The announcement made by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, on the renewal of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in Washington, on the 29th day of this month, has not received the media attention that would be expected for such significant news. Maybe the coincidence with other political and financial news and scandals and the British “Royal Baby” have diverted the interest towards other information sources. Another contributing factor is the widespread skepticism and the weariness of public opinion concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In any case, we must congratulate the US Secretary of State for having achieved what is always the most difficult step in diplomacy: breaking an impasse and convincing both parties to sit, once again, at the negotiating table. Kerry’s “shuttle diplomacy” has given fruit and it is now the Israelis’ and Palestinians’ turn to assume their responsibility. These negotiations are transcendental because they are the last opportunity to reach a solution between the two countries: Israel and Palestine living peacefully and safely.
Under these circumstances, the parties, the USA, the European Union, the Russian Federation, the Arab countries and Turkey, and a quartet that has renewed its makeup and its objectives, as well as the public at large, have to support the negotiation efforts in a firm and generous way. The good news is that the heads of both delegations are the best prepared personalities for reaching an agreement. Tzipi Livni, who kept her personal commitment to peace during the talks, even resigning the post of Prime Minister, and Saeb Erekat who never abandoned his negotiating wish and kept his agenda full of pragmatic and respectful proposals with the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians. Without a doubt, they are the most appropriate and determined representatives to find suitable solutions for their people and to close the circle of peace.
While Israelis and Palestinians are the ones who will bear the weight of negotiations, the International Community cannot simply stand idly by and wait for the “white” or “black smoke” of this conclave. Many of us know the reasons for the failure of the previous talks. Therefore, we must assume our responsibility, because it would be a mistake to stumble twice on the same stone, and this stone is found all over the road to peace in the Middle East. In my opinion, the ultimate responsibility for the final arbitration and the historic concessions should be left to the parties, while the international community must accompany the process proactively. The United States has taken the role of “third party” and should avoid the mistakes of the past and think that they can guarantee their success on their own. They have to lead the international community’s role without monopolizing it, because all of us have a role to play: the European Union must reflect on and update its political-diplomatic, economic and financial actions to encourage a definitive agreement. The Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia with its strategic “peace initiative”, should once again review their objectives and method. Qatar and Turkey must use their undeniable influence with the most unyielding Islamic and Arab players and bring together the greatest support for the talks. Lastly, Egypt, must capitalize on the experience of its new leaders in foreign policy, the Vice President of International Affairs, Mohamed ElBaradei, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nabil Fahmi, to get the key role of this country back in the future peace equation.
Without delving too deeply into the subject, I think it is important to extract some experiences from the past and share some ideas. It would be in everyone’s best interest not to set deadlines, but it would better to establish a reasonable time frame for the parties to show progress. We will have to encourage the parties to keep negotiating under any circumstances because it is very likely that when the talks “come to the crunch”, the international community will have to put on the pressure so they are not broken down. It makes sense to devise a strategy to counter the possible actions of the enemies of peace because there are many and they are present on both sides. They will try to boycott the process which should pick up the maxim of former Prime Minister Rabin: “negotiate as if there was no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there were no talks”. The basic principles acceptable by both parties to solve the most sensitive issues should be established at an early stage. At the same time, they would have to concentrate their efforts on closing the fundamental issues of the first stage: territories, borders and security. Ideally, at the end of this first phase the coveted “double recognition” would be announced, both between Israel and Palestine, as well as throughout the international community. Civil society must get around and escape from maximalist positions to encourage the adoption of tough decisions. And, from now on, these talks must move into first place in international diplomacy because the peace between Palestinians and Israelis is the ultimate test for the United Nations and international bodies in order to have a “success story”, after the end of the apartheid in South Africa.
Washington is an opportunity for peace, but it is our decision to maintain a determined commitment so that the famous quote, adapted this time, by the Ex Minister Abba Eban cannot be attributed to us: the International Community does not miss an opportunity to miss this “last” opportunity.
Published in Spanish in El País the 30th of July 2013.