now and many don"t believe in a two state solution at all. While the Palestinian Authority works to develop its own economic, security and education related facts on the ground largely through the functions of its appointed Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, its President, Mahmoud Abbas continues to walk both toward and away from the talks that are now coming undone.
So where do we go from nowhere? I believe that no side including the man in the middle had their whole heart invested in the success of this newly initiated dialogue. While each had and has reasons to appear at the table, there are formidable domestic and international parties and issues neatly aligned in opposition to any agreement. This means that the only way forward is to take the advice of exhausted Middle East intermediary Aaron David Miller and slow down or create a new framework for achieving a lasting peace agreement in 2011 placing the same final status issues and general understanding of the outcomes on a larger and more secure domestic and international foundation.
We already know who is against two states and any meaningful peace process. So the question is how do you involve the majority of the Israeli and Palestinian people in a positive process that focuses each of them on recognizing the value and necessity of realizing a tangible peace agreement in 2011? There are many nations that need to be brought into a larger conversation by the United States to play specific roles in encouraging Israel, the Palestine National Authority, Hamas, Shas and others to support the peace process either through the use of carrots or sticks or both.
The United States needs to reach beyond its own hubris to seed a process that cultivates and then rewards the creative actions of a large number of international actors. Even as the United States frees these nations and other entities to play a more definitive role in the peace process it enhances the international climate for the ultimate resolution of the conflict. In a similar way, by working closely with each government to encourage their people to support peace and increase relationships directly on the ground, it will effectively alter the recalcitrance of both publics to consider, let alone actively champion a peace that many believed was unattainable.
The September 26th building date can be seen as one enormous but surmountable obstruction on a path to peace that will not be accessible to anyone unless each side allows the other to lead more than once and finds the chutzpa to hold on for dear life to this most critical and difficult opportunity to bring peace to two ancient peoples and their sacred land.