Clayton Swisher’s fascinating publication of the Palestinian Papers (leaked to and broadcast by Al Jazeera and The Guardian) is subtitled pessimistically “The End of the Road”.
His basic thesis is that the papers so reveal the craven negotiating stance of the Fatah hierarchy that the attempt to secure a two-state solution is fatally wounded and should be abandoned. There are two things wrong with that suggestion. First, and most important, no one has put forward an alternative approach to peace, though I recognise that he is far from alone in believing that the two-state dream is dead.
Second, the book was published just before the Fatah/Hamas accord was agreed (and predictably denounced by PM Netanyahu) and before we have seen the full outcome of the so called Arab spring. I visited Cairo after the fall of Mubarak and found Egypt – having talked both to Presidential hopefuls and the youth coalition – in exciting but positive turmoil.
I do not therefore give up on the two-state solution, though Swisher as an American is commendably frank about the disgraceful and dishonourable part played by successive US administrations as revealed in these papers. The hope must be Europe. Through our Association agreement with Israel the EU has real potential muscle power in the Israel-Palestinian imbroglio if only we are prepared to use it.
Refusing to talk to Hamas – even after their success in election – had for me echoes of the days when the UK government refused to talk to the ANC and the PLO (not to mention the IRA) leaving politicians like me not in power to do so. The new Palestinian unity however fragile has to be encouraged, and emerging Arab governments are certain to engage. It would be absurd for Europe to miss this opportunity to forge new partnerships in the Middle East, and positive action to knock sense into the Israeli government would be one part of that process.
Swisher’s book helpfully reveals just how much the Palestinians have already given away, and how much more astonishingly they were prepared to give, underlining not only the bad faith but sheer stupidity of Israel’s rulers, unless that is – that they think they can rely on consistent moral and financial support from the Americans and us as their allies.
In her introduction to this enlightening volume Dr Ghada Karmi writes: “The more the Palestinians conceded to Israel, the less they got in return, but it only led to further concessions until they hit rock bottom”. This book should act as a wake-up call to all governments who genuinely care about human rights and international law – as we are supposed to do.
Rt Hon Lord David Steel of Aikwood KT KBE DL – Former leader of the Liberal Democrat Party and President of Medical Aid for the Palestinians between 1997-2004.