No Palestinian Prison state until 2009

No Palestinian Prison state until 2009

By Abid Mustafa

The present US effort undertaken by US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to
kick start the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis—as
envisioned by the Baker-Hamilton Report—is for now, a mere symbolic gesture.
There are three major obstacles that must be overcome, if the Bush
administration wants to realise its endorsement of a two state solution.

First, Olmert’s government is deeply unpopular and is engulfed in numerous
scandals. It is unlikely that Olmert will survive. Fresh elections will have
to be scheduled to form a new Israeli government—likely to be a coalition
government—this will delay the implementation of the road map. Despite
Olmert’s obvious weakness, his government like its predecessor has
sanctioned the construction of fresh settlements in West Bank— a move
intended to foil the US attempts to re-start the peace process. The proposal
elucidated by Israel’s Foreign Minister to advance negotiations between
Palestinians and Israelis, which includes psuedo final status termed
‘political horizon’ is meaningless unless Israel puts a halt to fresh
settlement activity and stops the excavation of Al-Aqsa mosque. The tactic
of supporting the peace-process and then simultaneously undermining it to
provoke the Palestinians into violence is an indelible feature of Israeli

Second, the US under Israeli pressure refused to negotiate with Hamas and
instead favoured Abbas to form a new unity government. It must be remembered
that it was Abbas’s government which Israel systematically destroyed, and
left the door ajar for Hamas to fill the political void and emerge
victorious in the parliamentary election held last year. Olmert then
proceeded to exploit Hamas’s militant credentials and its repudiation of
Israel to cut short Palestinian demands for peace and continued unilaterally
to redefine the road map.

Nevertheless, Israel’s defeat in Lebanon destroyed Olmert’s plan and
presented the US with another opportunity to move the peace process forward.
The US instructed Abbas to form a new government and told Egypt, Saudi
Arabia and Syria to reign in Hamas and forge a unity government with Fatah.
If the Mecca agreement between Fatah and Hamas fails to hold —the likelihood
is very high—then America will want Abbas to convene fresh elections to
consolidate the power of his Fatah party. Already the US, Israel and the EU
have offered Abbas aid to augment his security forces in order to offset
Hamas. The tussle between Hamas and Fatah will present Israel the pretext to
unilaterally shape the peace process in the absence of a viable Palestinian
partner. When Hamas and Fatah are not squabbling with one another, they will
be busy retaliating against Israeli aggression in the occupied territories.
This cycle of violence will pervade much of foreseeable future, stalling the
quartet’s efforts to make headway on the road map.

Third, even if the US succeeds in forming unity governments in both Israel
and Palestine, there is little the Bush and the Republican Party can do to
rejuvenate the road map. With the 2008 US general elections looming, the
Republican Party, as well as the Democratic Party requires the Jewish
lobby’s support to get elected. The castigation of Jimmy Carter’s new book
about Palestine, demonstrates the power of the Jewish lobby over US foreign
policy in Palestine.

All of this means that it will be 2009 before the US is able to mount enough
pressure to coerce Israel to make necessary compromises with the
Palestinians, and bring an end to the protracted dispute.

Abid Mustafa is a political commentator who specialises in Muslim affairs