Mideast negotiations now would be waste of time
By J. Zel Lurie
DELRAY BEACH, Florida (Press Release)–One might think Israel and the Arabs fought wars so that someone could be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize at its conclusion. Between 1950 and 1994, seven men received the Peace Prize for making peace in the Middle East.
To this startling number Barack Obama might be added. He received the prize as a potential for peace maker Meanwhile he has added 30,000 men and women to the war in Afghanistan and the promised withdrawal from Iraq is yet to be fulfilled.
Despite the plethora of peace prizes and Obama’s wishes there won’t even be peace negotiations for many a month.
There is no peace between Palestine and Israel but there are lots of articles and reports and think tank studies and demands that Obama take action.
What can Obama do? Nothing between Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas. The two parties decided long ago that negotiations now would be a complete waste of time.
The reason is fairly simple. Abbas represents only half of Palestine. The other half, the Gaza Strip, is ruled by force by an Islamic terrorist group named Hamas. Abbas would lose his bare majority on the West Bank if he tried to negotiate on behalf of both the the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu has reluctantly accepted the world consensus that eventually there will be a Palestine State on the 22 percent of Palestine left to them after the War of Independence. The settlement blocs, which are actually suburbs and exurbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, will be swapped for barren territory elsewhere.
The postponement of negotiations to some future date gives Netanyahu time to consolidate the area he intends to hold and to rein in the more radical settlers who will be forced to move in the final status agreement.
Hamas is enjoying the status quo. It pays its large government staff with funds supplied by Iran. The Gaza people, more than a million, are hungry but not starving. They are being fed by the humanitarian aid which Israel allows to pass through the gates,
Meanwhile the majority of West Bankers who live in the cities are prospering. Law and order is maintained by an efficient new American-trained Palestine police force. The Israel Army enters the cities only after midnight to arrest or kill individuals pinpointed by intelligence as past or potential terrorists.
But Palestinian farmers and shepherds continue to be harassed by Jewish settlers assisted by the Army.
Obama has directed his special Mideast envoy George Mitchell to devote his attention towards Israel making peace with Syria. Bashir Assad has been making peaceful noises. An arrangement for the Golan Heights is a distinct possibility. Bashir and Binyamin are slated to add to the plethora of Nobel Peace awardees.
I am indebted to my colleague, Rachel Patron, for reminding me that my friend, Ralph Bunche, had won the Nobel Peace Prize sixty years ago in 1950 for mediating the armistice agreements with the four Arab states surrounding Israel. First with Egypt, which announced its agreement in January 1949. It was followed by Lebanon, then Jordan and finally Syria. All four were signed, sealed and delivered before the end of 1949.
The rapidity of the successful four negotiations conducted by Dr. Bunche have never been repeated in the sixty years of wars and negotiations.
General Moshe Dayan, who was Israel’s military expert at the armistice talks in Rhodes wrote in a memoir that the most significant breakthroughs occurred while shooting pool with the black American.
Dr. Bunche was the son of a barber who died at an early age. He was brought up by his grandmother who looked white but had been born in slave quarters. He had graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, which he had attended on an athletic scholarship.
He had done a doctorate at Harvard and had gone on to a successful career at the State Department, In 1947 President Truman appointed him Assistant Secretary of State but he turned it down because of discriminatory housing in Washington. He was seconded to the United Nations in New York.
I ran into him at the UN on November 29 1947 just after the the Jews had won a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly for the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver and other members of the Jewish Agency executive were celebrating victory by drinking a lehayim. I was handling publicity under Sy Kenan for the Agency and covering the Assembly for the Palestine Post.
Dr. Bunche was not smiling. “We won a Jewish state,” I said, “Yes you did,” he acknowledged and he looked at me soberly before passing on.
Now the trouble begins, he must have been thinking, but he couldn’t have imagined that the troubles would be followed by Nobel Peace Prizes.
First to Dr. Bunche in 1950. Then to Lester Pearson of Canada in 1957 for mediating the 1956 war over Suez. Henry Kissinger who mediated the 1973 Yom Kippur war was ignored by the Nobel peace committee but after Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the Israel-Egyptian peace treaty in 1977, the two heads of state were awarded the prize in 1978. The Nobel committee should have included the American head of state, Jimmy Carter, who had visited the Middle East several times to knock their heads together.
Last but not least were the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians signed in 1993 on the White House lawn with Bill Clinton by Yassir Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.
None of them had been to Oslo to negotiate the agreement. But all three showed up in 1994 to receive the Nobel prize for peace.
Lurie is a freelance writer based in Delray Beach, Florida
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