As the Obama Administration tries to drag the rotting corpse of the peace process out from under the table and into public view, accompanied by the expected Israel bashing and phony rhetoric about everyone learning to get along, it might be time to revisit why the peace process failed in the first place.
It's news to no one that the PLO template of the peace process has failed. Arafat and his henchmen had no ability to govern and no interest in ending the violence. By the end of his term, even President Clinton who had built his legacy on Middle East Peace, was forced to admit that Arafat did not want peace. The process had failed long before that. It was kept alive and is being kept alive like a zombie, by foreign governments and left wingers who insist on the important of a peace process, while being completely detached from the reality of its failure.
The Clinton, two Bush administrations and Obama now, have expected Israel to negotiate with a bunch of terrorists, give them a state, and assume that will solve all the region's problems. As usual this is one of those cases where a four year would quickly understand what most diplomats and politicians deliberately choose not to understand, because it is in their professional interest not to understand it.
But by way of contrast, let's take a look at what a real Middle East Peace Process worthy of the name would look like, not from a pro-Israel perspective, and without laying blame, but from the perspective of practical problem solving oriented diplomacy.
The current situation involving Israel and the Arab world is the product of two wars, in 1948 and 1967.
Seven nations participated in the 1948 war, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Israel. (Representing the Palestinian Arab side was the Jaysh al-Jihad al-Muqaddas militia under the Mufti of Jerusalem, a former Hitler ally, but not as a nation.)
Five nations participated in the 1967 war, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Israel. (The Palestinian territories had been annexed by Egypt and Jordan in the aftermath of the 1948 war.)
It is clear that any serious Middle East Peace Process has to involve at least five of these nations, preferably all seven, hammering out a resolution to any lingering problems, and agreeing to a long term regional accord. The problems to be discussed include mutual hostility, the regional arms race arise from it, and the status of refugees displaced by mutual hostilities between the parties. The resolution would involve an end to such hostilities and the agreement of all parties to work together to resolve regional issues and problems that arose from their former exchange of hostilities.
Because of the prolonged history of these hostilities, no individual problem can be put at the doorstep of only one party or one nation. Nor can any solution involve only one party or one nation. Solutions must be mutual and involve reciprocation. One party cannot be expected to shoulder the burden alone, or do what the other party will not.
Just as an end to hostilities must be mutual, all other agreements must be mutual as well. So if the Arab states believe that a Palestinian state is vital for peace, they must also be prepared to contribute land to the creation of such a state. This applies most glaringly to Jordan, which was also formed out of the territory of the former Palestinian Mandate, and to Egypt, which had run Gaza for decades. A Palestinian state composed of the territory of three nations and administered by three nations, would be a far more stable and tenable entity. It would also shift the scenario from one of aggression, to mutual cooperation.
The mutual hostilities have in turn created a flow of refugees out of Israel and to Israel, with Palestinian Arabs fleeing Israel, and Jews from Arab lands fleeing to Israel. There are two solutions to such a problem, their absorption by their new land, or their return to the land they fled from. If the nations in the pact agree to the latter, then they must be willing to provide territory or financial compensation to those refugees, across the board.
If Israel must provide land or compensation for Palestinian Arabs who fled, the Arab nations must provide land or compensation for the Jewish refugees who fled or were expelled from their countries. If not only the living refugees, but all of their descendants, must likewise be accommodated, the same solution would have to be applied across the board.
The number of Palestinian Arab refugees and Jewish refugees from Arab lands has both been capped at below a million at the time. Their descendants are both estimated at being somewhere in the several million range. The problem is roughly equivalent on both sides. The solution would have to be roughly equivalent as well. It might take the form of Israel contributing more land for a Palestinian Arab land, and in turn receiving land from Arab nations for the Jewish refugees it absorbed. It might take the form of all sides agreeing to a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" to call an end to past issues, and agree to absorb whatever refugees are residing in their country at the present, with financial compensation provided by the country of the refugee's origin, to both the refugees and their new nation.
Such a process does not address either regional problems or regional participants, dooming it to fail, and to prolong the misery of everyone involved by promoting terrorism, bigotry and the use of Palestinian Arabs as pawns in a larger war between the regional powers. By eschewing a real Middle East Peace Process, the United States and Europe are prolonging the regional conflicts in favor of a microcosmic approach that expects Israel to shoulder the burden alone, while expecting nothing from the region's other powers. If they seek real peace, they must be willing to push for a process that fosters mutual responsibility and accountability, rather than striving to ignore it. Only such a process has any hope of bringing peace.