MADRID – Since its inception in Oslo almost two decades ago, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been stymied by the dysfunctional political systems of both sides. Hostage of an impossible coalition and of a settlement movement of free-lance fanatics, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s leadership is seriously compromised. His Palestinian counterparts are hardly in a better position.
Today, the clique that surrounds Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas embodies the bitter deception which the peace process that began with the Oslo agreement has meant for the Palestinians. Moreover, the Palestinian Authority has come neither to represent the majority of Palestinians nor to rule by democratic means.
Abbas’ presidential term has expired, and elections are constantly being postponed. The PA prime minister, Salam Fayyad, like his Hamas counterparts in Gaza, rules by decree, keeps parliament inactive, and silences the opposition. With no institutionalized democratic legitimacy, the PA is bound to rely on its security forces and on those of the occupier, Israel, to enforce its will.
Of course, throughout history, national liberation movements have had to marginalize their own radicals and fanatics in order to reach the Promised Land. This was true of Zionism, of the Italian Risorgimento, and most recently of the Catholics in Northern Ireland. But never did the outcast faction actually represent the democratically elected majority. A peace process conceived as a means to weaken and isolate the winners of an election – Hamas – is unlikely to gain much traction.