Middle East Roundtable /
A Palestinian View:
All win or all lose
by Ghassan Khatib
The net outcome of the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza will only
be determined in its aftermath and will depend on its consequences within
the Palestinian and Israeli camps. It will also depend on what the next step
in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is going to be.
There are two possible scenarios. The first scenario sees Israel following
its unilateral plan in Gaza with further unilateral steps in the West Bank
of the kind we are already witnessing, whereby the wall continues being
built and settlements continue expanding. In this case, there will be no
winners. Both sides will lose the opportunity to renew the peace process and
implement the roadmap. These are crucial to replacing violence with
negotiations and allowing the two sides the chance to achieve their
respective objectives, without doing so at the expense of the legitimate
rights of the other side.
The other scenario sees the international community, led by the US through
the Quartet, begin to fulfill its promises, invest the necessary political
will, and apply the necessary political pressure to invite the two parties
back to the negotiations to ensure the implementation of the roadmap.
In parallel with the above scenarios, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
has two options. The first is to immediately compensate for the Gaza
withdrawal by building more settlements in the West Bank. This will create a
confrontation with the Palestinian side. If he chooses this path, both
Palestinians and Israelis will lose out to the extremist minorities on both
sides, who will be provided with a suitable playground to carry on with
their anti-peace activities.
Sharon's second option is to use the current atmosphere of relative calm to
replace his unilateral approach with bilateral negotiations that will build
positively on the Gaza withdrawal. This will strengthen those arguing for a
peaceful resolution to the conflict on both sides. A return to fruitful
negotiations is the only way to create a win-win situation by reducing the
room for maneuver of extremists and violent parties.
The signals emanating from the Israeli government so far are not hopeful.
New tenders for settlements, the continued building of the wall dipping
deeper and deeper into occupied Palestinian territory, and deadly Israeli
military incursions, only serve to strengthen the impression that Sharon has
chosen the first path.
The time is right for a third party initiative that will encourage and
strengthen both sides to take the right path after Gaza. After all, this was
what the Quartet and other leading players in the international community
promised the Palestinian side would happen, when working to convince them of
the importance of the Gaza withdrawal taking place smoothly. There can be no
winners and losers in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in general and after
the Gaza disengagement in particular. There can only be winners or losers. A
just and negotiated peace is the only way to ensure that both sides become
winners. Unilateralism, obliviousness to international law, and a continued
hands-off approach from the international community will see us all lose.-
Published 29/8/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of
internet publications. He is the Palestinian Authority minister of planning
and has been a political analyst and media contact for many years.
Bitterlemons-international.org is an internet
forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its
specific concerns. It aspires to engender greater understanding about
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