A Palestinian family reacts after Israeli bulldozers demolished their home in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Feb. 5, 2013. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Newly elected Israeli Knesset member Yair Lapid (l), leader of the Yesh Atid party, speaks to Naftali Bennett, head of the hard-line national religious party the Jewish Home, during a Feb. 5 reception in Jerusalem marking the opening of the 19th Knesset. (URIEL SINAI/GETTY IMAGES)
Richard Curtiss at work in his Washington Report office. (STAFF PHOTO D. HANLEY)
Then-Vice President Dick Cheney (l) and Likud chairman Benyamin Netanyahu, out of office at the time and serving as the official Israeli opposition leader, at a March 23, 2008 breakfast meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (r) shares candies with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim during a Feb. 11 visit to the rebels’ stronghold in Sultan Kudarat on the island of Mindanao. (KARLOS MANLUPIG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Emad Burnat views his five broken cameras in his documentary of the same name. (PHOTO COURTESY KINO LORBER)
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 2008, page 63
Panelists Examine Peace Prospects
FOR THE MOST part, the participants in the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ Oct. 25 conference panel on “Geo-Political Dynamics in Israel and Palestine” agreed that the upcoming U.S.-sponsored Annapolis peace summit would lead to very little in the way of a peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Ambassador Afif Safieh of the Palestine Liberation Organization Mission to the United States put the most positive spin on the situation, stating that the Palestinians were ready for true peace. However, he warned, the window of opportunity for real peace is closing fast, and the Palestinians have little room to maneuver. “We have been unreasonably reasonable,” he explained, “and there is no further elasticity or flexibility left on our side.”
Panel chair Dr. Peter Gubser, former head of ANERA, then invited Daniel Levy, senior fellow of the New American Foundation, to present his case. Levy was more pessimistic about the summit outcome. “If what seems to have been the thinking in the last seven years—namely [that] the pursuit of American interests in the Middle East could be conducted with disengagement from active Israel-Arab and Israeli peacemaking—still drives thinking” he stated, “then I don’t think we should have any expectations for Annapolis.”
Mark Perry, co-chair of the Conflicts Forum, began his remarks by comparing Washington’s “ill-conceived” relationship with nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek with America’s support of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. U.S. interests in Asia suffered greatly due to its support of Chaing Kai-shek. Similarly, Perry argued, U.S. support for Abbas, his political party, Fatah, and their actions in the occupied territories is not in America’s interest, nor in the interest of the region. “Fatah is broken,” Perry stated.
“Fatah is weak, aging, corrupt, disorganized and even more divided than Hamas. Its leadership is out of touch. It is dependent on the United States and Israel.” The West Bank under Fatah’s control is a police state, he added, while Gaza under Hamas has civil order without the militancy.
Perry charged that this administration is not interested in brokering a just and lasting peace, but is trying to cover its own failures in Iraq. Nor does he believe that the Israelis are interested in having a Palestinian state along their border; rather, he said, Israel is more interested in the destruction of the Palestinian national movement.
Gubser then asked Ambassador Safieh and Levy for a one-minute response to Perry’s comments. Safieh said he agreed with many of Perry’s points, but he clearly was not happy with Perry’s comments regarding Fatah or Hamas. “Is Hamas the mainstream?” Safieh asked. “I follow opinion polls...Fatah is resurfacing beyond 40 percent in popularity ratings.”
He went on to say that “Hamas overplayed its hand in Gaza—won Gaza, but lost the Palestinian people.”
Safieh agreed with Perry’s criticism of Fatah’s mismanagement of Palestinian affairs, but felt it was too much to justify supporting Hamas wholeheartedly.
Levy did not find fault with Perry’s point that the Israelis have continued to try to destroy the Palestinian national movement. He added that no one should find pleasure in the division of the Palestinians or the destruction of the Palestinian national movement. “The worst possible response is to turn one side into a side that would increasingly lose its domestic legitimacy by being seen so close to the occupier,” he said.