The Peace Process in Annapolis, MD, 2007.
Welcome to the peace process in 2012. From the International Crisis Group report “The Emperor Has No Clothes: Palestinians and the End of the Peace Process“:
For all the scepticism surrounding the ways of the past, breaking with them will not come easily. Few may still believe in the peace process, but many still see significant utility in it. Ongoing negotiations help Washington manage its relations with the Arab world and to compensate for close ties to Israel with ostensible efforts to meet Palestinian aspirations. Europeans have found a role, bankrolling the Palestinian Authority and, via the Quartet, earning a seat at one of the most prestigious diplomatic tables – a satisfaction they share with Russia and the UN Secretary-General. Peace talks are highly useful to Israel for deflecting international criticism and pressure.
Palestinians suffer most from the status quo, yet even they stand to lose if the comatose process finally were pronounced dead. The Palestinian Authority (PA) might collapse and with it the economic and political benefits it generates as well as the assistance it attracts. For the Palestinian elite, the peace process has meant relative comfort in the West Bank as well as constant, high-level diplomatic attention. Without negotiations, Fatah would lose much of what has come to be seen as its raison d’être and would be even more exposed to Hamas’s criticism.
But the reason most often cited for maintaining the existing peace process is the conviction that halting it risks creating a vacuum that would be filled with despair and chaos. The end result is that the peace process, for all its acknowledged shortcomings, over time has become a collective addiction that serves all manner of needs, reaching an agreement no longer being the main one. And so the illusion continues, for that largely is what it is.
Pretty inspiring, isn’t it? Among the report’s recommendations is this particularly useful insight:
At the core of the Oslo process was the notion that a peace agreement would need to deal with issues emanating from the 1967 War – the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza – as opposed to those that arose in 1948 from the establishment of Israel, the trauma of the accompanying war and the displacement of the vast majority of Palestinians. But if that logic was ever persuasive, it no longer is. . .
As difficult as it is to imagine a solution that addresses these issues, it is harder still to imagine one that does not.
Hope someone in Washington is reading it (I won’t hold my breath). Finally the Executive Summary ends:
The inescapable truth, almost two decades into the peace process, is that all actors are now engaged in a game of make-believe: that a resumption of talks in the current context can lead to success; that an agreement can be reached within a short timeframe; that the Quartet is an effective mediator; that the Palestinian leadership is serious about reconciliation, or the UN, or popular resistance, or disbanding the PA. This is not to say that the process itself has run its course. Continued meetings and even partial agreements – invariably welcomed as breakthroughs – are possible precisely because so many have an interest in its perpetuation. But it will not bring about a durable and lasting peace. The first step in breaking what has become an injurious addiction to a futile process is to recognise that it is so – to acknowledge, at long last, that the emperor has no clothes.