This week, in the space of three days, the chances of a two-state peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians have drifted apart to an extent that may well prove unredeemable. Last night (Tuesday 27th), the Likud party primaries in Israel moved the party firmly in a right-ward (ie non-two-state) direction, epitomised by the long-awaited electoral success of Moshe Feiglin. Feiglin, a settler who carries a support base within Likud of 12-15,000, is firmly on the religious right in Israeli politics and wants to offer an alterative to Oslo and the two-state solution. Feiglin is just one of the candidates on the right of the party to have taken Likud even more right-wing than they already were as the nations main right-wing party!
Meanwhile, in New York, PA chief Mahmoud Abbas is preparing to speak to the General Assembly of the UN on Thursday and ask for Observer status for a Palestinian state that doesn’t exist! He already has at least 150 of the available 193 votes committed to him, so acceptance of his nonsensical application is assured.
So what do these two events mean for peace?
On the Israeli side, Likud and the right-wing parties will win a stronger place in January’s elections than they have ever had. Benjamin Netanyahu will have less scope than at present to negotiate a two-state solution as his coalition will almost certainly be composed of more hardliners than leftists or even centrists. January will see a victory for the pro-settler movement that will irritate the Palestinian leadership further and make compromise (two-state style) harder and harder. Mahmoud Abbas’ success at the UN kills the Oslo Accords and frees Isreal to take unilateral actions that could go as far as re-occupying the whole West Bank. In fact, if the PA collapses financially (as could so easily happen any time), such a re-occupation would be the best economic event that could happen for ordinary Palestinians trying to make a living!
For Mahmoud Abbas, the granting of Observer status will give him access to numerous UN agencies that he can use to bring political and legal pressure on Israel. For example, he will be able to take Israel to the International Court on any number of trumped up charges under “international law”. Any of the possible actions the PA can take will also further exacerbate attempts to recreate a two-state scenario. Of course, the complete financial collapse of Abbas’ PA would make his plans a moot point and could take us all back to a pre-Oslo situation.
If this last scenario is the most extreme one conceivable; the collapse of the PA and re-occupation of the West Bank by Israel; to my mind it is also the most likely to offer real peace to both Israelis and Palestinians! “Heresy – shock horror!” I hear. But there was a time, before the PA, before the security barrier, before Oslo, before twenty years of fruitless terrorism and negotiations, when Israelis shopped in Palestinian markets, Palestinians went to Israeli weddings and Jews and Arabs traded together with no suicide bombers to stop them and no leftist “peace” organisations to stoke the embers of hatred. Speak to Israelis who were around on the West Bank between 1967 and 1993 and see that settlements weren’t a major international issue but a source of income and trade for Palestinian farmers and shop-keepers.
Life when the West Bank was under complete Israeli control was surely not completely perfect, but people were allowed to get on with the business of living together and co-existing without being stirred to hatred by terrorist thugs wearing checkered keffiyehs and fake uniforms (that was Arafat, by the way). Problem is, the West almost certainly won’t let that kind of grass-roots peace grow unhindered by top-down international diplomacy. Still, one can always hope!