Creating new perspectives since 2009

Thirty years since the Madrid Conference: Is peace still possible?

November 24, 2021 at 9:09 pm

Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir (1st-r), facing Haidar Abdel Shafi (1st-l), the head of Palestinian delegation across the table 30 October 1991 in Madrid, listens to the inaugural speech of the Middle East Peace conference by Spanish Premier Felipe Gonzalez [DAVID AKE/AFP via Getty Images]

The 30th anniversary of the Madrid Peace Conference has passed. The Madrid Conference marks the beginning of the state of decline in international interest in the Palestinian cause, as there has been a noticeable and gradual decline since its convening in 1991. It also gave legitimacy to the Israeli state at the expense of the Palestinian cause and national rights. It is worth noting that UN General Assembly Resolution No. 3379, which equates Zionism with racism, issued 46 years ago, specifically on November 10, 1975, was cancelled 45 days after the Madrid Conference.

Thirty years after the Madrid Conference, the Palestinians are standing at a historical crossroads threatening the Palestinian cause and its liquidation, after the level of decline in the interest in the Palestinian cause has reached an all-time high and after the failure of the strategy of internationalising and isolating Israel. The UN marked the 30th anniversary with its Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, saying, “We cannot lose hope.  We must explore every opportunity to revitalise the peace process.” He stressed that the “two-State solution, as defined by United Nations resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements, remains the only path to ensuring Palestinians and Israelis can both realise their legitimate aspirations — an end to the occupation and the realisation of two independent, sovereign States, living side by side in peace and security, based on the 1967 lines, and with Jerusalem as the capital of both States.”

Guterres also added, “The United Nations remains committed to working with Israelis and Palestinians, and with our international and regional partners, including through the Middle East Quartet, to realise this goal.” Will the goal of peace be achieved? Has the time for salvation almost arrived? This leads to many other questions that must be answered, such as  is the American administration serious in its peace project that it proposed 30 years ago? Does the two-state solution proposed by successive US administrations and endorsed by the Arab initiative still exist? Does America have the power and influence to lead the region to peace, which is weak in structure, and which the search for began in Madrid?

After a difficult labour, the Madrid negotiations delivered the Oslo Accord, from which emerged the Palestinian Authority, which today is struggling to survive and facing the danger of its collapse due to Israeli practices and the economic blockade it imposes on the Palestinian people. it is also facing the  danger of its downfall and the disorder, security chaos and armed conflict that could follow, putting Israel in control of matters to the extent that it may take advantage of this situation to commit a second catastrophe against the Palestinian people. The region has become open to all possibilities due to  wrong Israeli policies.

READ: China wants to direct a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Over the past thirty years, it has dealt fatal blows to the peace project due to settlement expansion, land confiscation, and the US appeasement of Israel, which persisted in its policy of repression, aggression and killing. This has led to the peace process reaching a dead end, making peace a thing of the past. Negotiations have been permanently suspended since 2014. Observers believe that the two-state solution requires joint action, and it will not come merely from wishes, but rather from hard work to resolve the conflict and not manage it. Will the US administration succeed in imposing the two-state solution, which it says is the only solution to resolving the conflict in the region?

There are still obstacles in the way of returning to the negotiating track between the Palestinians and the Israelis as a result of the positions of the Bennett-Lapid government that rejects peace and the principle of the two-state solution. Another obstacle is the Biden administration’s preoccupation with difficult internal situations and issues of American national security that take priority, which will not allow him to make serious efforts in the matter of Arab-Israeli peace. Moreover, the fact that the ruling coalition in Israel combines completely contradictory approaches regarding the peace process, as it is a coalition of interest in order to ensure that Netanyahu does not return to power, is also an obstacle.

The Israeli alternative government will not respond to any Palestinian peace initiatives with the current government formation and, therefore, it is necessary for Palestinian action and taking a number of positions, even if unilaterally, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Madrid Conference. This is to establish the legitimate Palestinian right and legitimate national rights represented in the Palestinian Authority issuing a declaration establishing the Palestinian State under occupation on the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, based on the General Assembly’s resolution recognising the State of Palestine as an observer State in the UN.

The PLO leadership must seek to obtain the greatest degree of international recognition of the Palestinian State and to join international institutions.

This declaration should then be used as a starting point for advancing the Palestinian-Palestinian reconciliation efforts and accepting the role of international institutions and not the PA in the West Bank and Gaza.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Addustour on 24 November 2021

READ: EU diplomats affirm opposition to Israel settlement plans

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.