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New Middle East peace mission

Aug 15,2017 - Last updated at Aug 15,2017

US President Trump is dispatching a new peace mission to the Middle East, news reports say. The team, led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will also include US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and deputy national security adviser Dina Powell.

This will be the second Kushner peace assignment, following an earlier attempt, few months ago, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, that ended quickly with no visible results. Why again? It is because Trump views the period of calm prevailing now in Jerusalem after last month's unrest as an opportunity to seize upon.

President Trump’s belief that peace between the Arabs and the Israelis is achievable despite the obvious difficulties that seem to be unshakable. He made that very clear on several occasions, referring to encouraging promises made to him by both sides, Arabs and Israelis, in addition to the Palestinians, indicating that all the concerned parties are committed to peace

So what is wrong with that?

For one thing, the so-called calm that currently prevails in Jerusalem is not the kind of calm that indicates an end to a century-old conflict. Rather, it is the brief respite that separates one upsurge of violence from another. It is unrealistic that violence in Jerusalem and within the occupied Palestinian territories will turn into a lasting calm at any moment, and so long as the occupation remains in place, violence can erupt at any moment, shattering any calm. The provocative Jewish settler incursions into the Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem have not ended. Just as they were the cause of serious tension before, they will continue to incite further violence.

My second point, based on lessons learnt from history, is that opportunities for peace are often born from crisis and eruptions of violence, rather than from calm.

Our experience in this region supports the notion that wars and violence have been the powerful driving forces in mobilising peacemakers and setting them in motion; while calm leads to political indifference, even stagnation in the peace business. Therefore, the seeming, certainly temporary, calm may not be a great asset for peace.

My third point relates to President Trump, no doubt sincere view, that if all sides want to make peace, why should they not be taken on their word. Simply because this region has not been deprived of peace because its people just did not want it and they have now changed their minds; or because they were not fully aware of the benefits of peace, so they did not care about it; or because they were straightforward warmongers. It is nothing like that. Everyone cherishes the cause of peace; but what peace. The peace Israel wants with the Palestinians requires that the Palestinians relinquish all their rights, past and present, their territorial and political rights, their history their mere existence and their future. 

But rather than examining people's sentiments about peace and basing peacemaking strategy on just that, we need to ask why there has been no peace in this region for so long and why it has been almost impossible to bring the missing peace back despite so much effort by the UN, other regional and international organisations, conferences, peace missions, mediation, superpower action and more.

It is clearly due to other causes, the real causes, which many peacemakers tend to inadvertently bypass, that perpetual conflict, war, violence, misery, insecurity and political instability have been overwhelming all over this part of the world, decade after decade.

The real causes I am referring to started with the uprooting of the Palestinian people in 1948: the injustice that befell them and has never been redressed, the steady colonisation of the occupied Palestinian and Arab lands, the siege, the suffering, the daily humiliation, the continued oppressive occupation practices, the hopelessness and the compounded despair. Peace can neither be built, nor can it be sustained on human misery and injustice.

Such issues hardly appear on the peacemakers agendas any more. Peace envoys avoid any mention of the “irritating” root causes, opting instead to gloss over the real problems and just address some superficial symptoms and side effects. That is why every peace mission in the last five decades has so far failed. How could any effort solve a problem without first recognising that it exists?

Will this upcoming mission be any different? Let us hope so.

The Kushner mission this time will widen the scope of its operation to cover a number of Arab countries in addition to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). It will visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the UAE and Qatar

The involvement of all or some Arab capitals in this historic conflict is of certain significance. After all it is an "Arab-Israeli conflict". That is unless the US mission's intent this round is different.

My concern is that it sounds like a novel approach, perhaps echoing some circulating notions, mainly sponsored by Israel, advocating an “outside in peace” as opposed to an “inside out peace approach”

The “outside in” approach espouses an Israeli peace and normalisation of relations with Arab countries first as an entry to resolving the much more complex Palestinian-Israeli peace. 

But this will not work. The epicentre of the problem is right there in Palestine and no amount of beating around the bush would advance the cause of a meaningful settlement one inch.

Israel may in the end manage to make peace and normalise relations with some Arab countries but that will not make the real problem, which is steadily growing inside Israel and Palestine, go away.

One cannot be certain if the Kushner-Greenblatt mission is coming to the region with new ideas: maybe. 

What is certain though is that the mission will hear the same thing from their Arab, Palestinian and Israeli hosts. The Arabs, including the Palestinians, will, no doubt, reaffirm their commitment to a peaceful settlement based on the Arab Peace Initiative in addition to the long list of formulas and terms of reference that go with the Arab offer: Madrid, the UN resolutions, the Quartet, the two-state solution, an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. They might get a soft nod for that.

Netanyahu will not discuss the Arab position. He prefers to jump to the other existential dangers coming from Iran. Tehran's surrogate “terror” organisations that need to be annihilated like Hamas and Hizbullah and, of course, others. He will blame violence and instability on Palestinian incitement, financial rewarding by the PA of the Palestinian terrorist families, and Abbas’ reluctance to negotiate without preconditions — meaning negotiating while Israeli colonisation plans on the very land earmarked for the envisaged Palestinian state running fast and on schedule. Netanyahu will also reaffirm his love for peace. But he will present his own, prohibitive, conditions: mainly, the Arabs and the Palestinians must recognise Israel as the land for the Jewish people. He will also get a more visible nod of approval. The mission may end up more confused with avowed sides' commitment but with no evidence of common grounds

There will be no annoying mention of the occupation or the creeping colonisation.


This pattern has been repeating itself dozens of times. This peacemaking style has not only miserably failed, but worse, it also provided cover for the occupation to dig deeper and the various aspects of the conflict to harden and consolidate; thus distancing the chance of peace rather than moving towards it.

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