Sustaining progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is like climbing a sand dune – every step forward seems to be followed by two steps back. The most recent wave of violence in Israel and the breakdown of peace talks illustrate that the peace process is stumbling. The Palestinians appear firmly intent on ruining Israel and the peace process.
It is very difficult to presume that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority can continue. Chairman Yasser Arafat represents a people who are becoming more frustrated with his inability to produce tangible results through negotiation and the rank corruption that plague his government. The violence ignited by Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount is as much a response to Arafat’s failings as it is to Sharon’s provocations.
A lasting and just peace in the Middle East can only be secured by the good faith, commitment and responsibility of the parties involved. The events of the past week prove the Palestinians are not ready to uphold peace. The desecration of Joseph’s Tomb by a Palestinian mob calls into question whether the Palestinian Authority can be trusted to ensure the integrity of religious shrines – both Christian and Jewish – when they allow people to trample and pillage this one.
Arafat balked at the chance to affirm Palestine as an equal and responsible peace partner at Camp David. Now he faces the prospect of a much different negotiating partner at the bargaining table. Prime Minister Ehud Barak, already in hot water for granting too many concessions to the Palestinians in July, is in the throes of a turbulent political crisis certain to change his government when the Knesset reconvenes later this month. Assuming he remains in power, any coalition Barak assembles will undoubtedly incorporate right wing elements intent on curbing his concessions to the Palestinians. Further, no other Israeli leader can offer Arafat more than current proposals, only less.
Coexistence is the key to any permanent peace. The recent riots have only widened the fissure between the Israeli and Palestinian people. Both sides must recognize how intertwined a future Palestinian state would be with Israel. Coexistence implies the understanding that while two separate states may one day occupy this small strip of land, those states will share a common fate. It is in the best interest of both sides to help the other develop. There is no better means to accomplish this goal than peace.
The Israelis have made strides in this respect, forwarding ideas and proposals at Camp David previously unthinkable in other Israeli governments. Now it’s the Palestinians’ turn to respond in kind.
-The writer is a senior majoring in international affairs who studied for a year at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.