Monday, 21 May 2018 02:14

Good bye “conflict resolution” Featured

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Forty five years passed since the 1973 first Geneva Conference for Peace between the Arab Countries and Israel. A lot of talks took place by then to find a way for the inclusion of the PLO in that Conference directly or indirectly. The Palestinian National Council of 1973, and 1974 eleventh and twelfth sessions were both  an attempt in that direction when they decided to create a “ Palestinian National Authority in any part of Palestine to be liberated”. This program signaled the PLO move from the Liberation of all Palestine strategy, to another one that speaks about liberation in stages, opening the way to the recognition of Israel in the 1988 PNC conference. The 1973-1974 change gave PLO the Arab recognition as the sole representative of the Palestinian people which took place in the Arab Summit held in Rabat in 1974, and it also opened the UN doors to Yasser Arafat to give his famous speech” I came to you with an olive branch in one hand, and a gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand”, and he repeated the last sentence. Besides that the PLO started engaging with some European countries like France.

Yet, these changes of the 1973-1974 were not enough for United States and Israel to accept the inclusion of the PLO in the so called” Peace Process”. This inclusion had to wait for the Americans till 1988 when PLO recognized the UN Security Council Resolution 242 during the  PNC 16th conference held in Algeria by then. After that conference an American dialogue with the PLO started, and the American Ambassador to Tunisia Robert Pelleatru was appointed to conduct it. Without delving in too much details, the rest of the story is known starting from Madrid Conference of 1991 when PLO participated as part of a joint Jordanian- Palestinian delegation, followed by eight sessions of “ corridor meetings” aiming to agree on the agenda before interning the negotiations room. These sessions were held in Washington between the Palestinian delegation that was led by the late Haidar Abdel Shafi the well known Palestinian National Personality from Gaza,  and the Israeli one led by Lawyer Elyakim  Rubenstein. The sessions were stopped without entering the negotiations room. This stoppage took place after Oslo Declaration of Principles was released as a result of secret direct talks that took place between Israel and the PLO. Since Madrid conference of 1991, 27 years already passed, and 25 are almost passed since Oslo. Palestinian wise the harvest was bitter.

The colonial settlements grow bigger more than six times, during the “ peace process”. Jerusalem got fully separated from the other parts of the Palestinian 1967 territories, and almost Judaised except the Old City and some other few communities. The Refugees issue is taken in practical terms out of the table by Israel and the United States. Last but not least Area C became De facto annexed to Israel if not De Jure yet, and Jerusalem annexed territory to Israel is still growing by grabbing parts of West Bank, and adding them to Jerusalem. The outcome of all of this is a creeping annexation as it was first called by Moshe Dayan in the end of 1960’s, and the creation of one bigger Israel that have no place for the Palestinians. What will be the next step towards those ignored Palestinians?. Some in Israel are raising their voices calling for their transfer, in other hand the official Israeli Policy is keeping silent about their fate, but at the same time supporting those who call for the transfer of the Palestinians by taking no single step against their statements and actions. 

This is a summary of the bitter harvest so far, which is also an indication that the worse is still to come. Why is that?

The main reason is the formula that was used for peacemaking and conflict resolution  between the Palestinians and the Israelis. I published a long research paper about this formula in the “ International Negotiation Journal” last January 2018, titled “Beyond Exacerbating Asymmetry, and Sustainig Occupation”. Here is a brief summary of the findings about the conflict resolution formula that was adopted by the United States and Israel towards our case: 

First: Despite the grief asymmetry between the two sides( The occupier and the occupied). They were considered to be symmetrical. “ You will get if you give”.  ( Netanyahu).

Second: The process dealt with West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem as the subjects of bargaining and division between the two sides. This approach led to the marginalization of the Palestinian refugees issue, and other issues like the Palestinian rights in West Jerusalem.

Third: The Process was gradual, and incremental, so the discussed details will open the way to other endless kind of details leading as such to the failure of all the negotiations rounds.

Fourth: Instead of agreeing in advance about the end game( The goal of the Negotiations), the final status was kept as an “ open ended”, and the core issues including of Jerusalem, refugees, settlements and borders were left to the permanent status negotiations that its rounds failed one after the other, while settlments were growing in the ground.

Fifth: The mediator was biased to the strong side all the way ahead. In the times of President Donald Trump the mediator moved to a worse position of becoming a partner to Israel in settlement expansion, and in Judaizing Jerusalem.

Sixth: The formula for the negotiations was based on “ Ignoring the past, and looking together for the future”. That was adopted instead of reconciling and solving the atrocities of that past.

Seventh: The formula included a People to people approach which ended up becoming the hub for “ technical” and “ business like” projects with a lot of bearucracy in reporting and the quality of reporting included from the donors side. This was accompanied by an assumption by the donors that the two sides moved to a stable “post- Conflict period” of partnering in making solutions, therefore institutional building became the fashion instead of the continuation of the support for the Palestinian non- violent struggle for self determination and independent statehood. Neo- Colonial tools of control was included as research explicated.

In brief, a commercial  formula of compromise prevailed either by looking politically for the division of the 1967 occupied territories between the two sides, or by doing business together through the so called” people to people projects”. 

The bitter harvest of this formula is ahead of our eyes. Accordingly it should be said clearly: Goodbye to conflict resolution with all its shortfalls, and look instead for reconciliation. The conditions of the latter do not exist in the ground today, but an international formula of non violent struggle for the emancipation of the Palestinian people can create the conditions for it instead of focusing solely on diplomacy. 

Article published in Akhbar el Balad: http://akhbarelbalad.net/ar/1/6/3944/

Photo credit: AP

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Walid Salem

Walid Salem is a Member in the Palestinian National Council of PLO, teaching democracy and human rights at AlQuds University. He is a writer of thirty books and training manuals, and tens of research papers on Democracy, civil society, citizenship, refugees, and Jerusalem.