Striving for an Illusion-Free Middle East Peace

(Ha'aretz) Shlomo Avineri - This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords. The establishment of the Palestinian Authority marked the beginning of Israel's realization that it could not control an occupied Palestinian population forever. It also opened the path that would lead us to a Palestinian state that could co-exist alongside Israel. But the Oslo Accords, two decades later, have not yielded their pledged fruits. Repeating the slogan of "it's time to get back to the negotiating table" simply isn't enough. The question that must now be faced, head-on, is this: Why have negotiations failed until now? The Kadima Olmert-Livni government held intensive negotiations with the PA for two years and both sides came to the table with good will and a real readiness to reach an agreement. But as the discussions wore on, it was clear that even between the most moderate of Israeli and Palestinian positions, a wide gulf existed on core issues. On the topics of borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees and Israel's security demands, the two sides couldn't hatch a compromise. It wasn't an issue of not enough time. There was simply too much distance between the two sides. The proposal to solve the Jerusalem issue by creating a fictive non-sovereign area or by placing the Old City under the jurisdiction of the international community is as delusory an idea today as it was in the past. The idea that simply engaging in negotiations will automatically foster a peace agreement is a fantasy, proven baseless by the experience of the past 20 years. The time has come for creative thinking, rather than grasping at straws. The writer, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

2013-01-14 00:00:00

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