Tzipi Livni And Saeb Erakat Addressing Journalists

Once again, we come to the threshold of another Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks, after a lengthy hiatus (more than 5 years) which has seen several bouts of escalations and quiet and again subsequent eruptions.

Negotiators from Israel (led by Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni)and Palestine (led by Chief Negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erakat)are in the United States of America to work out modalities towards achieving the much touted but elusive peace between both parties.

Since the State Of Israel was declared in 1948, it has known no peace, infact the day after the declaration by David Ben-Gurion on the 14th of May, 1948 neighbouring Arab armies invaded the newly created state whose creation was sanctioned by a United Nations General Assembly Resolution in 1947.

Between then and now, Israel has had to defend itself severally from her Arab neighbours in small and notable wars (like the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, in June 1967 and October 6, 1973 respectively), becoming victorious most times while annexing the West Bank, Sinai Peninsula, part of South Lebanon, Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem as ‘Spoils Of War’.

Along the line, Israel has also signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and maintains diplomatic and business relationships with Turkey.

Israel has enjoyed the backing of the United States, and a few European nations, chief of which is the United Kingdom. These, beyond providing the Israeli government with aid and military assistance also veto any resolution at the UN that they deem inimical to the health of their ally.

If Israel had only to deal with wars against her neighbours, then the issue of talking peace would be a non-starter for them, but the introduction of terrorist attacks championed by the Palestine Liberation Organization, PLO which was created in 1964 and led by Yasser Arafat from 1969 to his death in 2004 (now succeeded by Mahmoud Abbas) shifted the dynamics in the war Israel found it could never win, as Israeli citizens became targets within and outside Israel.

It is the rampancy and the effectiveness of the activities of the PLO (and of course other smaller bodies and groups, Palestinian or non but sympathetic to the cause of the Palestinians) that brought Israel to the negotiating table, especially after the PLO endorsed a two-state solution (contingent on terms such as making East Jerusalem the capital of the Palestinian State and giving Palestinians the ‘Right Of Return’ to land occupied by Palestinians prior to 1948, as well as the right to continue armed struggle until the end of ”The Zionist Entity”).

The efforts at bringing the two parties to a table (as now) was spearheaded by the United States, and till today still forms the backbone of US foreign policy (and have been seen over the years to make or mar presidents of the US when it comes to international circuit and diplomacy).

The closest the two sides ever got to making peace was during the Bill Clinton presidency, and I dare say that had Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin (with whom Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres recieved the ‘Nobel Prize for Peace’ for the Negotiations at Oslo) not been assassinated maybe, just maybe we would’ve had the much needed peace between Israel and Palestine.

Another attempt was made with Ehud Barak as Prime Minister in Israel but hit the rocks when both sides failed to yield much needed grounds. This was perhaps the last chance for peace as the Israeli governments that came after him became or were less amenable to peace overtures by the Palestinians or even the Americans for that matter.

Infact, the government of Ariel Sharon had Arafat confined within his Ramallah compound for over two years, where the latter became ill, fell into a coma and afterwards died (a subject of dispute today, as the Palestinian Authority carry out studies as well as a post mortem of his exhumed body following claims that his clothing as well as utensils around him, prior to his death were laced with life threatening nuclear materials) on the 11th of November, 2004.

Since then, the noticeable crack within the Palestinian group has widened and has led to the two areas currently occupied by Palestinians being ruled by separate factions after elections won by the Hamas (which does not recognize Israel) went unrecognized by world powers thus strengthening the arm of the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas to attempt to usurp power but failed, leading to both sides consolidating their bases in the area they control, Gaza for Hamas and the West Bank for the Palestinian Authority.

Since then, the situation has become murkier, with a three-pronged arena in the crisis now created, evidenced by the almost stoical reaction of the Hamas government to some diplomatic successes won by the West Bank’s and Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abass at the United Nations, in recent times, and the expected condemnation of same by the Israelis, who also on the one hand prop the PA while stifling Hamas on the other.

Unfortunately for the Palestinians, recent events in the middle east have left them out in the cold, as former supportive governments in the region now face mounting discontent amongst their populations at home in the recent spate of Arab Springs that have led to the deposition of some influential despotic rulers and political instability even civil wars in others (as in the case of Syria).

Their supporters in Europe too have also had to face troubles at home occassioned by the economic crisis there. The European Union’s attempt to stamp some form of authority by insisting that Israeli farms operating in the ‘Occupied Territories’ correctly label their products (most of them aren’t, and hence are sold even in nations opposed vehemently to Israeli goods and services) and placing a ban on aid to Israeli Institutions operating there too, seem to be yielding no fruit and may infact have backfired as Israel, on the other hand has blocked aid getting to Palestinian Institutions from Europe that must pass through Israeli hands.

It is in this atmosphere that the efforts at reawakening the peace-talks between the Israelis and Palestinians hold. How much progress can be achieved with the Israeli government insisting that the talks about the Pre-’67 borders as well as Israeli settlements remain non-negotiable, while creating an ambient atmosphere for some ‘trust’ with the release of more than a hundred Palestinian prisoners (accused of the most heinous and deadly crimes and attacks against Israelis) is left to be seen as time goes on.