Wednesday,20 June, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)
Wednesday,20 June, 2018
Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Reactivating the peace process

Thoughtful engagement is what is needed to reactivate the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians, as Norway demonstrated in the early 1990s, writes Al-Sayed Amin Shalaby

Al-Ahram Weekly

During the last five years, due to Israeli, Palestinian, regional and international factors, the Palestinian cause retreated on the roster of regional and international agendas.

In the process, the Israeli government under Netanyahu consolidated the occupation of Palestinian territories, continuing to build settlements in defiance of the international community.

Recently, a kind of international awakening occurred. In the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, “the situation cannot continue like that”. Indeed, initiative came from French President Hollande when he convened in Paris an international conference where 26 countries participated to lay rules for serious negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Almost simultaneously, Egyptian President El-Sisi addressed a message to the Israelis and Palestinians to make a serious effort to reach a settlement. Building on that, the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visited Ramallah and Jerusalem. Ban Ki-Moon paid a similar visit. A long-awaited report of the International Quartet was issued. While the Palestinians and the Arab League had reservations, the positive point was its demanding an end to Israeli settlements, considering them an obstacle to negotiations.

As keeping up the momentum of recent moves and enlarging the interest and participation of the international community is very much needed, my experience as a former ambassador to Norway (1900-1994) encourages me to recall the role of Norwegian diplomacy in thinking through and preparing nine months of secret negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) that ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords, which was a breakthrough in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict promising to establish peace between the two nations. The fate of the Oslo Accords is well known, due to the emergence of right-wing forces in Israel, a process that started with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin who concluded the accords, promising reconciliation with the Palestinian people, and the coming of Netanyahu as prime minister in 1996, openly determined to cancel the accords.

Nevertheless, in recent efforts to reactivate the peace process, I believe that Norwegian diplomacy and experience is still qualified and interested to play a role in reactivating the search for an accepted settlement based on a long record of international resolutions, roadmaps, and serious initiatives — namely the Arab Peace Initiative. It is encouraging to follow a recent visit to Cairo by the Norwegian foreign minister and his meetings with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, in a number of international gatherings.

The prospects of an accepted settlement look ambivalent. On the one hand, there an extremist Israeli government headed by an ideologue who denies the basic aspirations of the Palestinian people. His record as a politician and as prime minister does not encourage expectations of reaching a reasonable agreement. On the other hand, there is gathering support in the international community for the right of the Palestinian people to an independent and integral state.

Ultimately the outcome will depend on two basic conditions: 1) unity among the Palestinian factions; and 2) support through a concerted Arab stand to mobilise the international community via a broad international conference to lay out and adopt the rules of any accepted settlement, and garner the will to implement them.

It would be a waste of time to wait for or rely on an American role, whether under Clinton or Trump.

The writer is a former Egyptian ambassador. 

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