Int'l community tries to remove Israelis from peace process

Monday, September 29, 2008 |  Ryan Jones

With Israel's democratic process getting in the way of securing a final status Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, the international community has issued a statement that it hopes will take the troublesome Israeli electorate out of the equation.

Responding to Arab pressure to reverse the establishment of the State of Israel, the international community hoisted the land-for-peace process on the Jewish state. But Israel's vibrant democracy has proven to be a wrench in the gears, prone to electing leaders not in tune with the international community's plans when it feels its own security and national interests are being harmed.

And the 15-year-old land-for-peace process has done anything but maintain Israel's security and protect its long-term national interests.

The results at the ballot box have largely stalled the peace process, and even the purported progress over the past year is likely to be erased when, as polls predict, Israelis elect a right-wing government opposed to recklessly dividing the land in the next general election.

It was this trend that the Middle East Quartet comprised of the US, UN, European Union and Russia hoped to obstruct last weekend in what amounted to blatant interference in Israel's democratic process.

Quartet leaders meeting in New York at the opening of the UN General Assembly insisted that it is vitally important to the very integrity of the peace process that Israelis be kept in the dark about what their leaders are offering to the Palestinians.

In a statement released via the US State Department, the Quartet "noted the significance of this process and the importance of confidentiality in order to preserve its integrity."

Referring in the next line to the "irreversibility of the negotiations," the Quartet also took it upon itself to determine that the current formula whereby Israel can test different offers to the Palestinians without actually committing to future concessions will no longer fly.

Israel's core position since direct high-level peace talks started in 1993 has been that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. This principle underlined the ill-fated 2000 Camp David talks where former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak made far-reaching offers to try to entice Yasser Arafat into a peace deal, but insisted that all offers were off the table the moment the summit ended. That position was supported and even echoed by their host, former US President Bill Clinton.

But the international community is starting to understand that the Palestinians will settle for nothing less than 100 percent of their demands being met. The only way to achieve that is to make all Israeli offers binding, no matter how tentative, and then stockpile those offers over a period of time until the Palestinians are satisfied.

The Quartet's goal appears to be to change the rules of the game, even to the point of denying Israeli voters the ability to participate in the peace process in any meaningful way. With a public kept in the dark and an opposition unable to campaign on a platform of alternative approaches to peace because all past offers are binding, the current leadership is far more likely to remain in power.

From Ariel Sharon to Ehud Olmert to Tzipi Livni, Israel's recent and current leaders all once strongly opposed the policies they now champion. But of late these leaders have been only too happy to acquiesce to the new anti-democratic rules as they seek to forge a positive legacy as "peacemakers" and win the praise of the international community. Sharon relished in this praise after he forcibly uprooted 8,000 Jews from the Gaza Strip, while his successors have conveniently ignored the fact that accolades quickly reverted to criticism as the Palestinians up the ante.

If the international community succeeds in eliminating the last vestiges of electoral pressure and political accountability in Israel, then the convergence of increasing recklessness by the nation's leaders and overbearingness by Western power brokers will be complete.

The Land of Israel is today on the verge of being divided, if only the Israelis could be removed from the process.

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