Why the Washington Post continues to provide a platform for Dennis Ross (April 25, 2002), the unsuccessful Middle East negotiator, to lament his failure and to lament the impossibility of a solution, is incomprehensible.
Mr. Ross served at the highest levels of the peace process for a decade. Yet his efforts were a failure, due in large part to the incompetence of the advice he provided to two presidents. One egregious example should suffice: In July, 2000, Clinton and Barak stated they were totally surprised by the Palestinian insistence on the “right to return.”
The right to return has been on the “nonnegotiable” table since 1948. One can forgive Clinton for not being familiar with the minutiae of Middle East politics. One cannot similarly forgive Ross and his associates. Either Ross never told Clinton the right to return was a major issue, or he told him and later pretended they were surprised. Either way, Ross’ credibility is demolished.
The reason the Middle East peace process failed because it was run on an Israeli model–designed to fail–instead of on an American model–intended to succeed. Unless and until we abandon the Ross approach, peace will be impossible. Ross negotiated over “small steps” for a decade. There was endless negotiation. At the end, there was nothing. In a recent interview, Ross admitted he made no written proposals in July, 2000 (Fox News, April 21, 2002) and that in December, 2000 he similarly made no written proposals (Id.). Who ever heard of negotiating the fate of millions of lives while being afraid to commit pen to paper?
The plain fact of the matter is that bottom-up negotiation will never succeed. Only a top-down process imposed by the United States will end the conflict. The United States must immediately recognize Palestine, within the borders of U.N. 242, and send an ambassador to Palestine in West Jerusalem. Simultaneously Bush must send an ambassador to Israel in Jerusalem. Once recognition and recognized borders are no longer at issue, the parties would be able to horse trade the remaining matters.
It would also help if Ross’ and his successors did not spread the slanderous disinformation that the Palestinians were “offered everything” in 2000 and rejected a “dream offer” from Israel. Undeniably, Israel made a serious opening offer, and Palestinian negotiators were inept in their responses. But the initial Israeli offer was hardly a “dream,” and would have left Israeli troops occupying Palestine for six (6) years. Some “dream.” Moreover, the “final solution” did not treat Israel and Palestine as equals, which is essential for the dignity of the aggrieved on all sides.
For example, why should Israel be able to violate Palestinian air space, but Palestinians be barred from the reciprocal access? The claim that airplanes landing in Tel Aviv must go over the west bank was and is ludicrous.
Why does Israel demand the right to maintain an army but not allow Palestinians the same right? An asymmetrical solution will never be accepted by the Palestinians or the broader Arab community. Either both Israel and Palestine are demilitarized, or both can arm themselves.
Once we admit that Israel made a good opening offer, accompanied by disinformation, and the Palestinians were bush league in their response, we begin to see that blame lies with both parties, and the United States.
Both parties, however, came close at Taba in 2001 to making a deal. But the tragic intercession of Sharon and Bush made peace impossible.
Sharon ran for office on a promise to demolish Palestine, a promise that he tried to realize this month. Bush promised to avoid Clinton’s mistakes, when Middle East policy was a Clinton near-success despite the lack of a final deal.
Some writers have recently compared current events to the “Guns of August” in 1914. A more careful analogy would be September, 1939. Then, as now, the warnings were clear. The democracies were weak and hesitant, and the rogue state, then Germany, now Israel, was puffed up with a “success” that would lead to ultimate destruction.
We have been repeatedly warned that President Bush risks a worldwide uprising against Israel and the United States. It has already begun in Europe.
Yet Bush continues to fuel right-wing fantasies that he can land airborne troops in Iraq without support from any nation, and that he will win a snap victory In Iraq. There has not been a more lunatic military operation openly discussed since the Charge of the Light Brigade. Without some Arab support, an attack on Iraq is a delusion. Delusions are what pass for policy in Washington today.
Arabs would back an Iraq attack for a finalized U.N. 242 deal in Palestine, but no one has made the obvious offer and started the essential negotiations. The only beneficiary of delay is Saddam Hussein.
American media have completely marginalized the Israeli peace movement. When Israeli casualties are reported, they are usually multiplied by a factor of fifty to show what these numbers would mean in American terms (100 Israeli dead is equivalent to 5,000 American dead). But when 10,000 peace demonstrators march for peace in Tel Aviv, the multiplier is ignored and depreciated.
On April 25th I spent an hour in a live broadcast from Tel Aviv interviewing a leading peace advocate on my radio program. He said it was the first time ever anyone in the Israeli peace movement had actually been interviewed live on the radio in the United States! Instead radio “shock jocks” act as outposts of Israeli propaganda and beat the war drums for an Iraq attack.
The media have created a stereotype of Israel that is pumped up for war with its tanks and bombs. This reflects Sharon’s thinking but does not reflect the willingness of Israelis to accept a fair peace.
In this chaotic environment, Ross, through the Post, offers his “three options (April 25th).”
Why not a fourth? A real option for peace? The ultimate peace solution was almost reached by the parties at Taba. What is needed is for President Bush to take bold steps to cut the Gordian knot.
First, he must recognize Palestine and recognize the 242 borders and demand immediate Israeli withdrawal.
Second, he must immediately send ambassadors to both countries in Jerusalem.
Third, he must acknowledge that the right of return exists as a principle of American law and international law (U.N. 194), and offer generous incentives for refugees to come to American Canada and Europe with generous compensation for the loss of their land. Israel must accept 500,000 refugees.
Finally, Bush must agree to protect the territorial integrity of both counties.
Post-recognition, Palestine cannot be allowed to attack Israel, and Israel cannot be allowed to launch “retaliatory” attacks on Palestine for the inevitable violence that will accompany peace. It is unavoidable that following peace sporadic violence will continue. Militants on both sides will not accept any deal, until they see a Green Beret pursuing them.
Thus, any “peace plan” or “peace process” that calls for “zero violence” is no peace plan at all (Sharon’s approach), because residual violence will continue for months or even years. Unless we are prepared to give a perpetual veto to the most outrageous and vicious elements on both sides, we must negate the violence veto by barring retaliation by either side and by ordering American protection and intervention for both sides. You don’t fight “terrorism” with tanks and bombs; you fight terrorists with Special Forces. Once U.S. forces have a mandate to stop the violence, attacks will gradually end.
Sharon is smart enough to know that “zero violence” is impossible which is why he always uses that condition to derail any peace progress. President Bush and his unskilled “negotiators” have fallen for the Sharon charade.
The CIA proved, however reluctantly, that it could work with Palestinian forces. Once there is peace, our ability to control the situation will be enhanced, not reduced.
Mr. Ross failed because he dreamed small dreams and sought small steps. That is no surprise considering whom he worked for. President Bush can only succeed, immediately, if he dreams big dreams and has the Texas-style guts to take bold steps for peace, for our interests and the Middle East’s. We do not need any more defeatism from Dennis Ross. We can win if we have the will. He failed because he didn’t.
Forty years ago the British aristocrat and editor of the Observer stated the dispute was between “two wronged peoples.” Unless we do full, fair and even justice to both wronged peoples, we cannot claim to have tried to succeed, and we deserve to fail.
Andy Martin is a Radio Talk Show host in Palm Beach, FL, USA.