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Prospects for peace

Prospects for peace

Are we on the brink of a lasting peace in the Middle East? Writing in Arab News, peace activists Dr. Nazir Khaja and Fr. Raymond G. Helmick assess the chances.

August 29, 2010 4:12 by

Everything remains tied to the November congressional elections in the United States. Expect nothing to happen before then beyond the formalities of stating positions. Only after November will Obama be free to take any initiatives. The key has to be insistence on international law. If that is not the governing principle of the negotiations, no alternative exists except naked political power and military force. We will know, but not until after those elections, whether the law will be invoked.

Despite the vast disparity of power between the parties, with the Israelis backed at every point by the United States, Palestinians have no recourse but to firmly adhere to international law and principles. We have to believe that neither Obama nor Mitchell is there to lead them directly to the wolves. Law is good for the Israelis too. As much as they have violated and neglected it, with American indulgence, it is there for their protection as much as for that of the Palestinians. The parties must be deemed genuinely equal before the law by US and the international community that is hoping for a just peace for the region.

Yet there is a poison pill built into these negotiations: The exclusion of Hamas. The refusal of Israel and the United States to deal with them any time even when they were freely elected to form a government in January 2006 has been injustice from the start. An artificial cleavage between them and the Palestinian Authority, under Fatah leadership, has since created an intra-Palestinian alienation that could be more difficult to heal than that between them and the Israelis themselves. Hamas is portrayed consistently as an enemy determined to destroy the State of Israel, but this is untrue. Their ambition is a Palestinians state within “the 1967 borders,” and they have become the bulwark against real extremism. Those who have actually talked with them know that they are ready to be a very positive force for making peace if they are once approached with respect. But if Americans and Israelis continue to exclude them, no option is left to them but to reject out of hand any agreement made without them, if indeed it were possible to make any such agreement. That would kill it instantly and the whole effort would be wasted.

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