As for 'bypassing the incompetent government' one has to wonder why Rami does't start with the one's in Amman, Cairo, Beirut, etc... But then...Rami has been on take from these Arab regimes for a very long time, which of course explains what he writes and where...
Time to consult the Israeli and Palestinian publics by Rami Khouri
Daily Star, Beirut, Nov. 28, 2003
After several years of virtual stalemate in Palestinian-Israeli peace-making, a recent flurry of activity suggests that something is in the air.
Two separate grassroots Israeli-Palestinian peace frameworks based on the two-state solution have been proposed (the Nusseibeh-Ayalon plan, and the Geneva Agreement agreed by teams headed by Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo). The UN Security Council has formally endorsed the Quartet’s “road map” for peace and Palestinian statehood by 2005. To signal its displeasure with Israel’s expansion of settlements and construction of the separation barrier, the US has just deducted nearly $300 million from its $9 billion loan guarantees to Israel. The new Palestinian government headed by Ahmed Qorei plans top-level meetings with Israeli officials. Egypt this week wants to host a gathering of all Palestinian political groups to discuss a cessation of armed resistance against Israel, among other actions designed to resume the negotiations for a permanent peace accord. Four former Israeli internal security chiefs have publicly criticized the current Israeli government policy toward the Palestinians. And even the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has suggested he may dismantle a few of the dozens of small colonies that Israeli settlers have established in recent years throughout the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
The meaning of all this is unclear. It remains to be seen if the recent flurry of activity is merely movement without substance, prompted by frustration and desperation, or a tangible sign of substantive progress that builds on the tough lessons of the past decade. I think we have good news and bad news here.
The good news is that the multiple political initiatives are a sign that both the grassroots and the political elites in Palestine and Israel cannot long endure the political, economic and moral costs of the current violent stalemate. All interested parties are exploring political negotiations for a permanent peace agreement, including the Israeli and Palestinian governments, public opinion and grassroots movements in both societies, and external actors like the US, Egypt, the Quartet and the Security Council.
Particularly important are the signs of Israeli and Palestinian popular support for a fair, negotiated resolution of the conflict. This week a public opinion poll conducted by the Baker Institute at Rice University found that 53 and 56 percent respectively of Israelis and Palestinians support a peace accord along the lines of the proposed Geneva Agreement: two adjacent states, an almost total Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967, division of sovereignty in Jerusalem, compensation for refugees, and an end to the conflict.
Acknowledging the weaknesses of the Oslo process, the Geneva Agreement proposes a multinational force to ensure security, and an implementation and verification group to guarantee, monitor and resolve disputes relating to the agreement’s implementation.
The bad news, however, is that all these political initiatives are unlikely to succeed, because they all reflect the same flaw that resulted in the failure of other serious peace-making attempts in the past decade the Madrid, Oslo, Camp David, Taba and road map processes.
The fatal flaw comprises several related elements: a) a peace accord must accept the fact of permanent Israeli settlements and land grabs east of the 1967 borders, especially around Jerusalem, comprising some 300,000 Israeli settlers; b) Palestinian national rights remain hostage to Israeli security requirements, and even after a permanent peace agreement the Palestinian state and people are assumed to remain hostile to Israel, and therefore require security-related constraints such as permanent demilitarization; c) the proposed resolution of the Palestine refugees issue remains grievously unfair, and is particularly problematic because it has not included any serious consultation of the refugees themselves, and also leaves to Israel’s determination how many refugees might be repatriated to their original lands and homes in Israel.
The proposed accords reflect Israeli ideological perspectives, military concerns, and territorial gains far more rigorously than they take into consideration the parallel Palestinian perspectives. Despite these flaws, the proposed accords are gaining many supporters and generating serious public debate among Israelis and Palestinians, because the cost of the state of war is too high for both sides. The popular consensus seems to be that a flawed peace agreement is better than no peace agreement. Yet this is a sure recipe for problems down the road, if both sides rush into a flawed agreement simply to find an escape from current hardships.
A better approach would be to acknowledge the progress represented by the proposed peace plans, while also admitting that some imbalances and flaws must be addressed in order to achieve a truly fair, workable and permanent peace accord. The most useful way to do this now is to bypass both the incompetent governments and the small groups of sincere but slightly marginalized would-be peace-makers on both sides, and consult the Israeli and Palestinian publics more directly and democratically, especially the Palestinian refugees. The Palestinian and Israeli publics will respond reasonably to reasonable proposals.
Rami G. Khouri is the executive editor of The Daily Star