Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Voices of Experience on Annapolis/ Indonesians in Israel

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Update from AIJAC

October 26, 2007
Number 10/07 #08

Today's Update features advice about the Middle East peace process from two big names in peacemaking - former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and David Trimble, the former Nobel Peace Laureate who played such a crucial role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

First up is Kissinger, who advises that the bold vision being put forward for Middle East peace as part of the Annapolis conference preparations must take account of the realities of not only the weakness of the the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, but also the fears and problems of the other regional actors. He goes on to argue that it must be recognised that peace will take a long process and the success of that  process will depend on the US projecting strength and not retreat, as well as support for the region's players in the face of the Iranian hegemonic ambitions. There's much more of course, and to read his full argument, CLICK HERE.

Next up, David Trimble addresses the argument that the Northern Ireland example shows the importance of engagement and not isolating extremist entities like Hamas. Trimble says this is exactly backwards, and what the Northern Ireland success shows is the importance of forcing parties in the negotiating process to accept "preconditions" which create the parameters for talks, before there is "official engagement." He then uses the history of the Northern Ireland process to illustrate his argument. For this salient discussion of peacemaking from a consummate insider in the Ulster peace, CLICK HERE.

Finally a group of Indonesian journalists returned from a trip to Israel, sponsored by AIJAC (Rambam) and the American Jewish Committee (Project Interchange), yesterday.  Below is an article about the group's meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, written by one of the journalists, Endy M. Bayuni, editor of the Jakarta Post. Peres explains what he hopes will realistically come out of current peace efforts, and also calls for the Muslim states like Indonesia to be prepared to help create peace. For this breakthrough article from the country with the world's largest Muslim population, CLICK HERE. News reports on the visit of the Indonesians are here and here. An Israeli Foreign Ministry statement following their meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is here.


Bold script, weak actors

By Henry A. Kissinger

International Herald Tribune, Tuesday, October 23, 2007
 

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has clearly spelled out how the Bush administration expects the Palestinian peace process now under way to unfold.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are to hold preparatory meetings to define major elements of a settlement. The draft outline is then to be submitted to an international conference to be assembled in Annapolis, Maryland, at the end of November with a membership yet to be chosen.

The secretary of state has shown determination and ingenuity to bring matters to this point. Her next challenge will be to steer the process so as to avoid the risk of what happened at Camp David in 2000, when Israeli and PLO leaders sought an agreement only to see it blow up into a new crisis that continues to this day.

What is unique about the Annapolis conference is that the outcome is to be agreed in advance. What remains uncertain is the ability to implement it.

The process is being driven by the assumption that the parties can be led to accept by the end of November - or have already tacitly accepted - the so-called Taba Plan of 2000, developed in the wake of the abortive Camp David meeting by technically non-official negotiators.

It provides for Israeli withdrawal to essentially the 1967 borders (with minor rectifications), retaining only the settlements around Jerusalem but narrowing the corridor between two principal Israeli cities, Haifa and Tel Aviv, to about 20 miles. The to-be-created Palestinian state would be compensated by some equivalent Israeli territory, probably in the underpopulated Negev.

Israel seems prepared to agree to an unrestricted return of refugees to the Palestinian state but adamantly refuses any return to Israel. Plausible reports have the Israeli government willing to cede the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem (as yet undefined) as the capital of a Palestinian state.

If matters are indeed brought to this point, it would reflect a revolutionary change of perceptions on both sides.

The intifada and the global momentum of radical Islamism have brought home to the Israeli public and leadership that their state is threatened by four new and growing dangers: first, an altered security environment in which the principal threat is from groups with no defined geography and operating from small, mobile bases; second, the demographic challenge because the alternative to a two-state solution could become a single state in which the Jewish population turns into a minority; third, the existential threat of nuclear proliferation, especially from Iran; and finally, an international environment in which Israel finds itself increasingly isolated because of the growing perception in Western Europe and in small but influential circles in the United States that Israel's alleged intransigence is the cause of Arab hostility to the West.

At the same time, the emerging fear of Iran has caused a reordering of priorities in the Arab world. For the moderate Sunni states, the danger of a dominant Iran has emerged as their principal preoccupation.

The confluence of American, Arab, Israeli and European concerns encourages the hope that an agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors would ease, or even eliminate, their common fears.

Will diplomacy be able to deliver on these expectations?

The interlocutors on both sides have extremely shaky domestic positions. The governing coalition in Israel has collapsed, and the approval ratings of the Cabinet are at a historic low.

The definition of a Palestinian partner has so far proved elusive. Gaza is governed by Hamas, which is unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of Israel, not to speak of the specific terms under negotiation. Who then takes responsibility for Gaza? And it is unclear how much of the West Bank population Abbas can speak for.

Several Arab states have declared their willingness to recognize Israel once it returns to the 1967 borders. But recognition of the existence of a state has historically been treated as a factual, not a policy, matter. A key question, therefore, becomes exactly what is meant by "recognition." Will the moderate Arab states place pressure on Hamas to accept the premises of the peace process? Or will the fashionable pressure for "engagement" with Hamas turn into an alibi for evading that necessity?

Are the moderate Arab states prepared to expand and strengthen the small group committed to genuine co-existence? Will recognition of Israel bring an end to the unrelenting media, governmental and educational campaign in Arab countries that presents Israel as an illegitimate, imperialist, almost criminal interloper in the region?

Several moderate Arab states have been extraordinarily reluctant to come to Annapolis. If they appear, will they treat their presence as their principal contribution for which one-sided pressure on Israel is deemed an appropriate concession?

Even more portentous will be the profound implications for the balance of forces within the Arab world. Moderates there will be less praised for their achievement than accused of having betrayed the Arab cause.

The U.S. will be able to sustain the proposed course only if it is prepared to extend long-term support to its Arab partners against the foreseeable onslaught.

The peace process will therefore merge with the generic conflicts of the Middle East. The Annapolis conference cannot be the end of a process; rather, it should lay the groundwork of a new, potentially hopeful phase that will continue into future administrations.

But it should not be driven by the U.S. political calendar. If either America's Arab or Israeli friends are asked to take on more than they are able to withstand, there's the risk of another, even larger blow-up.

The secretary of state is surely right in insisting that the Olmert-Abbas talks avoid the ritualistic adjectives of previous efforts still awaiting definition after decades, such as the "just" and "lasting" peace within "secure" and "recognized" borders of UN Security Council Resolution 242 and the appeal to a "just, fair and realistic" solution of the refugee problem called for by the road map.

Specific agreements regarding enforcement and guarantees are also essential - an especially delicate matter when demilitarization and resistance to terrorism are imposed on an emerging sovereign entity.

American leadership on realistic parameters with Israel and moderate Arab countries is an essential precondition to success in Annapolis. In its absence, deadlock and American isolation beckon.

The strength of the forces of moderation depends on the standing of America in the region and not only with respect to Palestine. No more in Palestine than in Iraq can American influence be fostered by an image of retreat. All the peoples of the region, friend or foe, will be judging the sum total of America's purposes and its steadfastness in pursuit of them.

Henry A. Kissinger heads the consulting firm Kissinger & Associates.


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Ulster's lesson for the Middle East: don't indulge extremists

Northern Ireland is too often invoked as a model for resolving conflicts, but it does show conditions must come before talks

David Trimble

The Guardian, Thursday October 25, 2007

Advocating the Northern Irish "model" has become a popular pastime. In conflicts as different as those in Spain, Sri Lanka and the Middle East, the key players are now urged to consider the undoubted success in Northern Ireland and follow our example. This is hardly surprising, but I am concerned about how that example is described.

A few months ago Peter Hain, the former Northern Ireland secretary of state, described it as "the development of dialogue at every level", a dialogue "delivering the most obdurate constituencies", focusing on "key leaders". It also warned that "preconditions can strangle the process at birth". Many others have followed and urged unconditional dialogue with the most intransigent - "dancing with wolves", it has been called.
 
These accounts disturb me. They are not accurate. Worse, they are potentially dangerous. Such initiatives in the wrong circumstances can backfire. That happened in Northern Ireland. In 1972 a high-ranking IRA delegation, including both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, was flown (in secret) to London for talks with the Northern Ireland secretary.

The talks failed. The bar had been set too low - they were invited to engage in dialogue only a few days into a flimsy and temporary ceasefire. The IRA saw it as a sign of British weakness, stepped up their campaign, and for some years thereafter believed that one "last push" would do the trick. Loyalists saw it as a waning British commitment to maintaining Northern Ireland's position within the UK and increased their violence. Actions intended to bring peace merely deepened constitutional uncertainty and generated new levels of violence.

Thankfully, the government learned the lessons. We now know that indirect contacts with republicans appear to have been under way from 1986-87. Crucially it was soon made clear that there were conditions before there could be an official engagement. The key conditions were later formalised in the Downing Street declaration of 1993 as an end to violence and a commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means. Equally important was the government's commitment to the consent principle and its refusal to act as a persuader for a united Ireland, which prefigured the outcome of the formal interparty talks, the three-stranded structure of which were defined in March 1991, and the key procedural decisions taken by the parties in 1992 in the absence of Sinn Féin. When it called the cessation of its campaign in 1994, republicans were, in effect, accepting these parameters for talks.

Nowhere is the Northern Ireland analogy applied more vigorously than in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Above all, there has been much said about the need to "engage" with those who we regard as terrorists. If negotiations with the IRA led to the peace agreement in Northern Ireland, we are often told, Israel must be prepared to take the same approach with Hamas.

And as we get closer to a Middle East peace conference in Annapolis - itself clouded with uncertainly but still the most significant meeting for more than seven years - those voices urging negotiation at almost any price are getting louder and louder. Commentators point animatedly to the elephant in the room - Hamas - who will almost certainly not be attending the talks. Nothing can be achieved, they argue, if the most extremist elements are not at the negotiating table.

We must hope for agreement from all the parties at Annapolis. But agreement will mean an accommodation, not a victory of one side over another. Still less will it mean the annihilation of the "other". Where does Hamas stand on these matters? Will it accept a two-state solution? Will it end violence? These are reasonable questions to ask. Hamas's failure to satisfactorily reply shows that it would be wrong to try to include it. The preconditions for engagement were clear for the IRA in the early 1990s, and they are clear for Hamas today - renounce violence, recognise Israel, and accept previous peace agreements. Hamas must be encouraged to take the same sort of steps the IRA took towards the negotiating table. But this will be undermined if it feels it does it it on its terms and continues to reject a compromise solution. We must make sure that events like the Annapolis conference are successful and provide Hamas with further impetus to engage in a process, with all Palestinians and Israelis, of negotiation and compromise.

If there is one lesson to learn from the Northern Ireland experience, it is that preconditions are crucial in ending violence and producing a settlement. Being overgenerous to extremist groups is like giving sweets to a spoilt child in the hope that it will improve its behaviour - it usually results in worse actions. Our experience suggests that while some flexibility is desirable, there have to be clear principles and boundaries. A failure to recognise this risks drawing the wrong conclusions from the recent history of Northern Ireland and fundamentally misunderstanding the peace process.

· David Trimble is a Conservative working peer; he was formerly leader of the Ulster Unionist party, first minister of Northern Ireland, and a Nobel peace laureate


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Peres sees peace in Mideast within five years

Endy M. Bayuni

Jakarta Post - October 24, 2007

Jerusalem - The peace process between Israel and Palestine, which will be revived in the U.S. city of Annapolis, Maryland next month, could take between three and five years to conclude, Israeli President Shimon Peres said Tuesday.

"If everything goes well, it's actually possible to solve all the problems in two to three years," Peres told a group of visiting Indonesian journalists at his office.

He said the two sides were more ready than before to move ahead, but stressed the need for both to work to reach an agreement. "Time is running out."

A Nobel laureate for his role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the 1990s, Peres said he was more optimistic about the prospect of success this time around, given the greater understanding of Israel's needs among Arabs and of Arab needs among Israelis.

"The Arab world is more open that it used to be," he said.

However, he said that both sides must be prepared to settle for partial rather than full success, but that this was still better than a failure.

"Both sides are seriously committed not to make it a failure," he said.

He also underlined the need for the peace process to take into account economic as well as political aspects. The two must run parallel, he said. "We have to run with our two legs."

More specifically, he said the process must address the economic situation and capabilities of Palestine.

Peres, who counts former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid among his friends, said Indonesia could play a role in the peace process given its position as the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Saying that Indonesian Muslims' temperaments were "more restrained" than those of Arab Muslims, he said Indonesia could help change perspectives in the Muslim world.

Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. Officials in Jakarta have said that such relations will only come about after the signing of a peace agreement that grants Palestine its homeland.

Jakarta, however, has accepted the two-state solution proposal, which will be used as the basis for the peace process in Annapolis, therefore implicitly stating its readiness to recognize the Jewish state of Israel.

"I don't see any reason why Israel should be in conflict with Indonesia, because we have had no history of enmity," Peres said.

"Our enemies are not the Muslim or Arab world. Our enemies are hatred and terror," he said.

If Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, all are predominantly Muslim countries, can have relations with Israel, "then why not Indonesia?"

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