Saturday, September 10

The Future Palestinian State and Israel

These days are interesting and Israel as well as the Palestinians face new opportunities which never existed before prior to the disengagement. Many countries in the world accept the fact that the heart of the Israeli - Arab conflict is the Palestinian problem. There are signs of this in the tentative negotiations that have started between Israel and Pakistan. Pakistan, being a non-Arab state is not bound by decisions that Arab states make regarding Israel. President Jalal Talabani of Iraq has hinted to Chaim Saban, the Israeli business magnate that Israel has to solve the Palestinian problem before Iraq will establish diplomatic relations with her.

As far as the Arab states are concerned, there does seem to be a large shift in pragmatism towards recognizing Israel's right to exist. The main obstacle today is the solving of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. The Arab countries have come a long way since Israel's establishment in recognizing Israel's right to exist. There are many unofficial meetings between Israel and her Arab neighbors. This is a good sign for the future.

Since the disengagement, Israel has chalked up many positive points in her favor from states that were formerly hostile. There is no doubt that Israel's disengagement from Gaza will have a positive snowball effect in her future relations with her Arab neighbors. Israel has proved that she is willing to forego territory and make painful decisions for the sake of achieving peace.

The situation in Gaza, however, does not give much cause for optimism and it looks as if they are going to miss the boat for consolidating their gains from Israel's pullout. The situation in Gaza is chaotic. When President Mahmoud Abbas does not show any signs of disarming the militants in his midst, including those who are terrorists, he is endangering his own people's future as well as his own life. There is incredible intra fraternal strife amongst the various Palestinian groups which could eventually result in a power struggle. This would render Gaza ungovernable and would postpone the establishment of a Palestinian state indefinitely. The assassination of Musa Arafat is an example that all is not well in Gaza. No country in the world would be prepared to invest in a future Palestinian state that is approaching total anarchy.

Mahmoud Abbas is playing a very dangerous game. A game of indecisiveness is not in his people's interests. The demonstration scenes of hooded militias firing their weapons do not create a favorable atmosphere of stability for the future of Gaza. These scenes are fearful and show total lack of leadership. The fact that Musa Arafat lived not far from Mahmoud Abbas could also mean that he could be the next on the firing line.

It is difficult to imagine that P.M. Ariel Sharon will cede more territory to the Palestinians under these conditions of total anarchy. There could also be a severe spill over of terror into Israel from various terrorist groups. One should view Gaza as an example of what could occur when Palestinians gain more territory. The possibility of a severe problem of Al Qaeda establishing terrorist cells in Gaza within its anarchy exists.

Blaming Israel for the anarchy in Palestinian street is no real excuse. It has become a cliché to say that the ball is now in the Palestinian court depending on whether they will receive more territory from Israel. This statement does ring true despite sentiments to the contrary on the Palestinian side.

The establishment of peace between Israel and the Palestinians are dependent on a number of factors:

  1. There should be total cessation of violence between the sides.

  1. They must agree to negotiate peace that would allow initiation of confidence building measures between the sides to the conflict.

  1. They should show willingness towards a third party, preferably neutral to the conflict, to help bridge their enormous differences.

  1. Both sides must recognize each other's rights to security, peace and dignity.

  1. The rights of both sides to independence are unquestionable.

When a peaceful atmosphere between the two sides is attained, Israel must be prepared to negotiate further withdrawals so that a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel can be established. Israel will have to make future very painful decisions regarding settler removal from the remaining occupied areas and resettle them in Israel.

A future Palestinian state will be dependent on international good will to ensure its viability. It will require much investment in order to rebuild its infrastructure including social and health services, education and economy to create meaningful employment for the Palestinians in building their state. This will take many years but at least a path for a decent future for the Palestinians would begin.

The Palestinian Government must decide on a programme of transparency so that corruption, which had been rife at the expense of the Palestinian people, does not reoccur.

Much work remains in bringing the two warring sides together. The advantages of peace will be a prosperous Middle East beneficial to all. Many Arab states would then show willingness to have diplomatic relations with Israel and Palestine allowing both countries to improve their economic situation. Foreign investment would not be slow in arriving for the benefit of both Israel and Palestine alike.

This does seem like dreaming. However, new positive ideas could create a new reality.

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