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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 11:10 GMT
The future of peace: A Palestinian view
Palestinian stone thrower
Palestinians have despaired at the Oslo-inspired peace process
Ghada Karmi, a leader of the Palestinian Community Association in the UK and an Associate Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, explains the death of the Oslo-inspired peace process from the point of view of Palestinians.

Click here for an Israeli view of the same issues

On 23 October, Israeli Prime Minster Barak announced that Israel was taking a "time out" from the peace process.

To many, this was an unnecessary confirmation of what had already become evident in the preceding few weeks of violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Palestinians had made it clear that the peace process was over for them - at least in its previous form.

A return to the old style peace process, so enamoured of the West, is futile and will be resisted by a people that seems to have reached a point of no return

For the vehemence of Palestinian reaction and its self-sacrificing recklessness must be seen not as some cynical manipulation by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his aides, but as a result of years of pent up frustration and anger at Israel and the "peace process".

The 1993 Oslo Process, which stood primarily to benefit Israel and which would never have been negotiated by a strong Palestinian leadership, had been tolerated, even accepted by most Palestinians for one simple reason: they saw it as the pathway to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

So long as the process finally achieved that goal, then the loss of 78% of old Mandate Palestine, as well as the humiliations and depredations of the last seven years could be tolerated.

This fact, which has been conveniently obscured by a gushing Western mythology of "reconciliation", is fundamental to understanding the current events.

'Inevitable backlash'

It was when, after years of endurance, the Palestinians discovered the true outline of the coming agreement at the Camp David talks last July, that they erupted.

To accuse the Palestinian leadership of orchestrating the violence displays a wilful misunderstanding of the facts or a malevolent desire to blame the victim

They learned that the state they would get would be far from independent, its borders controlled by Israel, lacking the major part of East Jerusalem and even its religious sites.

Not only had Israel taken pre-1967 Palestine - which no Palestinian can forgive or forget - it was also trying to take land from the remnant left after 1967.

The Palestinian economy, already in dire straits, would be even more dependent on Israel, and Palestinian natural resources would remain under Israeli control.

All the waiting had been for nothing, and as realisation dawned, the backlash was inevitable.

'Spontaneous uprising'

Thus, opposition leader Ariel Sharon's provocative visit to the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) or Temple Mount on 28 September was not the cause but the trigger for the subsequent explosion.

The Israeli-inspired campaign to vilify Yasser Arafat as a leader prepared to sacrifice his people and even their children for his own ends (whatever they are) is as vicious as it is untrue

To accuse the Palestinian leadership of orchestrating it displays a wilful misunderstanding of the facts or a malevolent desire to blame the victim.

That is not to say that Mr Arafat, like any politician, will not seek to turn a situation to his political advantage.

But the Israeli-inspired campaign to vilify him as a leader prepared to sacrifice his people and even their children for his own ends (whatever they are) is as vicious as it is untrue.

All the evidence points to the eruption of a spontaneous, popular movement whose "leaders" are young and evenly distributed across geographic location and socio-economic status.

It is pent-up fury at Israeli occupation and arrogance that drives Palestinian youths to risk their lives against live ammunition daily. And it is questionable whether Mr Arafat or any of his aides, who were also taken by surprise at the explosion, is in control of the situation.

No popular revolution in history has ever been stage-managed.

Besieged Palestinians

The Israeli response so far has been counter-productive.

Besieging Palestinian towns, sealing off the territories, bombing and shooting, and suspending negotiations will only increase popular resistance. And though it is possible to crush civilians by military might, that provides only a short-term respite which will not last.

Only a radical change of approach on Israel's part will restart the peace process.

This means termination of the inequitable Oslo Process and learning to face what Israelis have evaded since 1948: that a state set up on the land of another people cannot survive for long by their suppression and denial.

So far, Israelis have succeeded in just that. Their credit is still high with a compliant America and a guilt-ridden West. But the reckoning is not there.

It is in the land which they seized and now share with the Palestinians.

Point of no return

Palestinians have now bloodily demonstrated that the Oslo model for sharing - an inequitable division of land and resources that massively favours Israel, backed by a partisan US - is not one they will accept.

A return to the old style peace process, so enamoured of the West, is futile and will be resisted by a people that seem to have reached a point of no return.

They will now demand no less than a fully independent state on all of the post-1967 territories with East Jerusalem as its capital.

They should be supported. Israel, which had a historic opportunity in 1993 to reach an undreamed of settlement with the very people it had dispossessed has, through its insensitivity and lack of vision, lost it.

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