Perhaps this is the fatal flaw in the Road Map, but according to President Abbas, "the Annapolis summit saw a resumption of talks between the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israel after a seven-year hiatus. Both sides pledged to do everything possible to draft a peace settlement by the end of 2008, as well as to come to an agreement on the form of a future independent Palestinian state."
Unfortunately, the talks stopped when Hamas' launched rockets into Israel necessitating a destructive military retaliation.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan emphasized, "It is the view of the Quartet that all members of a future Palestinian Government must be committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the road map."
VIEW OF HAMAS
The U.S. non-negotiation policy towards terrorist organizations also affects the prospect of successful negotiations with the Palestinians. After the 2006 democratic elections, Hamas became a leader in the Palestinian government, which undermined any U.S.-Palestinian negotiations by virtue of Hamas's official status as a terrorist organization. Rene Wadlow of the Carnegie Council pointed out that "the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, the Israeli Government, the U.S. Government, and to a lesser extent the European Union, would like to see living conditions in Gaza get worse so that the Hamas administration will fail."
As we saw in 2008, this effort had the exact opposite effect and enraged the Palestinians into uniting themselves behind Hamas. If the U.S. only deals with a portion of the government with limited control, negotiations will fail to produce a united Palestinian State.
The EU committed itself to the reconstruction of Palestine after the 2008 Israel-Hamas conflict. According to Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy speaking at the International Conference for the Reconstruction of Gaza on March 2, 2009, "while taking care of the immediate needs for reconstruction, we must place our efforts in the broader perspective of a comprehensive resolution of the conflict that is the root cause of the tragedy of Gaza."
He also stressed that "urgent work is needed to restore a credible and sustained political process that will lead to a just and lasting peace for Palestinians and Israelis alike, and ultimately all the peoples in the region."
Curiously, he named President Abbas and the PA as the lead for distribution of the financial aid, bolstering Palestinian support for them. His omission of Hamas and the EU's continued rejection of Hamas illustrates the conundrum of electing an organization with an extensive terrorist history as the elected government of the Palestinians responsible for international relations.
Russia took a different perspective to Hamas and the conflict. After the 2006 Palestinian elections, Russia recognized Hamas as a legitimately elected government instead of a terrorist group.
Russia has capitalized on the old Soviet agreements with Arab nations and Israel, partly because its large contingent of Jewish emmigrants to Israel and Russia's large Muslim population in Central Asia, naturally predisposes it to a more neutral alignment than the U.S. Russia seems open to all sides of the conflict.
Then-president Putin met with President Abbas in 2008 to discuss Russia's increasing role in the peace process, even though President Abbas stated that Hamas was "not part of an official government" and had no right to be invited to a conference.
While the Quartet backed the Road Map vision, the U.S. support for the annexation of settlements in the West Bank became an obstruction to its pursuit. Despite Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, failure of the peace process led to Hamas's success in the Palestinian elections in 2006
. Furthermore, there is no single unified political body that speaks for all segments of the Palestinian people, the refugees of the Diaspora, those living in the occupied territories, and the Palestinians living in Israel. In order to realize Palestinian national goals during the peace process, it is essential that the negotiating table represents all Palestinians, not just those of the occupied territories. The lack of consensus on the goals of the negotiation process remains a serious challenge to progress in that regard.
In addition to their position towards Israel, the Hamas government will likely run contrary to the more modernizing and secular elements in the region
. "To promote such a positive situation, the Arab states need to demonstrate that they have the capacity and the political will to rein in extremist groups, like Hamas and Hezbollah, should they refuse to heed the Arab collective will. Thus far, several Arab states have not only refused to impede the activities of such groups; they have actually supported their violent resistance to Israel."
According to Ayman El-Amir, former Al-Ahram correspondent in Washington, DC, "the PA and Arab governments involved, mainly Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states, realize that without the active involvement of Hamas's administration, no reconstruction will be possible."
As of 17 March 2009, Hamas and Fatah were negotiating semantic points over "respect for" or "abide by" past peace agreements with Israel.
If successful, the united PLO as the PA would legally represent all Palestinians under the 1993 Oslo Accords.
NECESSITY FOR INCLUSION OF SYRIA IN PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Syria is a key player in any Arab-Israeli peace-process negotiation. In order for Israel to achieve their goals of security, it must also address the return of the Golan Heights in exchange for a comprehensive peace. The Sunni-Shiite conflict that has spread throughout the Middle East has placed Syria in a position whereby the necessity to portray a unified Sunni front has become imperative.
Syria is host to 10 official and three unofficial Palestinian refugee camps, which support "119,055"
registered refugees. The Syrian government supports Hamas's struggle against Israel, but "is keenly interested in ending Israeli occupation of its Golan Heights and restoring the rights of the Palestinians."
Israel's 40-plus year occupation of the Golan Heights after capturing it in a purely defensive war is a major issue blocking an Israel-Syria peace treaty, which is currently being mediated by Turkey. This is likely being used as a bargaining chip with Syria to aid the peace process, which would lead to an independent Palestine. Syria's strong relations with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas place it in a unique position to argue for Hamas' inclusion in the Palestinian government. "U.S. Envoy Jeffrey Feltman said after four hours of talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallim that Syria could play "an important and constructive role" in the region."
CHALLENGES AND OUTLOOK
Much attention is given to external factors of the peace process; however, it is entirely plausible for the internal factors that exist within Palestine, such as corruption and factional strife, to play a greater role in the outcome. In Palestine, an authoritarian regime may be favored over the democratic route simply because it is more convenient. Continued failure on the part of elected officials in Palestine to end the Israeli occupation of the territories would certainly make that option more feasible
At best, the Palestinian cause sought to accept and integrate the State of Israel -- their inherent right to exist -- into their own narrative. At worst, they sought to eliminate the State altogether and deny their right to exist
. The use of tactics to provoke Israeli retaliation, thereby undermining support for peaceful negotiations, will have to end.
Israel cannot thumb its nose at the Arab Initiative without damaging their ability to successfully negotiate their national concerns with Palestine and other Arab States such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt. Israel and Palestine have arrived at an impasse in the conflict, where neither side can take steps towards peace without making major concessions. Grievances over years of violence, territorial disputes, relative deprivation, inequality, and social conditioning continue to fuel the conflict. Arab States such as: Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan are also stakeholders in the conflict. Their support of Palestinian organizations like Hamas and the PLO, sustainment of large Palestinian refugee camps, and land disputes with Israel have raised the conflict to the forefront of their national concerns.
The failures of peace initiatives framed by the Quartet such as the Oslo Accords and Annapolis Conference have exacerbated the conflict. Instead of hopes for peace, these failed negotiations are viewed by some as proof that regional peace will never be achieved. The emergence of Hamas is another key inhibitor in the current Road Map towards peace. Not only has Hamas rekindled violent conflict with Israel, but it has further fragmented Palestinian solidarity, which impedes a unified Palestinian body that can negotiate for peace. Despite internal peace building islands such as the village of Neve Shalom and Combatants for Peace, the conflict will likely continue unless Israel and Palestine re-evaluate their perceptions and uphold concessions that will have to be made.
Jacob Bercovitch, "Characteristics Of Intractable Conflicts," Beyond Intractability.org, ? http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/Characteristics_IC / "newTurabian" ?http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/Characteristics_IC/? (accessed April 19, 2009).
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