THEME: Mediation and International Politics
This article is authored by Aarvi Singh and Swantika Kumar Rajvanshi from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala.
The lethal cocktail of religion, sovereign supremacy and ideological differences gives room to discontentment, distrust and disagreement. Israel and Palestine are caught in similar situation, and since the formation of Israel, the world is eagerly waiting for the dawn of peace to rise in the promise land. The major diplomatic tool to settle the dispute is mediation, the linear approach to resolve dispute amicably makes mediation is much sought after option. US has attempted to mediate however, the vested interests drove the process and thus, peace never restored in the area. Other leading factors that are disrupting the success of mediation are refuges, sovereignty, Jerusalem, Security etc. All the stakeholders in the dispute are caught in prisoner’s dilemma, awaiting for an able, impartial mediator to break the prison.
Keywords: Mediation, refuges, sovereignty, Jerusalem, Security, prisoner’s dilemma
Conflict and consensus are part and parcel of every socio-political set up and mediation is an effective means resolve the dispute to bring consensus. It is a process of conflict management where disputants seek the assistance of, or accept an offer of help from, an individual, group, state, or organization to settle their conflict or resolve their differences without resorting to physical force or invoking the authority of the law. In international politics, mediation could be a better alternative in settling disputes
In case of mediation in Israel-Palestine mainly is a diplomatic and political gizmo to get twin purpose of pushing the issue forward and buying more time to understand the position and context of the problems. According to Anagnoson, and Wille, mediation at international level addresses the following disputes:
- Sovereignty claim over territorial stretch;
- Ideology issues emanating from political, religious and cultural difference;
- Security issues;
- Other categories
Israel-Palestine conflict is a mix bag of all the issues that Anagnoson discusses and thus, it needs an intervention that delineates the boundaries of all the issues and facilitates the parties to come to an amicable solution. A more favourable settlement can be reached if disputants have faith in the mediator that the mediation will result in protecting the international reputation and minimise the chances of violence from opposite sides. The classic conflict has seen many political leaders lending their support in resolving the disputes but the agreement is either partially reached or not reached at all. The reasons for the fall out of agreement ranges from the ideological differences, territory, sovereignty, Jerusalem, refuges etc.
Until 1948, the area known as Palestine typically referred to the geographic region located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. But today, Palestine theoretically includes the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. However, control over this region is a complex and evolving situation. The borders aren’t formally set, and many areas claimed by Palestinians have been occupied by Israelis for years. Although more than 135 member countries of United Nations recognize Palestine as an independent state, but Israel and some other countries, including the United States, don’t make this distinction.
Palestine in the ancient world was part of the region known as Canaan where the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah were located. The term `Palestine’ was originally a designation of an area of land in southern Canaan which the people known as the Philistines occupied a very small part of, the Canaanites, Canaanite-Phoenicians, and the Israelites, among others, having established themselves in the area much earlier. The Philistines are thought to have come to the area toward the end of the Bronze Age c. 1276 BCE and established themselves on the southern coastal plain of the Mediterranean Sea in an area afterwards known as Philistia. The name `Palestine’ is thought to derive from either the word plesheth (meaning `root palash’, an edible concoction carried by migratory tribes which came to symbolize nomadic peoples) or as a Greek designation for the nomadic Philistines.
The Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and the armies of Alexander the Great all conquered the region in succession and, finally, even the armies of Rome. By the time Rome appeared in the land it was long known as Judea, a term taken from the ancient Kingdom of Judah which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. After the Bar-Kochba Revolt of 132-136 CE, the Roman emperor Hadrian renamed the region Syria-Palaestina to punish the Jewish people for their insurrection (by naming it after their two traditional enemies, the Syrians and the Philistines).
The years 66-73 CE saw the First Jewish-Roman war which resulted in Titus destroying Jerusalem, including the Second Temple (leaving only the Western Wall ) and leading to the martyrdom of the defenders of Masada. Although the people of the land were free, within reason, to adhere to their own cultures and religious beliefs, they were still under Roman rule and wanted their independence.
The Western Roman Empire fell in 476 CE but the Byzantine Empire continued on relatively unchallenged until the 7th century CE and the rise of Islam in the region. In 634 CE, the Muslim armies from Arabia took Syria-Palaestina and renamed it Jund Filastin (‘Military District of Palestine’). The Muslims felt they had as much of a religious stake in the region as the Christians or as the Jews before them and churches were turned into mosques in the same way that earlier temples had given way to churches.
Palestine came to be referred to by European Christians as the ‘Holy Land’ and the ‘First Crusade’ was launched to win it back from Muslim occupation in 1096 CE. This effort was followed by many more, supported by the Byzantine Empire, through 1272 CE at enormous cost of life and property but with nothing finally gained. The Byzantine Empire fell in 1453 CE, greatly reducing Christian influence in the region, and Palestine was held by the Ottoman Turks. The region continued to be contested throughout the next few centuries until the British involved themselves in 1915 CE during World War I at which time the western powers first devised plans to partition the Middle East for their own purposes and benefit.
The year 1882 saw the rise of the Zionist movement. The first significant proposal for a partition of Palestine was offered in 1916 by the Anglo-French agreement known as the Sykes-Picot pact. This was, of course, devised as a partition not between Jews and Arabs but between the British and the French. At the time, Allied forces were battling the Turks on the Sinai front. The British were engaged in simultaneous, tortuous discussions not only with the French but also with the Russians, the Italians, the Sherifian Arabs (followers of the Sherif Hussein of Mecca), and the Zionists over the future of the Ottoman Empire’s possessions in the Fertile Crescent in the event of an Allied victory.
With the end of World War I, the rule of the Ottoman Empire ended and the British government held the control over Palestine. In November, 1917 the British government, in the Balfour Declaration (signed by their Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour and drafter in part by U.S. President Wilson, stated its support for “the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people.” In 1921, Britain gave the area of British-mandate Palestine east of the Jordan River to Emir Abdullah, to form the Hashemite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan. In 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations recommended the partition of British-mandate Palestine into two separate states, one for Jews and one for Arabs.
Inherent Conflict in Belief System
Faith and belief are set of emotions or a cultural system and any such belief system is based on some non-existing entity but in the believer’s consciousness the very entity, which is not yet a reality, has an absolute value and can be felt by him as existing. The predominant issue of any faith system is that there is no set boundary within the system. The normativity of a belief system is based on superior moral halo. One system differentiate itself from the other by questioning or imposing its own values and norms over the other and the name the act correction of ignorance or arrogance of the other. Religiosity has the most well established belief system, the invisible pink unicorns are seen by all the theists but the very definition of religion remains in quagmire. It would, therefore, be difficult to devise a definition of religion which would be regarded as applicable to all religions or matters of religious practices. To one class of persons a mere dogma or precept or a doctrine may be predominant in the matter of religion; to others, rituals or ceremonies may be predominant facets of religion; and to yet another class of persons a code of conduct or a mode of life may constitute religion.
Thus, a faith system regards another faith system as contradictory, pervasive, inferior and non-existence. This disregard of other’s faith give rise to conflict, conflict here need not be violent but when the social pathology is contaminated with vested political interests, violence becomes inevitable. Conflict with religious under tones is sometimes brutal, violent and disruptive. The conflict breeds hatred and distrust which further transforms the landscape of nation. The states practice different religion and Jerusalem is caught in the labyrinth of a common praying place and thus, exist an inherent conflict in the religious belief.
Territory and Sovereignty
The seed of discontentment was sowed during World War I when the British through Balfour declaration (2nd November, 1917) promised to Jewish Zionists, a place of their own within Palestine. The dream for the ‘promised land’ for the Jewish diaspora led to mass migration Aliya to Palestine and formation of small and autonomous community’s yishuv.
In 1917, Jews were about 5% of the total population in Mandate Palestine. By 1947, they become almost 30% of the population. As tensions escalated between two communities- Jews and Majority Arabs, British lost their grip and transferred the dispute to the newly formed U.N.
The UNGA adopted the partition Plan on 29th November 1947. It proposed the division of Palestine into three parts- 55% Jewish State, 44% Arab State and 1% internationalized Jerusalem and Bethlehem. At that time the Jews owned less than 7% of the land. The Arabs rejected the plan and the Jews decided to create facts on the ground.
On 14th May, 1948, hours before the end of British mandate, Yishuv leaders met at Tel Aviv and declared creation of Israel. The armies of neighbouring Arab states invaded the territory. By early 1949, when the armistice agreements were signed, Israel had captured roughly 78% of the territory and the green line was established. West Bank and East Jerusalem were annexed by Jordan and Egypt established its military authority in Gaza Strip.
In 1967 War, Israel occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem (annexed in 1967), Gaza strip, Syrian territory of Golan Heights (annexed in 1981). The labour government established Jewish Settlements in these occupied territories to promote Israel’s security interest. The Likud government which came to power in 1977 began political settlements to prevent territorial continuity of Arab enclaves. About 150 settlements with nearly 200,000 population existed in West Bank and Gaza Strip (never incorporated into Israeli Polity and remained O.T) in 2000.
The Oslo accords gave Palestinians national authority control over Arab areas in the O.T. including some under Israeli security umbrella. But P.N.A. only had limited autonomy.
At Camp David, Barak was ready to pay the price for peace. He agreed to give more than anything offered before. His ultimate offer at the summit was 73% of the West Bank and 100% of the Gaza Strip. Within 10 to 25 years period, the area in West Bank would be extended to 91% (94% excluding Jerusalem) and a 1% swap in Neger desert was proposed. In other words, 95% of West Bank (excluding Jerusalem) and 100% of Gaza strip was to be a Palestinian state.
The proposal was based on the formula, with the support of Clinton, that three large settlements, viz. Maale Adumia, Givat Ze’er and Gush Etzion would be maintained in order to accommodate 80% of the settlers. There would be extended to connect them to Jerusalem.
Although within the proposed territory, a sovereign state of Palestine was to be formed, it was a very restricted sovereignty- with special provision for the security of Israel and limitation on Palestinian autonomy on militarization and foreign relations. Although Arafat understood his own limited options, he rejected the proposal.
Arafat’s contention was that under U.N. partition plan, the Jews were offered 55% of Mandate Palestine. On June 4, 1967, Israel already had 78% under its control. Therefore, the Palestinians would already have made their sacrifice, if Israel was to go back to the green line (pre-1967 war boundary) i.e. Palestine with 22% of the original territory. This was a stand adopted by P.L.O. since the late 80’s and was not appreciated by the U.S. and Israel. They wanted Arafat to be more flexible. However, the Palestinians did not make any counter proposal.
According to the Post-summit interviews, Clinton appreciated the boldness of Barak and expected Arafat to grab the deal. He never really tried to pressurize Barak to yield a bit more; most probably because he understood his domestic compulsion. However it is strange that he did not anticipate the reaction of Arafat. Throughout the Oslo process, Clinton and Arafat had worked together and developed a rapport. A trust had developed between them, especially during the Netanyahu Period, when Clinton pressurized Israel to make concession. But at Camp David, an atmosphere of suspicion prevailed.
Mediation is all about Image Construction
All the method to resolve the dispute is simply a platform to showcase the political power play by the leaders of the participating states. The dispute resolution effort has ulterior motive to gain something other than settling the dispute. Israel and Palestine are focuses more on the territorial and sovereignty control over the land in general and Jerusalem in particular. For America, it’s all about implanting their name in the history book as peace maker and establish power epicenter amongst Middle East thereby, outshining Russia in power play. Whether it’s Clinton, Obama or Trump, Israel-Palestine conflict comes as a package deal to improve global image as “global messiah” and further strengthen ties with Middle East accordingly, that’s the reason each American leader takes the white man’s burden to swirl the magic wand of mediation to redraw his image.
For Arabs, it’s about maintaining their legacy over the land and besmirching Israel’s presence and effort. The purpose of any negotiation starts with the title as peace making process but end up in serving a ground for each leader to wield their own self-interests thereby sidelining mediation for peace.
Mediation as a process is not a win-lose situation rather its win-win attempt and to achieve win-win result, the state will have to forgo the sovereign ego dictating the terms of peace agreement. The land has been burning for ages under the heat of non-compromise attitude of the respective state leaders and that’s one reason that the heads don’t get the real purpose and process of mediation in conflict resolution. The vantage point of mediation that it’s a linear approach of problem-solving and state cannot assume the imbalance of power as good excuse to not let the state at lower power spectrum to remain unheard. The solution in the mediations attempt has been a Zeno’s paradox, the closer is the peace deal, and the far is the enforcement. The deal breaker is usually the terms that display imbalance in bargaining power.
The lofty dreams with which Obama administration pursued to resolve the dispute was a good policy but a bad implementation. The American dream to be the messiah of Middle East could not thrive for long.
Jerusalem was the capital of ancient Hebrew Kingdom of David and Solomon. The temple mount or the Haram-al-sharif in Jerusalem was the site for the first and second temple of the Jews (Just as the western walls remains of the 2nd temple), the place of resurrection of Jesus Christ (the church of the Holy Sepulchre) and the place where the prophet Mohammad ascended to Heaven (Al Aqs Mosque). Hence it is the holiest place for Judaism and Christians and the third holiest for Islam in the world.
The UN partition plan had advocated an international status for the holy city. But 1948-49 war gave the western part to Israel and the eastern including Haram-al-Sharif to Jordan. Israel shifted its capital to west Jerusalem, but the international community recognizes only Tel Aviv s the legal capital of Israel. In 1967, East Jerusalem including the holy sites fell into Israeli control and it immediately unified the two parts of the city as the “eternal capital” of the Jewish State.
Arafat wanted the whole of East Jerusalem to be included in Palestine as its capital city. For Barak to accede to such a demand would have been political suicide. Several proposals were placed for negotiations. In short Palestine was to get sovereignty over most of the outer neighbourhood, which were never part of Jerusalem before 1967. In the inner neighbourhood, Palestine would have autonomy with Israel retaining sovereignty. Within the Old city, the Arab (Muslim and Christian) quarters would be under Palestinian jurisdiction and the Jewish and Armenian quarters under Israeli Jurisdiction.
Arafat was under constant pressure from various Islamic capitals not to accept anything short of complete sovereignty over the holy sites. Clinton wanted to resolve the dispute but failed to reconcile the difference between Barak and Arafat. Even Obama was unable to bring the heads of state together. None of the parties are ready to give up the sovereign rights of the place. Even after death of Arafat and absence of a strong leader, the sovereignty over Jerusalem is unsettled.
Any sovereign state has major concern for its security and similar concerns float between Israel and Palestine. Israel was born as a witnessing mass exodus and the global threat of persecution they faced, made them vary of any security or safety threats, situation in the cradle surrounded by Arab states, security is paramount for Israel. It cannot have any territorial strategy and it’s a small country, thus, it controls its border and maintains an up-tight security. The 1967 war was strategic as it established Israel as a leading power in Middle East. However, the Intifada (87-93) exposed its internal disturbances and differences simmering within the state. For, Israel, Palestine is a big threat to its security as they share boundary with them and are supported by the neighboring states. Israel wanted to insure that a new state of Palestine would not be a strategic threat. So, at Camp David, Barak asked for a few key things to place itself at strategically safe and better position, some of them were control of Palestinian airspace by Israel and militant presence at time of emergency and international force in the Jordan Valley, Israel was against any military control of Palestine over the land. All the demands put forth by Barak was essentially a demand to discount upon the sovereignty of Palestine. Barak insisted that such measures were necessary to ensure the security of the Jewish State and could be revised after a time period. Besides, the three large Jewish settlements would remain under Israel. Israel would also have access to water from Jordan River. 
Palestinians perceived this as an attempt to surround them and divide their areas into islands separated by Israeli settlements and security zones. So they were steadfast on a continuous state with more freedom in case of airspace and foreign relations. A secure Israel beside a fragmented and dependent Palestine was not acceptable to Arafat. Subsequent to the Camp David summit, the issue remain unresolved and the dispute if in a general term can be said to be from Israel side a strong Israel recognizing Palestine yet maintaining its control to protect itself whereas Palestine demanded sovereign rights in absolute terms and thus, the issue has still not resolved.
The problem of refugees seems to unsettle the desire to bring peace, the Palestine diaspora consists of majorly refuges and Israel does not want to dilute the national color by accepting refuges. The brutal massacre of Deir Yasin and similar incidents like those marked mass exodus of Arabs, after the Arab-Israeli war of 1948-49, approximately 700,000 fled to neighboring countries. Additional Palestinians, approximately 300,000 become homeless in the 1967 war.
According to estimates, in 2000, there were nearly 4 million refugees. The states are ideologically divided when it comes to refuges issue. At Camp David, the leaders from both the sides had different expectation from each other. Arafat on one side wanted Israel to accept “moral and legal responsibility” for the mass exodus and respect the refugee’s right to return with restoration of their property. However, Barak was apologetically about the exodus but negated the allegation of massacre as a resultant factor for exodus. The faction over the matter remained till the end. Clinton tried his best to bridge the gap by recommending three things; each Palestinian refugee gets a right to return to homeland Palestine (which did not include Israel and thus, Barak accepted the proposal); international fund would be utilized to compensate refugees and finally Israel will accept a fixed quota of refugees on humanitarian grounds. The area allocated to refugees was restricted to West Bank and Gaza Strip but the area being small in size could not effectively take all the refugees that meant some of them will continue to suffer from the homeland depravity, this was not accepted by Arafat and refugees problem remain a bone of contention between the leaders.
Even Obama administration stumbled with the refugees problem, the bigger issue was to define refugee and demarcate the limit, the standstill situation remains as it is and even the Trump administration is tempted to come to resolve but those are mere lip service.
Failure of Leadership
Kissinger was the only leader who pacified the ‘promised land’ with some reliefs; the subsequent leaders were either too passive or too aggressive in reaching consensus. Clinton failed in reaching an agreement, despite the lofty Camp David Summit, Barack was also unsuccessful in being a peacemaker in the Middle East and with all his plans, it seemed that he will ultimately resolve the dispute but the plan failed. Meanwhile, Fatah and Hamas focused on mending the internally fractioned Palestinian political scene. The internal disturbances and the intifada further aggravated the situation. Donald Trump in a desperate attempt to portray himself as a powerful leader has been time and again trying to follow the footsteps of former leaders, he not only suggested to mediate India-Pakistan dispute but also Israel-Palestine dispute, however, he in very clear terms stated that Jerusalem to be made the capital of Israel. The respective state’s head too were adamant with their fixed demands, be it Netanyahu, Barak, Assad or Arafat, none of them ever vision a peaceful Israel and Palestine.
No Love Lost between Israel and Palestine
The status quo of conflict between Israel and Palestine conflict remains at standpoint. Each continues to blame each other for the territorial uncertainties and violence. The ‘standard time test’ to resolve dispute seems to never reach these state. Since its formation, the valley has been tormenting for peace but all the strategies to make peace are through violence.
Neither side had realized the futility of violence, without which it is impossible to develop the conditions for peace. This can be clarified by examining the two consequences of the failure of the Camp David Summit; the Al Aqsa Intifada and Ariel Sharon’s ascent to power. For the Palestinians, the first intifada had brought recognition by Israel and establishment of an autonomous P.N.A. but the peace process throughout the decade failed to give them anything substantial. The resultant impatience and radicalize Islamic group like Hamas breed more hatred than peace. The summit’s resolution was bombarded by the second Intifada. Even Arafat believes that the peace needs to be just and compatible with their interests.
The person who triggered the Intifada was Likud leader Ariel Sharon. His visit to Temple Mount ignited the fire of Palestinian frustration as he was regarded as the greatest enemy of the Arabs and the butcher of Sabra and Shatila.
It was the same Sharon that the Israelis elected as their Prime Minister in 2001. The Israelis wanted security at any cost. If Barak could not give them security through settlement, Sharon could give them that through confrontation. Sharon’s policies proved his mandate- he wanted to improve security through militarily, despite international condemnation. On one hand, he destroyed Palestinian headquarters, made Arafat captive within his own office, assassinated radical Palestinian leaders and began construction of a security force beyond the green line- all in violation of International law. On the other hand, he withdrew all the Jewish settlements from Gaza Strip with force. This was settlement-the Sharon way.
Thus, when peace fails, people resort to violence. When there is to be violence, it is sensible to have the best fighters up front. Hence, the rise of hardliners on both sides. Both Arafat and Barak Might have had the best of intentions, but they were answerable to their political constituencies- the Palestinians and the Israelis respectively who were antagonistic to each other. The condition for peace did not exist on the ground. Therefore, after the failure of the Camp David Talks 2000, both passed into political oblivion.
BATNA and WATNA Analysis
The Israel-Palestine conflict remains in its worse state, violence is predominant and sovereign ego competes with human right violations. In such setup, any mediator knows well enough, that the worse alternative to the negotiation is aggravation of the existing tension and violence. However, the best alternative to negotiation would be several stakeholders coming together to decide the fate of the conflict, the issue here is the required consensus amongst the stakeholders, in any situation, it’s very difficult to take a decision acceptable by all. The state heads are in better position to bargain and enter into agreement which can be recognised internationally. A neutral state intervened mediation can help in easing the tension between the states but the state must not have any partiality towards any state. The impasse that has landed between the parties cannot be dealt with a state having vested interests. International institution might help the states by providing the platform to discuss the dispute, the issues, the possible bargain and the solution.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is a simulacrum of a prisoner’s dilemma where each participating stakeholder is skeptic of the move of others and are scared that any ambivalent move may prove fatal for them.
|Israel Cooperate||Israel does not Cooperate|
|Both co-exits peacefully||Palestine continues to face violence in hands of Israel|
|Palestine does not Cooperate||Internal disturbances and terrorist groups create violence||Both civilians suffer|
Mediation in this situation can bring peace to both the nations by projecting the real issues that they face and the failure of peaceful resolution that might lead to the unwarranted and unwanted violence. Each state will have to give up some absolute demands and settle with an amicable solution.
Solution in the present case be where Israel does not force Palestine to discount sovereign at expense of Israel. The required protection or security that Israel is seeking can be reserved by intervention of intermediaries like UN for peacekeeping forces for certain time period. Further, the solution to the problem of refugees can be dealt by providing alternative area for their settlement and compensation that can be shared with states and international bodies.
The allomorphism between sovereignty, faith, territory and self-interests gave birth to the classic Israel-Palestine dispute, a piece of land where even Gods fear to tread and its upon humans to decide the fate of civilians living in that piece of land and also the fate of Gods assigned to those land. The sticks-or carrots strategy have failed and it’s better to take leap of faith to utilize mediation to resolve the disputes patinating to border, refugees, Jerusalem and the fate of civilians. The mediator in this sui generis conflict will the one who needs to break the prisoner’s dilemma and inform the states of their actual position and the difference between the ontological claims and normative international behavior that is expected from each party.
The much prized claim that US asserts to resolve the dispute is colored with the interest to be engraved in the wall of fame, the US as mediator needs to get rid of this attitude as mediator needs to be neutral and cannot wield its own motives in name of mediation. Recently, Abbas’s statement that India should be the mediator in the dispute seems a better option as historically, India has been supportive to the Palestinian cause, Mahatma Gandhi’s stand on Khilafat Movement to sympathy towards Palestine and the current good relations with Israel make India a better mediator. There is no trust issues when it comes to India as a mediator and both the countries might agree to settle their disputes through a country like India which will remain neutral and in friendly terms with both the countries.
Each state must reconcile their differences between different parties and societies, it is necessary to identify major issues to be resolve amongst the ideological constellations, religious comradeship and historical antiquities as to what matters most to bring peace to the ‘promised land.’
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