by Ziad AbuZayyad
Things move very slowly in this part of the world. Sometimes they even seem to move backward rather than forward. Indeed, since Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud government came into office, it has been trying to reverse the peace process.
Security coordination has become the major issue in today’s crisis. Security is a need. No one can deny the right of Israelis to have it. Suicide attacks and acts of violence emphasize the urgency of the matter. By contrast, Palestinian security is not on any party’s agenda, and the implication of the measures taken by the Netanyahu government against the Palestinian population raises very little reaction or concern.
Following every attack, Israel automatically places the responsibility on the Palestinian Authority (PA) and imposes collective punishment on the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip: more stringent closures, closure of borders with Jordan and Egypt, demolition of houses, etc. These Israeli punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority and people are attributed to the lack of "security coordination" on the Palestinian side.
The PA, on the other hand, denies responsibility for these attacks and wonders why Israel should punish the Palestinian people for something they have not committed. The PA has always declared its readiness for security coordination according to the Oslo agreement, but rejects, for example, the Israeli demand for massive arrests, including 230 citizens who are now committed to peace, but were involved in acts of violence against Israel in the past. It seems that Israel demands security "dictation" rather than "coordination."
Two major issues underlie this crisis: the Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, and the way each side understands "security coordination." Settlements are one of the issues of final-status negotiations, and according to Article 4 of the Oslo Declaration of Principles, no party should take any unilateral steps that jeopardize the outcome of final-status negotiations. Based on this, Israel should desist from expanding settlements and should wait until their status and future are determined at the conclusion of negotiations. When Israel insisted on continuing to build in Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa) - a mountain near Bethlehem annexed to Israel after 1967 - the Palestinians decided to discontinue contacts between their security systems and those of the Israelis. In the wake of this, Israel blames the resumption of suicide-bombings on the absence of coordination.
The problem besetting the peace process, however, seems to be even bigger and more basic than the issue of settlements or security coordination. The problem lies with the concept of "peace process": how each party understands it and envisions it. Clearly, for th~ Israeli government, peace means the ability to continue settling Palestinian land and having overriding control over it. For the Palestinians, peace means the end of occupation, the establishment of a Palestinian state and a solution to the Palestinian question in all its aspects.
Until a clear concept and understanding of the "peace process" can be reached, there will be many "mines" along a road that will lead to nowhere.