[Published 23 June 2016]
The European Union needs to heed the sobering message delivered by Israel’s President — Reuven Rivlin - to the European Parliament on 22 June:
“Currently the practical conditions, the political and regional circumstances, which would enable us to reach a permanent agreement between us — the Israelis and the Palestinians — are failing to materialize.”
Rivlin ascribed this situation to two reasons:
1. The Palestinian leadership was divided in at least two.Rivlin criticised the French Initiative to kickstart the negotiations stalled for the last two years as the chronicle of a predictable failure, which would only push the two peoples deeper into despair.
2. In order to achieve a stable and viable agreement, a reasonable regional and economic infrastructure was required whereas the reality was a chaos-stricken Middle East in which uncertainty is the only certainty.
He warned those present:
“Distinguished audience, if the international community really wishes and truly aspires to be a constructive player, it must divert its efforts away from the renewal of negotiations for negotiations’ sake, and toward building trust between the parties, and to creating the necessary terms for the success of negotiations in the future.”
Rivlin laid out four areas where building trust could occur:
“First, harnessing the moderate powers in the region. The cooperation with Jordan and Egypt is a supreme common interest of Israel and the international community as well, in the aim of preventing military bolstering from beyond our borders, and in order to eradicate extremism and preserve the stability of the region…
Second, developing Palestinian economy and infrastructures for quality of life. One cannot speak about a future agreement when people live with a basic existential feeling of having no future, no opportunities, no hope, and no horizon. With the backdrop of economic difficulties in Judea and Samaria, and the situation in Gaza, a broad economic course of action is called for…
Third, investing in joint ventures aimed at creating joint interests…
Fourth and ultimately — education. Increasing stability, developing infrastructures and strategic terms are essential conditions, but are not enough. Creating the conditions for any future agreement requires conditioning hearts on both sides for the possibility of living with mutual respect…”
Rivlin’s message was timely — but could have been more pointed had he stressed that trust building and conditioning of hearts on both sides couldn’t realistically occur whilst:
1. The PLO remains the governing authority in Areas “A” and “B” in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank)Both the PLO and Hamas maintain the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel as their primary goal.
2. Hamas remains the governing authority in Gaza
3. Free elections are denied to their Arab constituencies by Hamas and the PLO.
The Arab residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza have been denied any vote since their decision to elect Hamas in 2006 was rejected by the PLO — leading to bitter internecine power struggles that still remain unresolved today.
Certainly if elections were held whilst Hamas and the PLO retained political strangleholds over their respective electorally-starved populations — they might out of genuine fear for their personal safety well opt to continue swallowing the same unpleasant medicine — leaving the peace process in the negotiating void that exists to-day.
Rivlin’s call to harness the moderate powers in the region sends the European Union a message that facilitating direct negotiations between Jordan, Israel and Egypt on the future of Judea, Samaria and Gaza could be meaningful negotiations - not negotiations for negotiations sake — towards ending the 100 years old conflict.
Hopefully the European Union takes note and uses its power, prestige and influence to make such trilateral negotiations become a reality.