Amb. Spiers (USFS, Ret.) served as Undersecretary of State and Undersecretary-General of the United Nations as well as ambassador to Turkey and Pakistan.
Article published Dec 13, 2007
The Rutland Herald
Another way in the Mideast
For over half a century diplomats and statesmen have been trying to move the Palestinians and Israelis toward a "two-state" solution.
The U.S. initially accepted the 1948 U.N. General Assembly majority plan that proposed this answer to the conundrum of Palestine after the British gave up their mandate over the territory. The Arabs accepted neither this nor the minority plan which recommended a single state with separate Swiss-like cantons for Arabs and Jews. The Jews proceeded to declare an independent state of Israel without explicitly accepting the borders proposed in the U.N. majority plan. The Arab inhabitants rejected both versions and resisted any division of Palestine.
The rest has been a persistent conflict between the two communities, with periodic attempts at reconciliation, as at Camp David, Wye, Madrid, Oslo, Taba and, last month, Annapolis — all unsuccessful at making any lasting progress or averting repeated eruptions of violence.
November's Annapolis conference has come and gone, producing only an agreement to keep on talking about the "two-state" solution without closing any of the gaps on the so-called "core" issues: borders, settlements, Jerusalem, water rights. The Israelis resisted any reference to these issues and the Palestinians were unable to get those that concern them even mentioned in the final statement. The only concrete action was in endorsing Tony Blair's charge to help Palestinian institutions prepare for statehood, and Gen. Jim Jones' charge to monitor and judge the PLO effectiveness in reigning in violence from the occupied territories and Israel's fulfillment of promises to freeze settlements.
The whole Annapolis operation has been greeted by many with cynicism and even ridicule, but no one is prepared to throw in the cards on the "peace process" that many consider all "process" and no peace. Two weak leaderships continue unable to produce a consensus among their populations that will support the needed compromises for peace. The Quartet has, so far, been unable or unwilling to present a position of its own on the "core" issues and to press the parties to accept it.
The Palestinians think that the Israelis' vision of a Palestinian "state" is a phantom sovereignty of a collection of "Bantustan" reservations surrounded by Israeli settlements that will essentially control movement and resources. The Israelis, suspicious that the Palestinians will never be ready to accept a genuine peace with Israel, continue to encroach on occupied territory, exacerbating Palestinian support for violence. Things get progressively worse.
The time may now have passed when a viable two-state solution is possible. If this is the case, the international community should advocate creation of a single state, democratic and universally recognized, with equal rights for all of its citizens, Jew, Christian or Muslim, following the pattern of all true democracies. Diverse racial, national and religious groups live in peace together today in the United States, in the European Union and, most recently, in South Africa. And, after all, this is what the Bush administration purports to seek for the Middle East.
There is no genuine reason this vision could not inspire hope in the Holy Land and around the world.