Inside Story America

Has time run out for a two-state solution?

The Israeli architect of the Oslo Accords has called on the Palestinian president to declare the ‘peace process’ dead.

As the Middle East Quartet prepares to meet in Washington, the Israeli architect of the Oslo Accords has called on the Palestinian president to declare the so-called peace process dead. We ask: Is it time to move beyond a two-state solution?

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is expected to send a letter to Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, in the coming days laying out the conditions for a return to direct negotiations. Such negotiations have been frozen since September 2010.

“You’ve seen greater Palestinian economic activity; you’ve seen good growth in the West Bank’s economy. Is it sufficient? No. Is it enough without a political horizon? No. But I don’t think we should dismiss the work that has been led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad under the Palestinian Authority in getting the Palestinians ready for statehood.

– Matthew Doyle, the former spokesman for Tony Blair

Abbas had been expected to include a paragraph threatening to dissolve the Palestinian Authority (PA) in protest against the deadlock. This move would force Israel to take back control of the West Bank and Gaza and render the so-called peace process dead.

But according to press reports, Abbas removed the paragraph under pressure from Barack Obama, the US president, who called the Palestinian president last month to “reaffirm America’s commitment to Middle East peace”.

Last week, the Israeli architect of the 1993 Oslo Accords, Yossi Beilin, published an open letter to Abbas. He called on him not to give in to Obama’s request and instead to dissolve the Palestinian Authority.

Inside Story Americas spoke to Beilin, a former Israeli justice minister, and asked him why he believed the time had come to, in his words, “end this farce”. This is some of what Beilin had to say:

“The opponents of the Oslo Agreement on both sides made out of our corridor a kind of living room. They are quite happy, because in the meantime Israel continues to build settlements. The extremists on the Palestinian side are not there to divide the land; they are waiting for perhaps the Islamic republic or the Islamic empire or whatever. And those that wanted peace, who created the Oslo process, became kind of hostages to this process. I think that it is time to say ‘enough is enough’. The Oslo process has ended and now what we have to do is to go towards a permanent solution if possible. If not, let us dissolve the institutions which were built and which perpetuate actually the interim agreement forever ….

“Whether we want to say the peace process is dead or merely comatose, there is no doubt that it has failed and that continuing the way we’ve proceeded so far, there’s no logical reason to believe that it will succeed …. The first step is recognising failure of the past and then … thinking what are the strategies for the future?

– Robert Malley, the former special assistant to Bill Clinton

“Today there is no leverage. The Americans are doing nothing because of the elections. The Europeans are busy with their economic situation. The Quartet is actually dead. I mean they are going to have a meeting on Wednesday, which is a joke in my view. They cannot move anything. The only ones who can move things are us: the Palestinians and the Israelis, those of us who really want to move things towards peace ….

“The Quartet was wrong from the beginning. I cannot understand how come the UN became part of a club of three other states or state organisations. I don’t understand why it was established. It did nothing …. The meetings are worthless …. It just keeps a fig leaf of meetings and resolutions and they call upon the parties to sit together and to talk about the permanent agreement. There is no chance in the world, not if they meet in Jordan, not if they meet in Washington or elsewhere. Today, there is no chance to have a permanent agreement because, on the one hand, the Israeli government is not ready to pay the price for peace, and the Palestinian side is also not united ….”

So, has time run out for a two-state solution and should Abbas ignore US pressure and dissolve the PA?

Joining Inside Story Americas with Shihab Rattansi to discuss this are: Matthew Doyle, the former spokesman for the Quartet representative Tony Blair; Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to President Abbas and the Palestinian negotiating team; and Robert Malley, the Middle East and North Africa programme director at the International Crisis Group and former special assistant to President Bill Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs.

“One of the problems with the Quartet and one of the problems with the advocates of the Quartet is that they view this problem as being a symmetrical one. There is a huge asymmetry of power with Israel being the occupier and the Palestinians being the occupied. And unless we begin to recognise that and move forward by making demands of the occupier, we’re never going to be able to get anywhere.”

Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team