+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Peace talks officially dead: time to move on to Plan B

Now that negotiations have officially failed, it’s time for the U.S. to join three South American countries and endorse Palestinian unilateralism. True, a viable Palestinian state will not be ready by August 2011, but that’s besides the point. This declaration is only a means to an end

Remember when we used to laugh? (Photo: Israel Foreign Ministry)

As expected, the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are now officially dead. Last night, Israeli and U.S. officials confirmed that the Obama administration is abandoning its effort to renew the freeze on settlement building in the West Bank. As the NY Times reports:

After three weeks of fruitless haggling with the Israeli government, the Obama administration has given up its effort to persuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to renew an expired freeze on the construction of Jewish settlements for 90 days, two senior officials said on Tuesday.

The decision leaves Middle East peace talks in limbo, with the Palestinians refusing to resume negotiations absent a settlement freeze and the United States struggling to find another formula to bring them back to negotiations. It is the latest setback in what has proved to be a tortuous engagement for President Obama.

Dust yourself off, start all over again

Tortuous indeed. And now that the talks have officially failed, the region is once again on the verge of very dangerous and violent times. Before things spiral out of control, now is the time for President Obama to embrace this failure and move on to the only step that can save the two-state solution, playing the Wild Card: endorsing Palestinian unilateralism (more on the Wild Card option here).

The White House must begin to fully appreciate this option, since there are calls in Palestine to begin steps towards unilateralism in the very near future, and not wait for Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad’s declaration of independence in August 2011. In fact, just this week, three South American countries – Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay – have decided to announce their recognition of the Palestinian state.

What the Obama administration must understand is that unilateralism should not be perceived solely as a route taken out of frustration from the failure of another. It is a solution, a route that will be taken to set into play a new dynamic – and a new set of international laws that will begin to be applied to the Palestinian state.

Take Kosovo for example

But many say, despite PM Salam Fayyad’s partial success in institution building, that there is no way a viable Palestinian state will be ready by the summer of 2011. This is true, Fayyad has done well but the Palestinian economy is not prepared to breath on its own. The only thing that keeps it alive is donor aid, and there is little to make for a vibrant private sector – not to mention the daily obstacles of occupation.

So no, of course a state won’t be ready. But that’s not the issue. The issue is about shifting the problem from “should there be a Palestinian state” to “how do we get this state to work properly and give it full sovereignty over its territory”. This is exactly what happened in Kosovo 2008. The Russians vetoed its declaration, just as the U.S. will most probably do (unwisely, I must add). But Kosovo is in a way a “fait accompli”. The question today is not whether there should be an independent Kosovo any more – it’s about how to make it work now that it’s there, now that it’s a fact on the ground.

Stop trying to sit them down – at least for now

Going back to the negotiating table would be a big mistake. As Yossi Alpher points out, continuing with fake negotiations will jeopardize not only Fayyad’s acheivments, but also those that the U.S. itself has invested so much in, such as the work of American General Keith Dayton, who recently left the region after five years of hard work as the U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel-Palestinian Authority in October. Amongst other things, Dayton oversaw the training of Palestinian Authority forces, and is considered by many to be a key factor in the drop of terror emanating from the West Bank:

“Rather than trying to sit the reluctant sides down to reach an elusive comprehensive solution within a year, the US should be capitalizing on Dayton’s achievement in order to foster an indirectly-negotiated but internationally-recognized partial solution that capitalizes on the Palestinian unilateral state-building initiative and concentrates on borders, settlements, water and security.”

In his op-ed from the 14th of November, Zvi Barel articulates why the recognition of a future unilateral declaration will actually help the process:

“International recognition of a Palestinian state should not undermine the negotiations. Except that under the new circumstances the negotiations will be between two states of equal status. If Israel announces that it will cease negotiating as punishment, well, that is already what has been happening for a while. Israel will annex the settlements, as further sanctions? In any case they function as an inalienable part of Israel and even without official annexation they are part of the whole, at least according to the prime minister.”

And to all those who threaten that a unilateral move would be a violation of the Oslo accords, Barel sets things straight:

“For its part, Israel is threatening that if the Palestinians will take such a unilateral step, it will consider this a fundamental violation of the Oslo Accords and can consider itself free of all its obligations. Interesting. In an interview on Israel Radio in 2002 Netanyahu said that “the Oslo Accords are null and void – after all, what is left?”

Although all the recent signs point to Obama vetoing any Palestinian move in the Security Council, now that the talks have died his administration should think again about the current route and consider the Wild Card as an option. Anything is better than sitting around and watching Israel obstruct any movement forward.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Ben Israel

      The quote you bring from Netanyahu in 2002 about the Oslo Agreements being “null and void” was made at the height of Arafat’s suicide bomber war when cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority had almost completely collapsed. It is merely a declarative statement without any operational significance. You know very well that Oslo does define the relationship on the ground between the PA and Israel which has improved considerably since then, regardless of the stalemate in the official “final status” negotiations. A unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state is a direct violation of the agreements which prohibit either side from changing the legal status of the territories unilaterally. Thus, should the PA do that, Israel would be free to do things like annex some settlements, or hold up transfer of payments to the PA or restrict the operation of their security forces, or change the allocation of water resources or any number of other things.

      In any event, I don’t believe that the PA will declare a state, since establishment of an “independent state” is not the ulimate goal of the Palestinians, it is merely a vehicle to advance their true aim, which is to have implementation of the Palestinian refugees “right of return” which would swamp Israel and turn Israel into another version of Lebanon. Proclamation of an independent state could lead to Westerners sympathetic to the Palestinian cause to say “see, now you have your state, that is the end of the Israel-Palestinian conflict”-leaving the refugee demand up in the air. This the Palestinians will avoid at all costs.

      Reply to Comment
    2. […] התפרסם במקור באנגלית במגזין המקוון "972" 0 תגובות למאמר // תגיות: […]

      Reply to Comment
    3. Y.

      Well, we have been all over the some of these misperceptions in the past (“viable Palestinian state” is not an issue, it is THE issue, or more accurately, one of THE issues. A nonviable state would just implode or explode sooner or later), so that’s not very interesting.

      What’s new and interesting here is mentioning Kosovo. That’s a very bad way to appeal to the State Department. The US would very much like the “Kosovo precedent” to disappear, especially after what Russia did with it.

      And in this case, it cuts both ways – Kosovo doesn’t control its northern Serb-majority part, right? And lots of people want a “territory exchange” where Serbia gets the northern part, while Albanians get a few Albanian majority towns in southern Serbia – so if anything, it’s Lieberman who benefits here.

      Second, the PA would be a “fait accompli” only as long as Israel (and maybe Hamas too) allow it. That’s pretty weak for a “fait accompli”. If anything, this kind of thinking serves Israel better. Ergo, I have some doubts whether this move is actually good for the PA (maybe only if they know the US will veto it?) – but we’ll find out, won’t we?

      Reply to Comment
    4. The simple fact is that the would-have-been “Palestinians” could have had a state in peace, but chose war on MANY occasions- INSTEAD:

      The would-have-been “Palestinians” would have had a state IN PEACE in 1937 with the Peel Plan, but they violently rejected it.

      They would have had a state IN PEACE in 1939 with the MacDonald White Paper, but they violently rejected it (and Jews would have even been restricted from BUYING land from Arabs).

      They would have had a state IN PEACE in 1948 with UN 181, but they violently rejected it (and actually claimed that the UN had no such mandate!).

      They could have had a state IN PEACE in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza from 1948-1967 without any Jews- because the Arabs had ethnically cleansed every last one; but they violently rejected it. In fact, that’s exactly when they established Fatah (1959) and the PLO (1964).

      They could have had a state IN PEACE after 1967, but instead, the entire Arab world issued the Khartoum Resolutions:

      A. No peace with Israel
      B. No recognition of Israel
      C. No negotiations with Israel

      They would have had a state IN PEACE in 2000 with the Oslo Accords, but they violently rejected it- as always.

      And as soon as Israel pulled every single Israeli out of Gaza, what did the would-have-been “Palestinians” do? They immediately started shooting thousands of missiles into Israeli population centers, they elected Hamas (whose official platform calls for jihad with no negotiations until Israel is destroyed) to rule them, and they have dug tunnels crossing into the Negev to kill and kidnap Israelis.

      They had many chances.

      They threw them all away because destroying Israel was higher on their priority list.

      Oh well. That’s their choice. Game over for them. They won’t have a state here.

      Reply to Comment
    5. The would-have-been “Palestinians” could have had a state in peace, but chose war on MANY occasions- INSTEAD:

      The would-have-been “Palestinians” would have had a state IN PEACE in 1937 with the Peel Plan, but they violently rejected it.

      They would have had a state IN PEACE in 1939 with the MacDonald White Paper, but they violently rejected it (and Jews would have even been restricted from BUYING land from Arabs).

      They would have had a state IN PEACE in 1948 with UN 181, but they violently rejected it (and actually claimed that the UN had no such mandate!).

      They could have had a state IN PEACE in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza from 1948-1967 without any Jews- because the Arabs had ethnically cleansed every last one; but they violently rejected it. In fact, that’s exactly when they established Fatah (1959) and the PLO (1964).

      They could have had a state IN PEACE after 1967, but instead, the entire Arab world issued the Khartoum Resolutions:

      A. No peace with Israel
      B. No recognition of Israel
      C. No negotiations with Israel

      They would have had a state IN PEACE in 2000 with the Oslo Accords, but they violently rejected it- as always.

      And as soon as Israel pulled every single Israeli out of Gaza, what did the would-have-been “Palestinians” do? They immediately started shooting thousands of missiles into Israeli population centers, they elected Hamas (whose official platform calls for jihad with no negotiations until Israel is destroyed) to rule them, and they have dug tunnels crossing into the Negev to kill and kidnap Israelis.

      Olmert also offered them a state in peace here in OUR land- and they rejected it.

      They had many chances.

      They threw them all away because destroying Israel was higher on their priority list.

      Oh well. That’s their choice. Game over for them. They won’t have a state here.

      Reply to Comment
    6. since long, two neighbors have a fierce struggle. Its about two things. the neighbor on the left expanded his grounds by taking ground from his neighbor on the right. by doin’ so, he also came into reach of the fruits of the right neigbors apple tree. and he takes so many of them as he could. and did not stop doing so until now. one day the two neigbors fight, again. Shouted the neighbor from the left: You are a lousy and false hypocrite, for you just misuse these few taken apples and the few square meters of ground as an excuse so that you not have to come to peaceful terms with me…

      Reply to Comment