In the past two years, the "peace process" concept has become a problematic, and perhaps even harmful, phrase. If I may express myself in a slightly absurd manner, I would say that in the past few years the peace process has become the obstacle to peace itself.
The "peace process" has been turned – by the Israelis, Palestinians, Americans and in some sense the Europeans too – into a sort of independent diplomatic entity, whose ethical and political rhetoric is more important than its deeds, whose outward appearance conceals not only real inaction but sometimes even worse – deeds which clearly contradict peace itself. The peace process deludes us, and therefore calms us too, to believe that peace will certainly come. It induces tolerance which is eventually complete passivity.
For the sake of illustration, let us recall the short and efficient peace process between Israel and Egypt, two countries which waged major, bloody wars against each other. This peace process began dramatically with Egyptian President Sadat's visit to Israel in November 1977,and less than a year later the sides already agreed upon the main principles at Camp David. A withdrawal, demilitarization, uprooting communities and opening embassies. The agreement itself was signed several months later. And this peace agreement has lasted more than 35 years now.
On the other hand, while the first contact between Israel and the Palestinians was signed in Oslo in 1993, more than 20 years have passed since then and the peace agreement is still far off. During these years, several interim agreements were signed, most of which were violated, and serious bloody brawls erupted between the two sides, some of which are still ongoing, not to mention the Israeli settlements which have expanded immensely.
Lo and behold, in the years which have passed since Oslo dozens if not hundreds of European and American – and other – mediators and emissaries have been running back and forth between the sides, dozens of different types of summits have been held, direct talks have taken place on all levels, US presidents and foreign and defense ministers from the US and many European countries have arrived in Jerusalem and Ramallah to talk, persuade and make new offers. American Secretary of State John Kerry has been in Israel and the Palestinian Authority 11 times in the past year in order to advance the peace process, which continues to stay put.
Officially cancel peace processThe most reliable evidence of the lack of hope that the peace process will indeed reach its goal – peace itself – will be provided in random talks on every street in Israel and in every city in the West Bank. Even moderate people on both sides will agree about one thing – their hopelessness that the current peace process will indeed reach its goal. And there are also those, on the left and on the right, who don't see any hope in ever achieving peace.
And yet, the vast majority will still agree that the peace process must not be stopped under any circumstances, out of the sense that after an entire day of deeds contradicting any possibility of an agreement, it would be good to go to sleep at night with the peace process lying restfully by the pillow.
It's interesting that the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, and all the mediators too of course, will outline more or less the same realistic content of the appropriate and proper peace process between Palestine and Israel; but in the meantime, it is this infinite peace process which is creating all kinds of imaginary fantasies of further possible concessions each side can get from the other side, and so within the infinite and inexhaustible creation of illusions in regards to the concessions each side might be able to achieve in the "peace process" negotiations, peace itself is wearing out and moving farther away.
That being the case, what can we do? In my opinion, only a real dramatic crisis can advance peace. Not necessarily a crisis related to violent outbursts, but a crisis which has to do with breaking off contact and officially canceling – although temporarily – the peace process. And this applies of course not just to the two sides, but mainly to the different mediators, and especially to the US, which is acting like a spineless social worker in a day care center for backward people.
An official US withdrawal from the entire peace process out of despair will create panic among broad circles, both among the Palestinians and among the Israelis, and will perhaps motivate them to take real initiative in a practical and businesslike – and preferably secret – dialogue, ahead of a possible agreement.