A recipe for losing another peace chance

by Qaddoura Fares
29 October 2004
RAMALLAH - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is not the only one who
wants his unilateral disengagement plan to succeed. Many on the Palestinian
side would like to see it work, certainly within the context of pulling the
Israeli troops out of Gaza and dismantling Jewish settlements. But the plan
as it stands today, and judging from what Israeli officials tell us, has no
chance of success.

The only component the plan has today is security. We, Palestinians, are
being told that the success of Sharon's plan can lead to a bilateral track
that would revive the peace process. But that is not enough to convince the
Palestinian people, the overwhelming majority of whom does not believe
peace is possible under the current government of Israel.

Moreover, it is not possible when Sharon himself and his adviser, Dov
Weisglass, speak openly that the plan was originally contemplated to freeze
the peace process and to bypass the public and international support the
Geneva Initiative initially gained after it was signed and officially
launched on December 1, 2003.

For the unilateral disengagement to succeed it cannot continue only on the
leg of security; it needs a political component as well as an economic one.
Without the political component, there will hardly be a single Palestinian
prepared to give a hand to the Sharon plan, even when it speaks of pulling
Israeli troops out of the Gaza Strip. This political component is
fundamental to guarantee that the Gaza first process will not end up to be
Gaza last. The political component is the only mechanism that can serve as
a springboard for launching a comprehensive negotiations process that leads
to a genuine end to the conflict.

Many have asked what would be the alternative. Others argue that Sharon's
plan is the only game in town and that is why "we should deal with it
positively." This is true, but only to a certain extent. The only game in
town is and should always remain a negotiated settlement that puts an end
to this conflict. To move from unilateralism into bilateralism is not easy,
perhaps because of the current state of affairs between the two governments
of Palestine and Israel.

But the alternative is there. It is in the words of Sharon and his adviser.
They both spoke of the Geneva Initiative as being a major factor that
pushed them to adopt the unilateral disengagement with the Palestinians.
They both understood that the public and international momentum the
initiative gained was very likely to lead to an international pressure
campaign on Israel to accept the parameters of the Geneva Initiative. While
the unilateral disengagement may help Sharon for the time being, he will
ultimately have to face the necessity of starting a peace process, unless
he assumes the current impasse can continue permanently.

Only a negotiated settlement can end this conflict. Only a bilateral
process of talks between the leaderships in Israel and Palestine can lead
to such a settlement. Notwithstanding the fact that some may agree or
disagree with certain clauses in the Geneva Initiative, it remains the only
model that proves that peace is possible and doable. We strongly believe a
concerted effort has to continue both on the Palestinian and the Israeli
side to emphasize that the only game in town leading to a just solution is
the Geneva Initiative, nothing more and nothing less.


Qaddoura Fares is a state minister in the Palestinian National Authority, a
member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and one of the signatories of
the Geneva Initiative. He is also member of the Supreme Steering Committee
of the Palestinian Peace Coalition / Geneva Initiative.

Source: Ha'aretz, October 26, 2004

Visit the Ha'aretz website at http://www.haaretzdaily.com/

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service.

Copyright permission has been obtained for publication.
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