Empty promises

Palestinian Hamas policmen march with their police dogs along a street in Gaza City on April 24, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED ABED)

With the “development” this week that the Arab League is willing to modify their 2002 peace initiative, it becomes depressingly clear once again that this whole, tragic issue is seen by outsiders as little more than a video game.

Originally, the peace deal offered diplomatic recognition for Israel in exchange for a return to the 1967 borders. Now, in an effort to appease the Jewish state, the League is offering mutually agreed swaps.

But just as with every other “peace initiative” before it during the last 70 years, this one is bound to fail, as – just as with each one before it – each actor is thinking only of their own interests and yet again no one has thought to ask the Palestinians what it is they want.

China is the latest to offer mediation help to convince the world it can deliver where the U.S., the U.N, the EU and the Arab League have failed, but instead revealing itself as yet another self-interested party with little genuine concern for the rights of Palestinians.

All efforts to find peace have failed until now as they have always been unbalanced, and always in favor of the Israelis. Why should the Palestinians be expected to settle for land swaps that see them lose access to water and resources, and gain only arid land? Already Hamas has rejected this latest proposal.

And all the while, as these meaningless discussions drag on over decades, Palestine has lost 80 percent of the land originally offered to it. The U.S. talks of optimism over peace talks starting soon, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he would put any peace deal to a referendum.

But any real Palestine-watcher knows that there is no hope here, for again, the Palestinians themselves have not been consulted on what they want or what they would agree to. The world’s big powers are arrogant enough to believe they can impose a “peace solution” upon a people disenfranchised for so long, as if the Palestinians are some sort of incapable people, without their own principles, or indeed institutions and systems.

The Palestinian “problem” is passed around the globe from one do-gooder to another, as if it is some roving exhibition. But not once does this process actually help alleviate the ever-worsening situation for Palestinians, who are daily denied the most basic human rights.

The Arab League, which seems to have nominated itself as spokesperson for the Palestinians, has to sit up and listen to what the rightful owners of the land actually want, rather than simply deciding on their behalf. And unless the West and the rest of the world can actually create some magic solution that offers a balanced peace deal to both sides, it must take a step back. Otherwise, they are sustaining a cycle of false hopes and promises. If the Palestinians are left alone to do their own bidding, it might also become easier for them to reconcile their internal differences.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 04, 2013, on page 7.




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