EDITORIAL: The peace process is irreversibly over

The peace process is irreversibly over

If you did not see it already, watch Bob Simon’s report (below), “Is Peace Out Of Reach?” from last night’s edition of 60 Minutes. In the history of American reporting on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, this is an exceptional piece of journalism. But don’t just watch it — share it by email, embed it on your web site and do whatever else you can to enlighten other Americans who at this time understand so little about the core issues behind the conflict. (The following video is preceded by a 30-second commercial.)

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As President Obama’s Middle East Envoy for Peace, George Mitchell, makes his way to the region this week, he should keep in mind a statement that Osama Hamdan, Hamas’s representative in Lebanon, made in a speech in Beirut yesterday. Hamdan said, “the peace process is irreversibly over.”

This bears repeating:

…the peace process is irreversibly over.

There are commentators who will say that this statement is an expression of intransigence and belligerence coming from a resistance movement dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

Far from it — it is merely a statement of fact. Indeed, it is an assessment of an objective reality that is remarkably lacking in venom.

Just suppose that we were at a juncture where 1,300 Israelis had just been brutally killed, 5,000 were wounded, many in a grave condition, 20,000 houses had been destroyed and tens of thousands were now homeless.

Suppose in such a situation Israel’s leaders were to declare that the peace process was irreversibly over, we would now be commenting on their remarkable composure. We would marvel that they would bother making a political statement and not simply a blood-curdling cry of vengeance.

Hamas on the other hand, in spite of the devastation of Gaza, is still committed to politics.

The political imperative of the moment is one of clarification. Hamas sees that Palestinian unity and a Palestinian national movement cannot be built on an illusory foundation.

Meanwhile, Tzipi Livni claims that the carnage in Gaza has advanced the peace process. This is an Orwellian, obscene, and outrageous insult to common sense. It displays a sociopathic view of human suffering.

But it also serves as a reminder and confirmation that Osama Hamdan is right: the peace process is irreversibly over.

If this is a conclusion which can commonly be agreed upon, where do we go from here? Is this not a conclusion that will feed utter despair or a justification for endless conflict?

I believe not.

Political change can only gain traction when it is rooted in objective reality. We can only advance from the conditions we actually inhabit.

For several years now the peace process has floundered because of a glaring contradiction between Israel’s stated aim — a two-state solution — and its actions, which consistently advanced in the opposite direction.

By its own choice, Israel has abandoned the goal of a two-state solution. The so-called peace process has provided the water and the sustenance that has allowed the occupation to flourish.

America has been the enabler. It has provided a stage upon which a pantomime of peace could be performed. It has quite effectively silenced those who would disrupt the performance and insisted that we all silently enjoy a show whose tedious enactment perpetually held out the promise of a happy ending.

“When Israel supports a solution of two states for two people, the pressure won’t be on Israel,” Tzipi Livni correctly observed over the weekend.

George Mitchell’s duty, the duty of the international community and of all Palestinian leaders, is to say: the game is up, the show is over. The charade has gone on for long enough. Israel has stated its position on the ground. It’s words have proved to be of no consequence.

Given the realities and ignoring the empty declarations, where does Israel want to go from here?

  • Democracy: a one-state solution in which Jews and Palestinians have equal rights;
  • Ethnic cleansing: a state that solidifies its Jewish identity by purging itself of every non-Jewish element; or
  • Apartheid: the explicit formalization of what is already a practical reality.

These, as Bob Simons correctly observers, are Israel’s choices. America can no longer serve as Israel’s shield in its efforts to conceal a painful reality.

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  1. Exactly. Point-on. I would add the familiar refrain that there will only be real peace in the Middle East when the Palestinians have a sovereign state of their own with contiguous borders, East Jerusalem as its capital, and the right of return. Nothing less has ever been negotiable. That is the reality.

  2. Yigal Arens says

    Also brought up in the 60 Minutes report was Israel’s use of Palestinians as human shields, although the show neglected to explicitly point out this fact.

    The show spent some time describing the ordeal of a Palestinian family whose home gets repeatedly commandeered by Israeli troops as a lookout post. Members of the family are forced to remain in the house while the troops operate from their roof.

    Although the show didn’t explain it, the purpose of forcing the Palestinian residents to remain inside the house is to prevent attacks against the troops. The Israelis recognize that Palestinian civilians’ lives *are* of concern to Palestinian fighters.

    The Israelis have used this tactic routinely in the past, and reportedly did so in the recent war in Gaza as well.

  3. I can hardly believe that such a piece of good journalism has been aired in the US. Maybe the Obama presidency is causing some positive effect in the American media…

    Here in Brazil the predominant feeling is always one of support for the weakest part in any dispute, and so is the case with the Palestinians against Israel. But we have some media commentators, usually right-wingers and/or well-born scholars who never set a foot in the Middle-East, that seems to draw a kind of sadistic pleasure from their unconditional defense of Israel’s right to protect itself no matter at what costs. They also repeat the mantra “Hamas is a terrorist organization” nauseatingly… But reports like this one of 60 Minutes show a different perspective, because they focus on the daily lives of both peoples and tell us that there is a context for the violence that goes way beyond the appearences, and the dellusional caos of a war.

    And what a good site you have here — I follow it since the early days. Please, do go on!

    São Paulo – Brazil

  4. If you think one-sided is good journalism then this was a great article. Bob Simon puts all the blame on the Israeli’s without any reporting about the Palestinians? Isn’t there 2 sides to every coin? I guess not to Simon. Good journalism = reporting on both sides and let the audience make the decision.

    Unbelievable and disgusting.