The moment has come for the long queue of diplomatic high-wire artists to bite the bullet: there is no immediate prospect of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. No matter how much Tony Blair huffs and Jack Straw puffs, the painful reality is that the Middle East ‘road-map’ is destined to join the slew of failed peace plans in the garbage can marked ‘Diplomatic Good Intentions’.
True, both Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers have embraced the ‘road-map’, which provides a choreographed procession towards an independent Palestinian state. But their apparent accord ignores the reality on the ground. The spate of Palestinian suicide bombings that followed Israel’s decision to withdraw from major Palestinian cities last month testified again to a Palestinian determination to scupper progress towards any diplomatic accommodation with the Jewish state.
Nor is there much cause for optimism at the political level. Offered an independent Palestinian state in virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza, a share in Jerusalem and a limited return of refugees to Israel, Yasser Arafat’s response has been the violence that has convulsed Israel for more than three years. The frequent complaint of the West’s political and media classes, that Palestinian violence is a function of ‘frustration and rage’ over the lack of progress to peace, is ill-founded. On the contrary, the most intense spasms of violence have accompanied the most positive movements on the diplomatic front.
The reason is that a large body of Palestinians have still not reconciled themselves to the two-state solution. More specifically, they have not, despite the Oslo accords, come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state on what they call holy Muslim soil. The Palestinians remain as opposed to the existence of Israel today as they were when the Peel Commission recommended partition in 1936 and when the UN voted for it in 1947.