Palestine – Lame Ducks, Dead Ducks and Revived Ducks


By: Guest Authors

By David Singer

President George Bush became a lame duck on 20 November 2008 – giving up his unfettered executive authority to begin working closely with President-elect Barack Obama on important policy matters of significant national importance until his retirement from office at noon on 20 January 2009.

President Bush’s Roadmap became a dead duck on the very same day – after the Palestinian Authority placed full page advertisements in a number of Israeli and Palestinian newspapers urging Israelis to embrace the Arab League Initiative first proposed in 2002.

That Initiative was rejected by Israel on 25 May 2003 as having any role in the Roadmap negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to create a new Arab State between Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

The placement of these advertisements amounted to a total – and highly public – repudiation of the Roadmap by the Palestinian Authority after almost six years of totally fruitless negotiations.

Such repudiation should be immediately accepted by Israel so that there is no possible misunderstanding that the Bush Roadmap and the negotiating farce it represented is effectively ended once and for all.

The timing of the advertisements was exquisite – even if perhaps a little irreverent – in burying President Bush’s vision on the very same day he surrendered his absolute power to make any decisions on the future progress of the Roadmap proposals he personally instigated.

Dead ducks or mortally wounded ducks need to be buried or the stench soon becomes unbearable. They indeed abound aplenty and many people, countries and organizations will feature in the obituary notices.

The Quartet – America, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations – has been mortally wounded. It has now seen its collective prestige in jointly endorsing and promoting the Roadmap finally come crashing to the ground without achieving one iota of movement in achieving the Roadmap’s objectives.

Yet the end of the Quartet’s negotiating role must be seen as a merciful release in finally terminating its public humiliation and embarrassing impotency at failing to have had the slightest effect whatsoever on influencing the course or outcome of the Roadmap negotiations.

Those countries who have paid up on their pledges totalling US$7.7 billion dollars to the Palestinian Authority just 11 months ago must be gagging on their duck pancakes – as must those other countries who have contributed billions of more dollars in the last 15 years to a totally implacable and unyielding Palestinian Authority.

Rejecting 90% of what you want and holding out for 100% – and being supported in that rejection by a host of fawning nations eager to throw money at you – has been brought to an end by a few full page ads.

The Roadmap – like the Oslo negotiations conducted between 1993 – 2000 – are now curiosity pieces to be picked over by future historians and conflict resolution centres as they ponder how 15 years of negotiations could have foundered in resolving sovereignty over a piece of land the size of Delaware.

Resurrection is not an unknown phenomenon in the Middle East and so the re-emergence of the Arab League Initiative from the dustbin will no doubt be trumpeted and discussed for quite a while.

There are even reports that President-elect Barack Obama will announce his support for the Initiative heralding a new and important foreign policy move by the new US administration. Mr Obama would be well advised to duck the issue and move very cautiously before taking to the air on such a flight of fancy.

Israel’s rejection of the Arab League Initiative in 2003 was unequivocal and for very good reason.

The Initiative called for the removal of about 300000 Jews then living in the West Bank and Gaza, complete withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and Lebanon and the emigration of millions of Arabs into Israel to turn the Jews into a minority population in their own State.

Some things have changed since Israel’s outright rejection of these proposals. Israel has evacuated all 8000 Jews from Gaza. It has withdrawn its military forces and ended its occupation in Gaza and part of the West Bank. 500000 Jews now live in the West Bank.

What hasn’t changed is the Arab League’s refusal to agree to any amendments to its six years old Initiative – which itself mirrors the Arab League’s unchanged position for the last 41 years.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdelelah al Khatib confirmed this position telling Reuters on 27 March 2007

“The Arabs have agreed to reactivate the Arab initiative without changes. We reiterated that all Arab nations will adhere to the initiative as it is,”

Notwithstanding this “take it or leave it” approach both Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have recently expressed interest in the Arab League Initiative. Both are lame ducks without any political power to translate their views into political action.

One duck still in full flight and prepared to throw her hat into the ring to seek election as Israel’s next Prime Minister is current Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who told the Jerusalem Post on 20 November:

“Israel has interests that are incompatible with the Arab peace initiative, including the issues of borders, east Jerusalem and refugees. These [issues] are presented in the plan in a way that I find unacceptable.”

Any Israeli political party espousing acceptance of the unexpurgated version of the Arab League Initiative would face annihilation at the upcoming elections next February. Ms. Livni – the leader of the Kadimah Party – presently Israel’s largest Parliamentary party – clearly does not intend to be such a sitting duck

She now understands that embarking on protracted negotiations over proposals that do not have the remotest chance of succeeding is a recipe for disaster.

The Israeli media are winners from this novel Arab foray into the Israeli press. They would certainly welcome the boost to their flagging advertising revenues at this time of global economic downturn. They no doubt hope that this process will continue and that shuttle diplomacy and furtive backroom meetings will be replaced by full page ads on a weekly basis to inform the public about matters that impact on their very lives and on which they have not had any input.

The reality is that in the absence of substantial amendments to the Arab League Initiative there will be many more dead ducks and lame ducks on the hit list as the Initiative sinks to its inevitable denouement.

Sweet and sour duck might then be a good idea to serve on the menu as we all flock to hear ex-politicians on the speaker circuit telling us why Oslo, the Roadmap and the Arab League Initiative became fatally flawed exercises in peace making efforts between Arabs and Jews.

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