EDITORIAL: Time to revive Oslo peace process
Now that a possible military strike in Syria may have been averted, and the United States and Russia have agreed on a consensus United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons, focus should shift to peace talks between Israel and Palestine.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned the UN on Thursday that United States-brokered peace talks offered the “last chance” as he demanded an agreement with Israel that permanently resolves all disputes.
Speaking before the UN General Assembly, Abbas urged that there be no let-up in international pressure on Israel to stop building settlements on Palestinian land. He warned that time was running out, that “the window of peace is narrowing and the opportunities are diminishing”.
Abbas’ frustration could well be understood as this charade has gone on too long. September brings sad memories for Palestinians, who for years have commemorated the failed military confrontation in Jordan in 1970 and the 1982 massacres in Lebanon.
This month is also the 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, which were supposed to usher in a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, made possible by changes in the geopolitical situation after the Cold War.
After all this time, Palestinians have practically nothing to show for the Oslo process, except that their homeland has shrunk and has been emasculated. Successive Israeli governments built thousands of illegal settlements on land meant for a future Palestinian state.
Several years later, the weakness of the Palestinians was dramatically demonstrated when the Hamas Movement consolidated its control over the Gaza Strip, forcing its rival Fatah to content itself with control over the West Bank, part of which was annexed by Israel.
The Israelis originally supported the emergence of Hamas in the late 1980s as a counterweight to the Palestine Liberation Organization and 20 years later, the consequence of this strategy has been the division of Palestine into two hostile camps – a furtherance of the policy of divide and rule.
It was once said that in the game of bridge it is “not for the best possible result, but the best result possible” with the partner you have. This advice applies to the long-stalled Israeli-Palestine peace process, recently revived by United States Secretary of State John Kerry.
In 1947 the UN spelled out the “best possible result”: Palestine – then a British mandate – was to be partitioned into two states of approximately equal size. Israel accepted this, but the Palestinians did not, so the Palestinian state was never established.
The present situation is untenable and Kerry’s formidable task is to get the Palestinians to accept a smaller state than they want and the Israelis to accept a smaller state than they have.
In successive wars, Israel seized all the land allocated to Palestine, mainly the West Bank of the Jordan River and Gaza, now swarming with millions of Palestinian refugees who are treated in similar fashion to the Blacks in apartheid South Africa.
With the security situation firmly under the control of Israel, the status quo is unlikely to change any time soon.