Author`s name Lisa Karpova

Peace talks are more stagnant than ever

Sergio Yahni

On Tuesday of last week the U.S. government had to recognize the failure of its efforts to renew peace negotiations between Israel and the PLO.

The negotiations were frozen after the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip in the winter of 2008-2009 and were renewed for a few weeks in early September this year, only to return to a standstill at the end of this month when Israel refused to keep a partial moratorium on construction in the settlement colonies.

Not even an unprecedented package of incentives proposed by the United States could force Israel to renew the moratorium. This package included twenty F-35 fighter aircraft, a political-diplomatic umbrella in international institutions and the assurance that after three months of moratorium, Washington would not require further renewal.

"No!" was the Israeli response to the incentives package. This response was born of the most rightwing government in the history of the State of Israel which already passes laws with the aim of establishing an apartheid legal system in Israeli society.

But this Government is not an historical error that can be corrected in the next election. This is a stable government and there is no parliamentary bloc capable of replacing it as part of a democratic opposition, which has virtually disappeared from the streets and in Parliament. If, during the first Lebanon war, hundreds of thousands of people would have demonstrated in Tel Aviv, or during the First Intifada, if there were demonstrations of tens of thousands who ended up overthrowing the government of Yitzhak Shamir and imposing the Government of Rabin who signed the Oslo accords, but that did not happen. Since 2000, the largest demonstrations did not reach 10,000 persons.

But it is not just a question only of the lack of popular mobilization, but total collapse of the forces of the Zionist left. In the 1992 elections, the Labour Party and Mertz, a party of the Zionist left social democratic dye, won 56 seats of the 61 needed for a parliamentary majority. In 2009, they won only 19 seats.

The political situation in Israel has always reflected the force of power between Israel and the Palestinian national liberation movement. When the leadership showed strength and aggressiveness, Israeli society expressed its desire for a negotiated resolution of conflict. In the opposite case, those who maintained that there is nothing to negotiate became stronger.

Since the death of Yassir Arafat, the Palestinian National Liberation Organization has been in an extremely deep crisis. It is often in contradiction with the interests of the Arab League, which in the times of Abbas decides Palestinian positions, and the process of negotiating a national agreement is paralyzed. The struggle has been atomized into dozens of pockets of popular resistance where none is strong enough to be more than a testimonial phenomenon. Worse, the government of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad has lost the greatest political achievement of the PLO, Palestinian political sovereignty, and have turned into mere emissaries who send reports on the proposals of the USA so that the League decides.

At the same time, the heavy hand of government security forces of Abbas-Fayyad, monitored and trained by General Keith Dayton (U.S.), have not allowed a popular movement to develop in the West Bank. The leaders of the Popular Committees Against the Wall do not have to deal only with the security forces of Israel, they are also questioned and arrested by the Palestinians.

With some fear and caution, the government and public opinion in Israel celebrate the American failure. The biggest fear is that Washington would not guarantee the impunity of Israel in the Security Council. But most are optimistic, thinking that this will not happen.

On the other hand, the Palestinians are not lacking in unilateral alternatives. Its best bet would be to demand that the Security Council recognize the Palestinian state. If such a resolution is vetoed by the United States, they can demand the implementation of Resolution 377 of the General Assembly, also known as "Union for Peace," which states that if the Security Council fails to act to maintain peace and security, due to a disagreement among its permanent members, the matter should be addressed immediately by the General Assembly in a special emergency session.

In the General Assembly, the PLO can get the majority needed to establish an independent Palestinian state. It is clear that in order to take this course of action, the Palestinian national liberation movement would first have to restore political unity and its ability to mobilize popular support as it would be in direct confrontation with Israel. In the second place, the national liberation movement would have to regain their decision sovereignty.

Sergio Yahni is director of the Alternative Information Center (AIC) in Jerusalem

Translated from the Spanish version by:

Lisa Karpova