Since the death of Yasser Arafat, Palestinians and Israelis have had a historic opportunity to resuscitate the peace process. However, it looks like a miracle is needed to find a solution to this conflict, which dates back to 1947 when the UN came up with a partition plan to create separate Arab and Jewish states in Palestine. Arab rejection of the plan, followed by the Israeli declaration of independence in 1948 led to war and an uneasy armistice in 1949. In 1967, Israel invaded Gaza, the West Bank and part of Jerusalem. Since then, the occupation has continued with the international community doing nothing to help. This is not to say that it is only the Israeli profile that is stained with blood; Palestinian opposition to the occupation has included many violent attacks, including the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.
The new millennium has not brought much change. In July 2000 a summit was organised at Camp David by the then US president Bill Clinton to try and resolve the problem of the sovereignty of Jerusalem. The summit ended in failure with Arafat walking out on the talks. Shortly after, Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount Compound made any possibility of achieving peace even harder. His visit to Islam’s third most holy site caused uproar in the area and provoked the start of the second Intifada (Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule). Despite all this, the following year got off to a good start in January at the Taba summit in Egypt when a deal was reached to divide Jerusalem. But it was already too late, as only one month later Sharon was elected as Prime Minister of Israel and openly announced that he wouldn’t honour these agreements.
The Road Map, scrap paper
The Road Map, which had been talked about for over a year, was eventually finalised by the Quartet Mediators (the EU, Russia, the UN and the USA) in April 2003 as a gesture towards the Arab world after the war in Iraq. But this plan isn’t worth the paper it is written on. As well as Israel and Palestine, we mustn’t forget the role played by other countries in the area like Iran and Syria. How can peace be agreed on if Palestinian terrorism is receiving funds from Damascus to Teheran? In these conditions, both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders will have difficulty signing a peace treaty. In an attempt to overcome the impasse reached in the Road Map, the European Union has announced that it will draw up a plan of action to run in parallel with that of the Quartet. This plan will aim to achieve the proclamation of a Palestinian State based on the 1967 borders and respect the spirit of the Road Map.
Perhaps the EU is doing this in an attempt to demonstrate that all is not yet lost, but the duration of the conflict and the increase in the seriousness of the situation mean that ultimately there must be an international solution. International intervention is necessary for many reasons, but above all to advance the negotiations and establish a timeline and benchmarks for the peace process. Without effective mediators, the situation remains irresolvable due to the unequal balance between Israel and Palestine: one is a sovereign state, and the other is not.
Sharon, doing it his way
Meanwhile, Ariel Sharon’s policy has become more and more resolved. First he built the wall; then he proposed the withdrawal of more than seven thousand Jewish inhabitants from the Gaza strip by 2005, but this is nothing more than a strategy to consolidate the large settlements in the West Bank region, occupied by Israel since 1967. Furthermore, Sharon has already declared publicly that he will not adhere to the Road Map, which stipulates that Israel must stop the construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and demands an end to attacks in order to establish a Palestinian State.
Palestine must make a move
For their part, the Quartet approves of Sharon’s evacuation plan as an opportunity to restore the Road Map, which has been pushed aside due to the violence and mutual reproaches between Israelis and Palestinians. However, the plan promised the creation of two states by the end of 2005, which won’t be possible given the current circumstances. Javier Solana, representative of EU Foreign Affairs, reiterated that although the realisation of two independent states may not be possible in the foreseen timescale, the EU will defend this plan as the only solution for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
In all this, we mustn’t lose our way. The Palestinian cause doesn’t favour the Palestinians, rather it acts as a negative identity: against the Jews. The radical Palestinians must leave their guns behind, and Sharon’s government must end State terrorism. But it is Palestine that must make the first move in choosing a president who will become an official spokesman for a peaceful future in the Middle East.....with the permission of their Arab neighbours.