The Flat Earth Society Meets at Turtle Bay

by Salomon Benzimra

Members of the Flat Earth Society convened in yet another plenary session to discuss, once more, their cherished project: to launch a Mars landing vehicle next November. Never mind that for the past fourteen years they have tried feverishly and failed. Their repeated failures did not deter them in the least to pursue the project again and, faithful to their dogmatic thinking, without changing an iota in their theory. Would anyone bet on a successful launch anytime soon?

That was the impression I got on September 23, 2007, while watching the members of the “Quartet” in session at the United Nations. Condoleezza Rice, Ban Ki-moon, Javier Solana and Sergei Lavrov were all lined up and looking serious, this time with Tony Blair as their recently designated special envoy. The theory: the “Two State Solution.” The project: “to create a viable Palestinian state living peacefully side by side with Israel.”

Any serious changes to the “peace process” since 1993? None. Any empirical evidence of past successes? None. But they were all confident that some sort of a breakthrough will be accomplished in their next meeting in November.

And so, they went on for over an hour debating the merits of peripheral issues: Will Syria be extended an invitation to the November meeting? Will issues such as Jerusalem, the “refugees” and the final borders be part of the agenda? What kind of institutions will have to be created to ensure good governance in the future Palestinian state?

Questions from the floor were addressed to Rice, Ban Ki-moon, Lavrov and Blair, who responded with the usually obscure answers such as “the need for a political horizon,” the necessity for “all parties to recognize Israel,” the importance to “take advantage of the current momentum,” and the like. Of course, no question was specifically addressed to Javier Solana. After all, if he could not solve the minor crisis that erupted in 2002 between Spain and Morocco over a barren rock off the Mediterranean coast (Isla del Perejil), how could he bring any valuable input to the most intractable political conflict in the Middle East?

At one point, Condoleezza Rice informed the audience that any agreement should be preceded by a firm commitment to end terrorism and to dismantle the terror infrastructure. These provisions were specifically written in Phase One of the Roadmap, back in April 2003. Evidently, the Palestinians violated them ever since. What would make the same provision enforceable now? No one ventured a clear answer.

A good indication of a flawed political process is the short lifetime of the official documents that govern it. Phase One of the Roadmap is just one example: it has been all but dead since it was issued, except in the mind of diplomats divorced from reality. Other examples abound:

Upon the Israeli “disengagement” from Gaza – an initiative that was highly praised by the Quartet – a private funding agreement was set up by Bill Gates and a number of American Jews to provide the Gazans with the valuable infrastructure left by Israel. It had no lasting effect: Palestinians vandalized the equipment and destroyed most of the greenhouses.
The Jericho jail agreement, whereby British and American monitors would supervise the handling of Palestinians prisoners, ended up in chaos when Palestinians breached the agreed upon procedures and the monitors withdrew for lack of security.
The Geneva Initiative, signed in 2003 with great fanfare by unaccountable actors and financially supported by the Europeans was dead on arrival – and for good reason.

How many more agreements, initiatives, financial pledges and Roadmaps should be crafted without questioning the underlying theory of “The Two State Solution”?

At the heart of every negotiation is the prior acknowledgment that the objectives of the parties are compatible. This has been sadly overlooked since 1993, and as long as the Quartet obstinately ignores or dismisses the Palestinians’ main drive, its theory of “The Two State Solution” is bound to fail. Regardless of their political inclinations, the ultimate goal of the Palestinians is to destroy Israel. They not only talk about it (in Arabic), they wrote it explicitly in their official documents: the PLO Covenant, the Hamas Charter and the Fatah Constitution all call for the eradication of Israel. Yet, the (malicious) naivete of the Quartet insists on calling Fatah a “moderate” faction.

Beyond the crystal-clear program of the Palestinians, the Quartet should also address the most fundamental question: Whose land is it that must be partitioned again?

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared, “Only if the peace process rests on solid institutional and economic foundations does it have a chance of succeeding.” More than anyone else, the Secretary General should be aware of the tortuous history of Mandatory Palestine, the many violations of the Mandate by Britain and even the violation by the UN of its own Charter since 1947. So, before considering “institutional and economic foundations”, members of the Quartet should be well advised to respect the legal foundations of Israel, as they have been entrenched in international law since 1920.

The flat building of the UN at Turtle Bay, with its waving blue, flat-earth flag, is where platitudes flourish, unconnected to the real world. It has become an ideological black hole, whence no visible light and no rightful action emerge.

October 4, 2007 | 1 Comment »

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