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The Phantom Middle East Peace Process

TEL AVIV – Twenty years after the Madrid Peace conference, and ten years after President Bill Clinton’s heroic efforts at Camp David failed to yield a settlement between Israelis and Palestinians, one cannot escape the conclusion that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has become one of the most spectacular deceptions in modern diplomatic history.

The process fell victim to the parties’ inability to bridge the gap between what was politically feasible for them and what was required for a settlement. Trapped between the possible and the necessary, Israelis and Palestinians simply learned to live without a solution.

However obsessed international opinion may be with Gaza’s agony, to most Israelis the Palestinian “problem” seems to be happening on the dark side of the moon. The wall/fence in the West Bank and Ariel Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza have practically done away with daily friction between Jews an Arabs. Absorbed by their booming economy, reassured by President Barack Obama’s recent commitment never to let Israel down, and convinced of their success in defeating Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank and deterring Hamas from venturing into another war, Israelis have lost any sense of urgency concerning the Palestinian problem.

Israelis also find satisfaction in the relative prosperity of the West Bank, where order and stability are being secured by well-trained security forces, in line with Prime Minister’s Salam Fayyad’s meticulous bottom-up construction of Palestinian statehood. Moreover, massive inflows of international aid make Israel’s occupation one of the most convenient in world history; the Israelis control the land and its population without having to bear the financial burden of direct rule.