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BBC News Front Page | World | In Depth | Israel and the Palestinians
Voices of Conflict
Sleiman Shimlawi: West Bank farmer
Efrat Gamlieli: Jerusalem resident
Nidhal: Youth on the Gaza Strip
Asher Susser: Israeli academic
Nakhle Beshara: Doctor in Nazareth
Gilad Ben Nun: Israeli peace activist
Paul Adams: BBC correspondent
David Wilder: Jewish settler in Hebron
Ghada Karmi: Palestinian academic
Asher Susser
Israeli academic Asher Susser, a Senior Research Fellow at the Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, outlines his ideas on a less ambitious Middle East peace process that may emerge out of the ashes of the Oslo model.

An end to the fighting between Palestinians and Israelis does not appear to be in sight, giving rise to a most profound sense of pessimism about what is left of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

There is indeed no reason to be optimistic.

But it would be wrong to conclude that all is lost, that the peace process is over and that we are destined to face an interminable cycle of bloodshed.

Israelis and Palestinians cannot solve their problems by the use of force. Neither Israel nor the Palestinians have the capacity to impose their political positions or historical narratives on the other.

The parties are presently incapable of negotiating with each other and are consequently poised to take unilateral actions.

Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat might declare Palestinian independence and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak might then respond by declaring an annexation of settlements.

This exchange of hot air is going to change very little, if anything at all, on the ground.

And then what? The violence will not go on forever. It will have to come to an end, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Once that happens the parties will have to come back to the table. After all, what choices do they have?

True enough, the Oslo process has probably exhausted itself. So there will be another.

The peace process has lasted as long as it has and has withstood many seemingly fatal shocks only to bounce back to prove time and again that the parties have no choice but to continue their negotiations.

It is because of this lack of choice that Israelis and Palestinians elected to enter the process in the first place, and not because any one of the parties had undergone a sudden ideological metamorphosis.

A renewed negotiation would have to be less ambitious than the attempt that has just failed to achieve an all-encompassing agreement on "an end of conflict".

Mr Arafat is not ready to proclaim an end of conflict on the terms offered by Mr Barak and he is in turn incapable of accepting the terms of Mr Arafat.

It would, therefore, be much wiser to set attainable goals rather than repeating the futile attempts to achieve the impossible. A step by step approach to resolve the possible and gradually de-escalate is a more realistic route to pursue.

Arafat's attempt to internationalise the conflict to bring about an imposed solution in which he would get more in exchange for less is not likely to work.

This would only be remotely possible in the unlikely event that United States Middle East policy underwent a 180 degree about face.

By resorting to violence Mr Arafat has shored up his previously sagging domestic support. His inter-Arab standing has also improved dramatically.

But in the process he has lost the Israeli public, the devoted peace camp included.

They have been completely disillusioned by the explosion of the Oslo dream.

When the peace process gets back on track, in whatever shape or form, it is the support of important segments of the Israeli public that Mr Arafat will find most difficult to retrieve.

At the end of the day, it is the Israelis who have to be convinced to make the necessary concessions.

All the more reason to resort to an incremental process that will allow for a gradual reconstruction of even a measure of the confidence that has recently evaporated into thin air.

It would be wrong to conclude that all is lost, that the peace process is over and that we are destined to face an interminable cycle of bloodshed
Casualty
The parties will have to come back to the table. After all, what choices do they have?
A renewed negotiation would have to be less ambitious than the attempt that has just failed to achieve an all-encompassing agreement on "an end of conflict"
Soldier
By resorting to violence Mr Arafat has shored up his previously sagging domestic support. But in the process he has lost the Israeli public, the devoted peace camp
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