TFF logoFORUMS Power Columns

Thanks to the Intifada 2, the final deal for Israel and Palestine is on the table




January 24, 2001

LONDON - Clinton is out of it and Bush is not yet into it so the Palestinians and Israelis are on their own. That is no bad thing. The meeting in Cairo is make or break time. If they fail Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel will surely be voted out in the election on February 6th. If they succeed the euphoria unleashed might save Barak, and save Israel too. A future Israel under the leadership of Ariel Sharon can only be the downward path for both Israel and the Palestinians.

It is a future that goes nowhere. For the Israelis it means more years as an occupying power that demands for precarious survival a resort to increasingly brutal tactics to survive, that debilitates Israel as least as much as it does its antagonist. For the Palestinians it means a future in which there is no possibility of economic advance and a deferral of all their dreams for the indefinite future. For their leader Yasser Arafat, who is fighting off serious illness, it may mean literally the end of the road. For the West it means the inevitable radicalising of the Arab states and, not least, their political rehabilitation of Saddam Hussein.

It is, in short, a lose-lose situation. Yet this is exactly what many commentators said after the failure of Camp David last July. President Bill Clinton made it very clear then that he blamed the breakdown of the talks on the intransigence of Yasser Arafat. However, we can see in retrospect Arafat was right not to close a deal. In a short six months Barak has advanced the Israeli negotiating position even further than the radical steps he had taken before. Barak is now prepared to accept Palestinian sovereignty over much of East Jerusalem whose Arab neighbourhoods house over 200,000 people and an equally weighted Palestinian authority over the sacred ground of the historic basin which contains the holy sites of the three monotheistic religions. In short, contrary to the long held Israeli position, Jerusalem will remain an open and undivided city. Not a bad result for six months work!

Does this mean Intifada 2 was right? That the Israelis only bend under the threat of violence? If so then Arafat should continue until he gets ALL he wants - the right of return to Israel of the refugees who were driven out of Israel during the war of 1948 and a removal of Israeli control of the roads that link up Jewish settlements on the West Bank and so on.

Perhaps there would be an argument for this if General Sharon were less than a month away. But he is all but assured of victory if peace is not declared beforehand. Yes, it is an almighty gamble if the Palestinians forsake some of their demands and settle now. Sharon might still win the election, such is the resentment among Jewish voters caused by Intifada 2. Moreover, it means accepting that a new Palestinian state has only 25% of the land the Palestinians had before the 1948 war. Besides, you never know, Sharon might be another Richard Nixon or Charles de Gaulle and turn into a peacemaker once in power.

But measured by how far the Israelis have come since the Oslo accords were first fashioned, the Palestinians have gained far more than any expert observer said they would. You cannot find one newspaper article in the West, or one article in a mainstream academic journal that even hinted at the possibility of the deal now on the table. Arafat would be playing Russian Roulette if he doesn't now work to clinch a deal.

So what remains to be settled? First and foremost the vexing issue of the so-called Right To Return. The Israelis must concede the principle of it, even as they win the right to indefinite administrative delay for a majority of the refugees. If the international community plays its part with the necessary funding most of the refugees settled in camps can be relocated outside of the Israel that now exists; and most will want to be, once the Palestinian leadership tells them bluntly that Israel will always be Israel.

As to the land that the Palestinians have lost to the three large Israeli group of settlements on the West Bank that Israel is intent on keeping - an issue that tragically and short-sightedly America never used its muscle to forestall - a reasonable compromise is to give to Palestine another part of Israel, as Barak has suggested. But it cannot be any old piece of land. Israel owes it to the Palestinians to compensate for its land-grab policy to pay to make this new land a viable economic entity, not to remain as some isolated piece of underdeveloped desert scrub.

Yossi Beilin, the Israeli justice minister, who initiated the Oslo accords on the Israeli side recently said, "We do not need more time, nor do we need new solutions. We need courage." That's it.


I can be reached by phone +44 7785 351172 and e-mail:


Copyright © 2001 By JONATHAN POWER



Tell a friend about this article

Send to:


Message and your name















The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research
Vegagatan 25, S - 224 57 Lund, Sweden
Phone + 46 - 46 - 145909     Fax + 46 - 46 - 144512   E-mail:

Contact the webmaster at:
© TFF 1997-2001