Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ideas for Peace

Amidst the recent to-ing and fro-ing over whether there will be a peace summit in late September, a couple of other ideas are being discussed in the background.

The first is an idea from the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad. What he lays out, in his own forward to his 65 page plan is a "...program, which sets out our national goals and government policies, centers around the objective of building strong state institutions capable of providing, equitably and effectively, for the needs of our citizens, despite the occupation. We believe that full commitment to this state-building endeavor will advance our highest national priority of ending the occupation, thereby enabling us to live in freedom and dignity in a country of our own." In other words, Prime Minister Fayad sees his plan as a roadmap to the creation of all the institutions and infrastructure of a functioning state so as to simply make Palestinian Independence real. It's not the first time such an idea was proposed by Fayad, but may be the first time his idea was given enough thought to be compiled into a comprehensive document.

Israeli President Peres, for his part, also has some similar ideas, in line with the "roadmap for peace" in which he proposes "the establishment in the near future of a Palestinian state with temporary borders, with guarantees and a timetable for a permanent agreement that will include solutions on all core issues." In other words, an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, with "fuzzy" borders and a time table to solidify these borders and deal with the stickier issues.

Combined with Netanyahu's calls for Economic peace between Israel and Palestine, Fayad and Peres are saying very similar things, Netanyahu, however, seems to have already rejected Peres' suggestion despite news that the US is considering Peres' plan.

Fayad, however, is getting mixed reviews. This op-ed in Ha'Aretz supports Fayad's plan, saying that the critics on each side of the argument are on the fringes--some saying that it's wrong for a timeline to be established and others that the plan is too cooperative with Israel. That latter view is expressed here, on the website "electronic intifada" where the author suggests that the Palestinian Authority is nothing more than puppets of the US and Israel, that Fayad is politically too weak to accomplish anything and that basically, his plan is doomed to failure.

In responding to criticism of settlements, a retort of those who support settler extremism sometimes say "a Palestinian extremist is a suicide bomber, a Jewish extremist builds a house." It's hard not to be excited at the thought of a new wave of Palestinian radicalism: infrastructure and institution building. Infrastructure that will improve the quality of life for Palestinians and institutions that can keep peace, order and friendly relations. This optimism, however, needs to be tempered with the realization that neither plan resolves the core issues of refugees, Jerusalem or the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Neither does it touch that tricky little question of Hamas and Gaza.

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