Risk Averse Cultures and Health Care

Risk Averse Cultures and Health Care

by

Howard Adelman

Introduction

Yesterday afternoon I was asked how I choose my topics each morning since they must require some prior thinking and preparation. They do. I explained that I collect material and slot items into files. But that does not explain my choices. I am not sure what determines them, except I seem to write about what is bothering me most, For example, last evening I went to dinner at a neighbour’s. They are a lovely and very interesting couple and the meal was phenomenal. They receive and the wife, at least, admits to occasionally reading my blog. Like many others, she finds the blogs are far too voluminous for her to become a constant reader.

There were two other very fascinating couples invited as guests as well. They knew nothing about me. As is usual on such occasions in which we gain a small amount of knowledge by acquaintance, I learned only a minimal about them. Nancy was not there because she excused herself since she is still sick with pneumonia. I thought of writing about the advantages of anonymity this morning but, since I rather enjoyed the experience, I found the subject hard to write about. Further, I had focused too much on trying to instill in my poor memory what happened to be able to give Nancy a full report, an activity I never usually have to perform, so I had not been sufficiently reflective to write abut anonymity.

Until the evening, I had thought I would write about the middle east peace process since Emmanuel Adler gave a wonderful and very comprehensive overview on the subject in a talk yesterday afternoon arguing that there was no peace process — only an instrumental process about pieces. I wanted to challenge his thesis in some detail and presumed that would be my topic this morning. But last evening left me very introspective and a little detached from world political issues.

So in answer to the two questions I received yesterday about how I choose my topics for my blog, I do not know. Upon only a little reflection, I think the answer is “the itch”. Whatever is bothering me more is possibly the main determinant. Last Thursday I missed writing my blog. Friday morning’s blog was very brief and was a response only to an intellectual and not a psychological itch. I had been in the hospital and was bothered by the experience on several levels. I decided to write about the experience as a way of explaining my absence – if anyone noticed – and my reflections on the experience.

The Instigation for my Hospital Incarceration

En route to my cardiac rehab program this past Tuesday, when I came up from the university subway stop at Dundas St. to catch the streetcar going west to the Western Hospital at Bathurst and Dundas, I suddenly felt faint and leaned against the wall of the office building. Within three seconds the woozy feeling evaporated. I boarded the next streetcar. However, just after I got off, I again felt woozy and leaned against a wall for a few seconds. I made a mental note of the two times: 8:31 a.m. for the second and I estimated 8:25 a.m. for the first.

During the exercise program I had four other similar episodes, usually after completing a particular exercise and rising up. However, when I was going to a previously arranged appointment with the doctor in the cardiac rehab program just after finishing my exercise program, when getting on the elevator from the 7th to the 8th floor, I had another incident. As it turned out, the doctor I was to see was married to my first cousin’s son, Peter, but I did not recognize her in the hospital setting; she recognized me. After she asked if I was still agreeable to her examining me since we were relatives, I told her about the 7 incidents that morning and noted that I had previous episodes but they came only about once every three days not seven within a two hour period. She advised me to see my cardiologist as soon as possible.

I made an appointment and was fitted into a cancellation at 1:30 the next afternoon. I first had an ECG, the first of four I would have that day. My cardiologist gave me a thorough examination, found nothing significantly untoward, but noted poor R wave progression. That could be an indicator of many possibilities and simply be a result of my old conditions. It just meant that instead of the normal progression in increase of the R wave when your heart beat grows from small to larger and larger until you get a large upward spike and then a downward one of a slightly larger size, you get a series of almost even waves, virtually no spike upwards and a larger downward thrust in the waves produced, The pattern could be a result of a previous condition or a sign of a new blockage or a variety of other possibilities.

My cardiologist wanted to fit me with a 48 hour haltor monitor, but suggested that a more rapid method of finding out whether the reason for my feeling faint was some dysfunction or anemia or perhaps even diabetes or something else was first to eliminate the possibility that it was related to heart function at the same time as blood tests were conducted. Since my pacemaker not only kept my blood pressure from falling below 63 beats per minute but also, as a secondary feature, kept a record of everything that happened in my heart, if I could get a record from my pacemaker’s memory right away, that would be invaluable. I phoned down to Mount Sinai Hospital and told the pacemaker clinic what was happening and they agreed to fit me in if I could get to the hospital within 45 minutes.

I just made it. After Robin put the reader on my chest just on top of the pacemaker and read the behaviour of my heart from the day before, when she looked at the print out she almost shouted “Eureka!”. The ventricular arrhythmia precisely correlated with the times of my fainting feelings the day before. However, there was no record of one I thought I had had at 2:30 p.m. at the time of my phone call to the pacemaker clinic that day. Nevertheless, the almost exact correlation between symptoms and irregular heart rhythm re yesterday was exciting science, but it also turned out to be distressing news.

My Admission to the Hospital

As Doctor Wald said, ventricular arrhythmia is an indicator of high risk of a heart attack. I had experienced tachychardia rather than fibrillation, the condition for which I had been previously treated. He wanted to admit me to the hospital right away and monitor me directly overnight. This was both the safer option, especially since they did not have a portable haltor monitor available.

I had no idea how upset I was by the news until I phoned my son and tried to tell him what was happening so he could be with Nancy when I phoned her. In the past year I have handled each piece of news about another negative turn of events with regard to my heart with cool aplomb. Not this time. I thought I had been finished with one heart correction after another – stents, ablations, angioplasties, pacemakers. I hated that my daily schedule was being more and more governed by the dysfunctions of my body. I hated physical exercise, but agreed to participate in the cardiac rehab program as my part of the bargain given the hard work and devotion of all the health professionals. I disliked the activity but was very conscientious in doing my exercises as I was instructed.

But I had a sense of limits. And I feared the latest news had crossed the line of my limits. I was totally surprised at my reaction, particularly since I had upset and worried my son. He immediately said he was coming down and would bring an overnight bag with him. As it turned out, I had plenty of time to think about my reaction as I sat on the sixteenth floor in the waiting area of the pacemaker clinic as there had been a CODE RED announced over the loudspeakers and the elevators were not then operating until they announced the All Clear. Code Red was obviously an emergency evacuation procedure. I have never learned once why they are called, and this was not my first experience of a CODE RED. Further, in all my experiences in hospitals, I had never seen any effort to begin to evacuate the hospital. I interpreted the announcement of CODE RED, or whatever colour, to be just ways of communicating to everyone how super-alert the hospital was to patient safety even though I knew better and recognized the code system had a direct utility function.

When I was being examined and just before the discovery of the correlation between my irregular heart waves and my symptoms of feeling faint, there had been an earlier CODE BLUE with an announcement of where the medical emergency team was to report. I assumed the emergency was a cardiac arrest or something equivalent, but perhaps it was an emergency in the delivery room. You cannot escape the sense that hospitals are high risk places from the constant instructions to sanitize your hands to limit the spread of hospital-based infectious agents and the repeated questions by each health professional who sees you and asks what your name is and where you live.  I am sure that routine use of two patient identifiers has significantly reduced those incidents where the wrong patient was treated by a health practitioner. But the by-product is a very heightened awareness and corresponding sense of tension that a patient is now in an institution that is inherently dealing with high risk issues and has numerous practices in place to minimize those risks.

Surrender

When my son arrived and we met on the first floor after I had gone to admissions, I had recovered my equanimity and my proneness to resort to a bad and morbid sense of humour in the face of possibly scary news. As we sat in the hospital room in the cardiac ward on the sixteenth floor waiting for the next steps, I tried to bargain for my son to go out and get me a pastrami sandwich as my just compensation for having to endure a new setback.

When my wife Nancy arrived – AND SHE GOT OUT OF BED IN SPITE OF HOW SICK SHE WAS, though needless to say she was past the infectious period — she put her foot down and insisted I keep my contract with my dietitian at Western hospital to develop new eating habits. That second set back of denial was just another in a series in which I surrendered the determinations of choice and options to others over the next 24 hours. The third step was that they were to transfer me to the CCU unit so they could more thoroughly monitor me. Instead of a room, it was really a booth with glass doors that opened onto a central nursing station from which they would constantly monitor the oxygen in my blood, my heart rhythm, my pressure, my heart rate, etc.

For the fourth time in as many hours, the nurse took my pulse, my pressure, weighed me and asked my height. As is routine, before she began, she confirmed my name and my home address. I had my third ECG and application of a pressure cuff, and I was taught how to detach the electronic hook up measuring my cardiac rhythm and another device that electronically monitored the oxygen in my blood. Another nurse came in to take blood samples and still another came in to push a catheter feed into my arm.

Protest

That’s when I finally protested. Why did I need a  catheter? I was not being fed intravenously. Nor were drugs being introduced intravenously. I was here to be electronically monitored. The nurse responded to my protests to say she would check with her superiors. She returned ten minutes later and told me her orders required her to hook me up to an intravenous lead presumably in case something took place where health professionals might need direct access to my blood system. But I insisted there was almost little chance that I would need a peripherally inserted catheter for chemotherapy, antibiotic therapy or nutrition. The nurse could not justify the procedure but simply insisted that she was required to carry out the procedure.

I knew that I did not have to agree and could have refused. I was not sure what the consequences would be for me. I had clearly upset the nurse who was not used to such recalcitrance on the part of patients or demands for justification. I do not know whether I agreed to comply either out of compassion for the nurse or because it was ten at night and I was by now very tired. I permitted her to proceed, but my resistance must have made her nervous and the consequences of my resistance ended up with what is normally a relatively painless procedure being very painful.

Transparency and Accountability

The pain persisted, though not as acutely, over the next 24 hours until the catheter was removed. More importantly, the psychological pain was even greater as I felt I had been coerced into agreeing to one of the many routine procedures of hospitals to minimize risk even when making such procedures universally routine may not be indicated by any rational assessment of risk management. More personally, I could not overcome the feeling that the real function of a hospital was to reduce the patient to a passive and compliant obedient subject rather than a responsible agent because the cost of informing and getting active cooperation was expensive in time and effort in spite of hospital health workers being advised to solicit patients buying into procedures by being transparent about risks and rationales. Transparency practice and procedures for obtaining patient buy-ins are both hard to implement and even more difficult to overcome the culture of the professionals knowing best what is good for you. 

Now do not get me wrong. Since I lived in the same Mount Sinai Hospital when I was a medical student over a half century ago – in the building just south of the current one that is now a convalescent hospital – there has been a tremendous improvement in greater transparency and accountability in dealing with patients as well as tremendous strides in reducing operational deaths, greater management of anaesthesia, drug dispensing and a whole host of procedures to make hospitals both safer and more open to patient participation in their own health management. And I should be the last to complain since I have been such a great failure in my own health management. Though I know the health professionals are totally committed to reducing my risks for my benefit, I still respond almost like a spoiled child and resent being reduced to a passive agent who simply follows orders when there is no apparent reasonable justification on offer for a procedure.

A Risk Averse Culture

It is true that hospitals are very high risk environments and most of the risks are not self-evident to either patients or even most health practitioners. Further, my own studies of Canadian culture have indicated that we live in a highly risk averse culture, both in exaggerating the risks we perceive and in our choices of risk preferences. Cognitively we tend to have a great focus on risk assessment. Emotionally our risk attitude has a very low threshold of tolerance, especially in our institutions. I recall when I worked in radiology when I was a medical student to learn that we x-rayed anyone who had any head injury even if, as in the vast majority of cases, there was no indication that an x-ray was needed at all. “Better safe than sorry” was a byword even though the counter-effects of overuse of x-rays were not factored into the equation let alone the costs where the monies saved could be used for other more rationally determined preventive procedures.

My observations were that the risk averse culture of Canadians and of institutions like Canadian hospitals have only grown more extreme even as the improvements in dealing with minimizing risk have also soared ahead yielding great improvements. I also believe that greater vigilance towards risk has also been accompanied by a greater sense of risk and a corresponding greater distrust of institutions like hospitals even as they have made enormous strides forward in reducing risk by enhanced awareness, enhanced sharing of information, processes to increase the motivations of the workers in hospitals to become keen about risk reduction, introduction of routine risk-mitigation procedures, better feedback mechanisms, and better articulation of standards, universal protocols and training in procedures. Further, these approaches to attitudes, training and institutionalization of procedures have pervaded all areas of the hospitals both with respect to physical and mental health as well as the development of early warning and acute alert systems. But there has been a corresponding negative effect on a patient’s sense of empowerment rather than an increase that should be expected to correspond with enhanced transparency and communication.

Another instance of taking control away from me took place that first evening. I had sent my son home to drive back to the hospital with my regular pills, only to learn that I could not take those pills but only the same medicines but ones provided by hospital staff. I went along with the requirement and took the pills they supplied since they did not look too dissimilar to the ones I usually take. But this became just another instance of hospital safety procedures having the indirect effect of enhancing a patient’s sense of impotence.

Underemployment of Foreign Professionals

The rest of the hospital visit was the usual – being woken at 5:45 for the routine round of blood pressure tests though the other readings could be made from the desk. My temperature was again taken and again I was asked my name and address. Luckily, they fitted me in for my echo exam early and by just after nine that was completed. As it happened, the technician operating the echocardiogram machine had been trained as a cardiologist herself in an eastern European country. She had passed her exams here – which she thought were relatively easy – but like the vast majority of immigrant doctors had been unable to find a residency to complete the qualifications. If I understood her correctly, there were two other eastern Europeans in the same position in the cardiac unit.

Since she was trained a s a cardiologist, she could have interpreted the results for me. But she declined to do so. She knew the rules and I was being unfair in pressing her to tell me the results. More importantly, she was far more accepting of her reduction in power than I was as a patient. As she said, she knew what she was getting into when she chose to immigrate to Canada.  I resented the position in which she had been placed far more than she did. As she said, at least I am not diving a taxi.

NOT Pastrami

I returned to my room to eat the best meal of the hospital day – a plastic cup of orange juice, a small bowl of cheerios and 1% milk, and a thin slice of decent banana bread. At lunch, the soup was bland and tasteless and the main course of rice and chicken was inedible. Tapioca chocolate pudding was definitely not on the diet included in items I could eat by the dietitian at the Western Hospital. I wondered why the provision of fresh vegetables and fruit failed to conform to the Canada food guide. 

Results

I had the usual visit of students with the resident during rounds but I behaved myself. The visits of cardiologist resident were also uneventful. They seemed to visit merely to reassure me that the electrical cardiologist would be by relatively shortly.

I waited all day for the results. By 3:30, growing impatient, I went to look for the electrical cardiologist to tell me the results, greatly distressing the nurses who thought I had just unhooked myself to go to the washroom. The doctor finally came, long after I had returned, and finally gave me the results. The arrhythmia was probably the result of the dead heart muscle interference from the old silent heart attack I had once had in the past. I had been put on beta blockers to prevent precisely such spikes, but my old cardiologist had taken me off them because the beta blockers were presumably only supposed to be used for three months after the surgical procedure. The specialists now put me back on the beta blocker. The electrical cardiologist did not think insertion of a defibrillator, similar to the procedure in inserting my pacemaker, to prevent high spikes and the corresponding risk of other more invasive procedures would be necessary. There was no new source of blockage. The news was all positive and I was visibly relieved.

On Friday I was fitted with a 48-hour portable haltor monitor and its readings would be supplied to my regular electrician – my electrical cardiologist – when he returned on Monday and I could then see him for a final determination. I had missed John Fraser’s party at Massey College on Thursday evening. I had to cancel my trip with my wife to New York on Sunday – she was, in fact, still too sick to go – to see the art show Frieze and visit my daughter. I was advised not to fly until I received the all clear. But I had been given an enormous new reprieve.

I phoned my wife and all my children with the good news, but was still left with the after-effects of both a feeling of powerlessness and a determination to be better prepared, not for a healthier life, but for better preparation to be in charge as my body continues to deteriorate. Risk management is not the only issue. Who manages is the prior question. 

Perhaps that’s why I write this blog. I gain a facsimile of power.

Advertisements

The Integration of Hamas into the Palestinian Authority Government

The Integration of Hamas into the Palestinian Authority Government

by

Howard Adelman

The latest assault in the blame game is well under way as a secret document, allegedly of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has been released that was circulated by Israeli National Security Adviser, Joseph Cohen, on 22 April 2014 when Fatah announced its reconciliation agreement with Hamas. He accused the PA of planning the reunification with Hamas long before the peace talks broke down. The letter attached a document allegedly written by chief PA negotiator, Saeb Ekrat, and dated 9 March even before Abbas met with President Obama on 17 March. The document is a policy paper giving Ekrat’s interpretation of the talks thus far, and recommends a unilateral strategy  both with respect to submission of requests of accession to Geneva Conventions and reconciliation with Hamas. The purpose of Cohen’s letter was to show that PA actions had not been a response to the failure to release the last tranche of 26 prisoners but had been planned long beforehand.

I myself thought that was self-evident. The agreement to plan for the re-inclusion of Hamas in the PA in the last week before the talks were ended came too swiftly to be a response to the prisoner release issue. Such an agreement had to have been under negotiation for weeks if not months. However, it does not indicate that Abbas was negotiating in bad faith, only that he had a second track under development if the first track failed, as both he and Netanyahu expected it would. Putting contingency plans in motion in most quarters would be regarded as good politics.

The letter is a distraction as is the whole blame game. The key issue is whether the proposed reconciliation will work and what its effects will be on peace. I have already indicated the motives each side had for concluding such an agreement, stressing particularly the actions of the new governments in Iran and especially Egypt and the effects on Hamas, and, on the other side, Abbas’ fears of his rival and challenger, Mohammed Dahlan. Since I have already suggested that the peace process will no longer be advanced through negotiations between the parties but by unilateral actions by each side, the issue is how this unilateral initiative by the Palestinian Authority will play out. What are the terms of the deal that Azzam al-Ahmad (Fatah) and Mahmoud al-Zahar (Hamas) negotiated and how will the agreement affect the issue of peace?

On the one hand, Hamas refers to the reconciliation of Israel and Hamas as well as participation in the government as a precondition of the reconciliation going forth. On the other hand, others point to the more obvious conclusion of most observers that a reconciliation of Hamas and Fatah makes peace now much more remote since Israel cannot be expected to take steps towards peace, either negotiated or unilateral, when the government on the other side includes a party explicitly dedicated to the elimination of Israel altogether and to the continuation of terrorism. How can these two such opposite positions be reconciled – first, that the most extremist factions in Hamas have agreed on reconciliation with Israel and its opposite, the totally incongruent position of Hamas’ continued insistence that its goal is to eliminate Israel. As Hamas has repeatedly said, “There is no future without jihad and resistance.” As Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy chair of Hamas’ political bureau has said, unequivocally, “Hamas will not recognize Israel.”

On Israel Independence Day, Hamas released a new video entitled “The End of Hope”, the end of “Hatikva”, the Israeli national anthem. Hatikva means “hope”. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsDVUVwbtfE) The video open with full orchestral and violin accompaniment and a map of Palestine between the Jordan and the Mediterranean with a Jewish Star of David on top. As Hatikva plays, a young Palestinian boy as a cartoon figure is seen running and throwing a rock at a wall. We then view stock footage of bombed buses and wounded young children wrapped in white sheets and soaked in blood The video emphasizes the use of terror and the rejection of Israel. In the two-minute clip released by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Israeli Jews are warned to emigrate or be killed for the latter will be the consequence of Jews who choose to remain. Cartoon caricatures of Jews with kippas are seen boarding a large passenger ship, presumably in Haifa. Jews praying at the Western Wall are viewed running for their lives as masked members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades with rifles guard the Golden Dome in Jerusalem. The IDF is portrayed as a defeated army. The video ends with a burning Israeli flag inscribed in Arabic, “Israel will inevitably be eliminated”.

But the real issue, on the one hand, is whether Hamas will permit a Palestinian government to recognize and make peace with Israel. I do not believe there is any reason to think that Hamas has changed its position vis a vis Israel or Jews in Palestine. That is why this issue is the most significant aspect of the agreement between Fatah and Hamas. Evidently, and paradoxically, the agreement does permit peace initiatives..

Second, each party would be represented in Parliament in proportion to existing allocations in the National Council from areas where elections cannot be held (Syria and Jordan), but otherwise in proportion to the votes received in the upcoming elections that will be held not only in the West Bank and Gaza, but hopefully in Lebanon. Third, a technocratic government of specialists would be created before the elections with adjustments to allow for inclusion of technocrats working for Hamas. Fourth, six months afterwards, elections for parliament and for the President will proceed. 

As per previous agreements between the parties, Hamas would retain control of security forces in Gaza. Hamas would be assigned a Deputy Minister in the new government. Public prosecution staff and judges employed by the PA who fled Gaza after the Hamas coup would return to their positions in Gaza.. To reconcile with Egypt, the PA presidential security forces would take charge of the Rafah crossing and would be armed only with light weapons. Clearly, to reduce tensions with Egypt in the Sinai, Egypt has backed the reconciliation agreement and allowed Abu Marzouk to travel to Gaza to negotiate and sign the deal. Three days ago, Abbas expanded on the agreement and, as a confidence measure between the two parties, permitted newspapers published by Hamas and Islamic Jihad to be distributed in the West Bank not under Israeli control.

One aspect of the agreement important for mollifying the 20,000 employees that Hamas hired to replaced ousted PA people is that they will either be provided with jobs or pensions (retirement age was set at 55 with an incentive to retire if they are 50 or over) as adjudicated by a special committee with Hamas as an organization paying 40% of the costs of such pensions.

One candidate in the presidential elections in Israel scheduled for June  has stood out in welcoming the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, Meir Sheetit of Hatnua, a strong supporter of Tzipi Livni. What about Hamas well-known stand that it does not support past agreements resulting from Oslo, does not support peace negotiations with Israel and does not recognize Israel? There is no reason to expect those positions to change, but factions in Netanyahu’s government disown a two-state solution or any negotiations with the Palestinians yet the Israeli government engages in such negotiations pursuing a two-state solution. Further, the point is moot since peace is unlikely to be advanced in the near future through formal peace negotiations. Dealing with a government that includes Hamas for some brings closer the possibility that Hamas will reject terrorism and recognize Israel just as the PLO did several decades earlier while for others it brings forward the possibility that the ideology of terror will once more dominate in the halls of power of the central Palestinian Authority.

Whatever the inevitable outcome, the immediate prospect of a more peaceful PA is more a hope rather than an immediate prospect, and a hope that can be characterized as very unlike the dream of Hatikva. The reconciliation agreement just sets a process in motion, a process with a plethora of landmines. Hamas rejects placing the Izz ad-Din al Qassam Brigades under any unified security command structure. There is not even a provision for such a unified command structure in the 23 April agreement whatever Abbas implies. Further, Hamas insists on retaining its weapons and will not even subordinate its security forces to a Higher Security Committee. Hamas uses the Lebanon model as an example. It is the PLO government that will recognize Israel and reject violence, not Hamas.

If this is a formula simply for Hamas saving itself when in dire circumstances or even a formula for Fatah saving face, it is a very dangerous one, that if given substance, will dynamite any moves towards peace from either side, including unilateral ones.

The Data on Settlements and the Effects on the Peace Talks

The Data on Settlements and the Effects on the Peace Talks

by

Howard Adelman

Between January and June 2013 before the talks began, there were 1,708 housing starts compared with 995 during the same period the year before. In all of 2013 there were 2,534 housing units completed in the West Bank, slightly more than double the 1,267 units completed in 2012. When these figures were released by the Central Bureau of Statistics in Israel (www.cbs.gov.il) in early March 2014, is it any surprise that Israeli news headlines read:

“Settler housing  starts up by 124% in 2013” Jerusalem Post 3;

”Settlement construction more than doubled in 2013,” Haaretz;

“West Bank housing starts rise by more than 120 percent,” Jewish Journal;.

“Settlement housing starts nearly triple, in 2013,” The Times of Israel.

So what do you expect news outlets around the world from Fox News to the Japan Times to report?

Of the units completed in 2013, 853 had been started in 2012 and a further 1,421 units were under construction in 2012. So 90% of the units completed in 2013 had been started in 2012.

On 11 August, Uri Ariel announced plans to expand housing in Leshern as well as other West Bank settlements totaling about 400 new homes plus approximately 800 in areas of East Jerusalem that are part of Jewish Jerusalem. Another over 1200 units were announced later in the month. The breakdown of housing units approved and started in August 2013 were as follows:

Date                Approved    Started   Constr. Complete         Area

August 6         239                                                                  Ma’on

August 8         878                                                                              Jordan V, Binyamin, Etzion

August 12       890                                                                              Gilo Jerusalem

                                           63                                                 Jabal Mukabir, E. Jerusalem

                       392                                                                   Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, Betar

August 27      942                                                                   Gilo

                                          66                                                  Neve Yaakov

                      283                                                                    Elkana

                   3,624            129

Uri Ariel, Israel’s Housing and Construction Minister, predicted the talks would fail, but did not acknowledge that the new housing starts would contribute to or be a key cause of that failure, although I believe he certainly hoped so.  While Israel insisted these planned housing units were in accord with an understanding not only with the Americans but with the Palestinians, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman, issued a statement: “We don’t accept any settlement bids and Israel should stop these acts to give negotiations the opportunity to succeed. For us, all settlements are illegal and Israel should stop putting obstacles in the way of peace and all its acts in this regard are illegal and void.”

When the talks had been underway for almost four months, in October 2013, just after the Israeli negotiating team once again met with John Kerry in Israel, the government announced that 1500 more housing units would be built in Jerusalem. Further, Netanyahu approved tenders for 2500 housing units in the West Bank, though the actual breakdown of approvals did not total 2,500.

The Palestinians protested by suspending talks for two weeks. The announcement timing seemed to offer a quid pro quo to the Israeli right because it immediately followed the release of 26 more Palestinian prisoners. The Jerusalem housing units were to be built in the non-Arab populated bare hills of East Jerusalem as fill-ins of existing suburbs. Similarly, the housing units for the West Bank were fill-ins rather than expansions of the boundaries of those settlements.

Date                Approved    Started   Constr. Complete         Area

October 10      58                                                                    East Jerusalem

October 31    582                                                       

                               296                                                           Bet El

                               160                                                           Yakir

                                 96                                                           Almog

                     640

By December, both the EU and the USA strongly lobbied with the Israeli government officials not to announce any new government housing activities as they anticipated such announcements would correspond with the release of more prisoners at the end of December, an anticipation confirmed by Netanyahu himself. The warnings were ignored, though the announcement was delayed. Israel announced tenders for 1400 housing units in the West Bank and Jerusalem in the second week of January. Although earlier leaks had indicated that the announcement would be for 2000 rather than 1400 new starts already downgraded from early December leaks of 1500 units for Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem and 3500 for the West Bank, actually, 2,553 units were approved.

The pattern is clear. Leak news of new announced housing starts to time with a scheduled prisoner release. Then, following the release, announce a smaller number than the numbers leaked and ignore European, American and Palestinian warnings that such announcements jeopardized the talks. The actual starts could be smaller still. The Israeli right and the Israeli left were united in the propensity to exaggerate housing figures in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The breakdown for January 2014 were as follows:

Date                Approved    Started   Constr. Complete         Area

       6                       22                                                            Karnei Shomron

                              250                                                            Ofra

      10                    227                                                            Efrat

                                78                                                            Alfe Menashe

                                86                                                            Karnei Shomron

                                40                                                            Ariel

                                75                                                            Adam

                                24                                                            Betar Illit

                               102                                                           Emmanuel

                               169                                                           Elkana

                               600                                                           Ramot

                               182                                                           Pisgat Zeev

                                56                                                            Neve Yaacov

     21                     381                                                            Givat Zeev

     22                     256                                                            Nofie Prat

                                  5                                                            Ariel 

Three months later, Netanyahu postponed the prisoner release and the government also announced the construction of 700 new housing units, Kerry let it be known that he blamed Israel for the breakdown in the talks because of reneging on the prisoner release and for the continued building of new houses in the settlements though Kerry never overtly made the statement that was originally planned.

The announced housing starts before and after the talks began were as follows:

Date                                        East Jerusalem             West Bank          Total 

Jan-June 2013                                                                                         1708

August 2013                              800                              400                    1200

October 2013                          1500                            2500                    4000    6908

January 2014                                                                                                      1400

April                                         1400                             700                                2100

Total over period of peace talks                                                                      10,408

Total over 16 months                                                                                       13,116      

Actual authorized units totaled 8,217.     

By adding up the figures based on early leaks, one gets the total of 14,000 new unit approvals publicized by Peace Now. By including the first six months before the talks formally starter, one gets a figure of just under 14,000. Whichever way Peace Now made its calculations, the actual figures were much less.

Further, if the data from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, which everyone regards as the most reliable source, are used, since the beginning of 2013, 32,290 construction sites for housing units were slotted across all of Israel in 2013, an increase of 5.5% compared to the corresponding time frame in 2012. Work actually began on 2,534 new housing units, 1710 apartments and 824 homes, in the settlements in 2013, compared to 1,133 in 2012, that is, roughly one-third of the units approved Nevertheless, the total of new units that were constructed more than doubled rather than increased by just over 5%., though still only 50% of the units started under Barak in 2000. Further, 40% were subsidized public housing units, twice the normal percentage within Israel proper. This suggests a very deliberate government policy of expanding the settlement housing units beyond that required by any consumer demand as indicated in the following chart.

For Sale   Sold         Demand   

17,114     18,860     35,974 R       2009

17,584     22,786     40,370 R       2010

20,516     19,737      40,253 R      2011

20,251     22,526      42,777 R      2012

18,716     24,547      43,263 R     2013

Thus, the overall rate of housing construction over Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank increased by about 7.5%. But the amount of approvals, and especially of construction in the West Bank increased disproportionately. This is particularly significant because demand fell significantly for the purchase of housing units in the West Bank. Of the total number of 11,146 units built in all of Israel, 500 were for Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and 1,227 were for Jerusalem. Announcements of newly constructed units in the West Bank far exceeded demand which no where came close to the number of units approved for construction. The demand figure for 2014 fell even further than in 2013 to 212 in the West Bank, though 1891 for Jerusalem. Housing for sale took significantly longer to sell than in the rest of Israel. Further, housing on the market took longer and longer to sell – up to 8 months on average for new units. The number of housing units announced are clearly not a response to demand; the announcements, as well as the denunciations, are driven by political goals.

This is clearly indicated by the actual number of housing starts versus the numbers authorized, Announced numbers far exceed actual construction. Of those built on public land (all land in the West Bank is public land), and since housing is built on both government and privately owned land in an approximate 50/50 ratio, of the over 21,000 units to be built on public land in 2013, almost 40% were to be built in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. In reality, abut 30% were actually built, most in Jerusalem.  

Let me summarize what I believe is going on. For political reasons, presumably to both satisfy the demands of the far right critical of any peace talks, housing permission for starts are announced that greatly exceed demand or actual construction and disproportionate to housing starts in the rest of the country. and deliberately insensitive to public opinion, or rather, official public opinion in Europe, America or Palestine. Further, the permits for housing starts and actual starts are now confined to fill-ins within the established border of settlements or to connect with outlier sections to create continuity.

While headlines parade the more than doubling of West Bank construction in 2013, the reality is that the doubling is an aberration caused by the depressed number of starts over the previous few as the chart below indicates and do very little to make up for the depressed number of starts from 2010 to 2012. Further, 80% of units completed in 2013 were started in 2012.

The reality is, whatever the far right insists about ambitions for Greater Israel, that plan is dead. What is alive is the plan to consolidate settlements and trade them for other land to reinforce Israel’s security position and the thrusts it has already established consistent with Ariel Sharon’s strategic objective to “thicken” Israel’s narrow waist. Israelis generally concur that the settlement blocs of Ma’ale Adumim, Gush Etzion, Elkana and Ariel will remain within sovereign Israel as part of a final status agreement. Since the Palestinian Authority has agreed to these land swaps and the real debate is still over sufficiency with the exception of parts of Jerusalem – this suggests that settlements are a key part of the rhetoric of peace talks for the far right, for the left critics, for Palestine and for both Europe and America, but they are not the insurmountable obstacle to peace negotiations.

So although I have always disagreed with settlements activity, my criticism now is mostly about bad public relations. What may be needed for peace on Netanyahu’s domestic political front plays very badly on the international arena and offers the Palestinian Authority free reign to win that public relations battle. Further, since both sides know they cannot agree on Jerusalem, Netanyahu has calculated that domestic political peace is of greater value than international public relations. Since Tzipi Livni clearly knows the full story, she recognizes this is a rhetorical and not primarily a political battle on the ground. The question for her remains whether a deal can be made on Jerusalem.

That remains the elusive target. Though housing starts are also about the Jerusalem issue, most of the blather about settlements is a public relations issue which in part explains why the American negotiators dumped on Netanyahu for sabotaging the talks. Someone had to be blamed. Netanyahu had been set up for blame right from the start, even though he had not agreed to a settlement freeze. Blaming Netanyahu is the clear easier choice. Otherwise, to focus on the central dilemma would lead to questions about why the initiative was taken in the first place. 

Finally, I personally applaud the initiative in spite of the failure and in spite of the political use of the blame game because the talks have really narrowed the end game. Since I do not see the conflict as resolvable at this time, I think the next stage will be more well thought-out unilateral moves by Israel to reduce frictions at minimal risk while further consolidating claims on territories Israel plans to annex. However, I am not imaginative enough to envisage how land swaps can be managed unilaterally. However, in order to understand how any unilateral moves can be made in light of the terrible experience with Gaza, and with Lebanon earlier, it is important to understand the nature of the newly announced realignment of Fatah and Hamas and the Palestinian position..

That is for tomorrow.

Settlements and Peace: An Introduction

by

Howard Adelman

Based on the interviews of the Yedioth Ahronoth journalist, Mahum Barnea, with unnamed American officials who were active in the talks, Larry Derfner wrote an article called, “U.S post-mortem on peace talks: Israel killed them,” that was first published in +972, a blog based web magazine redistributed by the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) which I use as one prime source for my information on Israeli settlement activity as well as the information provided by the Israel Bureau of Statistics.

The latter has to be used as well because, as I wrote in yesterday’s blog, FMEP since it was founded in 1979 had held the position that settlements are the greatest obstacle to peace. The founder, Merle Thorpe Jr., has never budged from that position put forth in the 1984 book, Report on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories. Though I appreciate Geoffrey Aronson’s updates on settlement activity, and though I have always opposed settlement activity in the West Bank, as readers know, I have not found the argument that settlements are the key block to peace to be compelling. I have found it to be less compelling rather than more so as time goes on.

Based on these interviews, FMEP believes it has the definitive goods for its case. Further, the case is supported by other reports of B’Tselem, Peace Now and other leaks that the Martin Indyk American team blamed Israel for scuppering the talks because of its settlement activities. What is the case in support of that argument. 

First, in initiating settlement activity in the West Bank during the talks, the activity may not have been helpful for either peace or Israeli public relations. However, a freeze on settlements was not a precondition for the talks proceeding. Everyone agreed, but you would never know that if you did a survey of general public opinion.

However, the Americans claimed that not making a freeze a precondition was their big mistake. It prevented a re-alignment of the Israeli cabinet that would have backed the peace progress. Second, the right wing Housing and Construction Minister, Uri Ariel, could sabotage the talks by announcements of housing starts in the West Bank. No one ever makes clear how announcing housing starts could undercut the peace talks when a freeze was not a precondition of the peace talks. The explanation proffered: a de facto freeze was expected if not a de jure part of the agreement in restarting the talks.   

How do we evaluate whether the continued settlement activity sabotaged the talks? According to the leaked debriefing, the John Kerry team placed virtually all of the blame for the failure of the talks on the Israeli side citing the announcement of 14,000 new settlement housing tenders and a massive expropriation of West Bank land for building these settlements. The figure of 14,000 settlement units came from Peace Now in the final week of the scheduled talks when everyone had acknowledged that the talks had been a failure. How does information coming after the implosion of the talks cause of that implosion? Everyone presumably could count. Peace Now apparently merely added it all up. claiming that Israel had “promoted plans or approved tenders for nearly 14,000 new settler homes on occupied Palestinian land during the nine months of peace talks,” activities that were at an unprecedented scale compared to the past twenty years. For example, in Netanyahu’s first term as Prime Minister, only 1,385 settler homes per year had been approved, just a few less than the number approved by Ehud Olmert. However, during the peace talks, Netanyahu broke all previous construction records.

The  facts are otherwise as I will document tomorrow. I want to present the argument in full first but I will summarize the evidence. First, yjough over 10,000 were authorized, the total did not add up to 14,000.. Far fewer were actually built. Third, the numbers were not unprecedented but along the norms over the last 15 years, though much larger than the last few years when housing approvals and starts were at their lowest point. Both the Israeli left and the Israeli right seem to have strong vested interests in exaggerating the figures on housing starts in the West Bank. And American officials have accepted those figures on face value. 

No one blames Tzipi Livni. She is regarded as a heroine in the talks. However, Tzipi Livni exclusively lays the blame on the Palestinians and also defends Netanyahu against the charge of insincerity in trying to advance a two-state solution. So if the settlement activities scuppered the talks, why is Livni not onside in that criticism? Alternatively, why is she not included in the targets worthy of blame? A hint comes from understanding the reading of history by the various parties. The Americans interviewed read the twenty year history prior to the talks as a litany of Israeli betrayal leaving an embittered and frustrated Abu Mazen – Mahmoud Abbas – the Palestinian Authority president. In their view, he did not fail to conclude a deal with Barack or with Olmert when the latter two made what were widely regarded as highly generous offers. Rather, Israel betrayed Abbas once again not only in building more houses in the West Bank but recently in failing to release the final 26 Israeli Palestinian prisoners.

What is left out is that Netanyahu did not refuse. He only said he would postpone the release of prisoners with “blood on their hands” until such time as Abbas agreed to continue the peace talks, especially the 14 of the 26 who were Israeli Arabs. When the peace talks were aborted two weeks later, the failure to release the prisoners could be blamed as well as the housing starts in the West Bank and Gaza, or Netanyahu could be lauded for being prescient though also blamed for the earlier releases when he allegedly received nothing in return – also not quite accurate..

The key historical position that the Americans took was that Oslo was merely used as a vehicle by the Israelis to further Israeli settlement activity. Abbas had enough. He was not willing to put up with it anymore. So the question is why did he agree to enter into the talks if a settlement freeze was not a condition of the talks?  Abbas had other complaints. While he agreed to a limited period for continued Israeli security control to be followed by substituting Americans, Netanyahu wanted unlimited security control with no time limits. The Americans agreed that Netanyahu was flexible, but argued that he only budged an inch. They also agreed that Abbas was very rigid, but somehow they symathized with his rigidity.

Abbas argued that he had made many concessions in the past that were not acknowledged or reciprocated. De facto he had given up n refugee return. He had agreed to a de-militarized state. He had agreed to allow Israel to hold onto some territory for security purposes in the Jordan Valley for five years. He had agreed that the Jewish neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem would remain part of sovereign Israel. The Americans have also correctly applauded Abbas on security within Palestine controlled areas of the West Bank for he not only “consistently reiterated his commitment to nonviolence and recognition of the State of Israel,” but also supported a very effective “security program involving disarmament of fugitive [Palestinian] militants, arresting [Palestinian] members of terrorist organizations and gradually dismantling [Palestinian] armed groups in the West Bank.”

However, Abbas refused to consider recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, a concession that Arafat had once made,. Though the Americans believed he should have budged on that, a formula was available to finesse such recognition without an explicit statement by recognizing the resolutions that divided mandate Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. 

Abbas has said that he will restart negotiations, but only on condition there is a freeze on settlement activity for three months during which the final borders of the two states would be determined. That is not the condition that creates any real obstacle, particularly since housing initiatives can be announced quarterly. His other pre-condition for resuming the talks is the problem – Israel must agree that it will recognize Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. While both Barack and Olmert had been willing to do so with the exclusion of the Old City, Netanyahu has been unwilling to go even that far. I do not know whether this is a rigid position or whether he holds it because he is unwilling to go down the same road as Barack and Olmert only to be rejected in the end, but this difference does feed my argument that the key blockage is Jerusalem.

Let’s examine the various claims that the key blockage was the settlements in this alleged debriefing of the Americans – which I have no reason to believe is not accurate – an argument echoed by FMEP, Peace Now, B’tselem and feature writers for Haaretz. Ze’ev Schiff in his 2003 article, “Israel’s Policies on Settlements and Outposts” eleven years ago, on 9 May during the second intifada, noted that Israel had established 66 outposts, 24 since the beginning of the armed intifada., the vast majority legally flawed not simply in terms of international law but in terms of property ownership and Israeli law. 35 of the “illegal” outposts were evacuated and orders had been issued to evacuate another 30.

Reality was, however, very different. While outposts were being dismantled – not nearly as many as the targeted number – more outposts were being established than the ones taken down. The vast majority of outposts then were already illegal according to Israeli law since they were built on private Arab-owned land without any authority or land purchase. The Israeli defence establishment could not keep up with the efforts of the settlers and the prolonged legal battles over each outpost, much to the embarrassment of Shimon Peres and his agreement with Colin Powell.

This has changed. According to Israelis involved in government over a decade ago, there was an American-Israeli understanding that a) no new settlements would be established; b) existing settlements would not be expanded, even as a result of natural population growth; c) settlements could be consolidated by filling in within the borders of those settlements. Publicly, Americans have always denied that such an understanding exists since, on the official record, Americans have pronounced ALL settlement activities as illegal. However, the final status of the settlements would be determined in the final peace agreement.

Further, there has been an additional development in addition to curtailing outposts that is perhaps even more important. In the April 30 US State Department annual 2013 terrorism report, that includes documentation on the destructive and intimidating actions of settlers against Palestinians and their property, now not only in the West Bank but in Israel as well, since 2012, Israeli Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch has adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards these terrorist acts and formed a special unit to eliminate them, an initiative that has recorded considerable success. However, even though the zero tolerance policy has not yet approached the efforts of Abbas in the areas he controls to manage Arab terrorism, even though the litany of attacks against Arab persons and property, cutting down and destroying mature groves of olive trees by vigilante extremists, reads or should read like marks of shame for any Jew, there has finally been some progress. In part, the success is also due to the Palestinian villagers themselves who have formed defense units instead of relying on militant forces that ended up holding the villagers themselves up for ransom.

Ignoring the millions of dollars spent in support of separate infrastructure projects or on development of Israeli settlement employment, especially in industries that use the West Bank to build environmentally polluting facilities that escape the stringent environmental Israeli guidelines, what is the actual record of settlement activity just before and during the just aborted peace talks? What was the response to those activities? Whatever the activities and whatever the response, did the building of more housing units in existing settlements destroy the talks? What is clear is that the argument is no longer over illegal outposts. That activity has been significantly reined in. The argument is focused on the role of housing announcements and actual construction on the peace process itself. Did those activities play the major role in blowing apart the peace talks?

Tomorrow: The Actual Data on Settlements and the Effects on the Peace Talks

An Inside Post-Mortem: The Connection Between Violence and Peace

An Inside Post-Mortem: The Connection Between Violence and Peace

by

Howard Adelman

On Friday, after I published my analysis on Jerusalem as the key stumbling block in moving forward on a peace agreement, an article entitled, “U.S. post-mortem on peace talks: Israel killed them,” appeared in +972, a blog-based web magazine. That blog was reprinted and re-circulated by the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) dedicated to promoting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The post-mortem was evidently based on non-attributable interviews by Nahum Barnea of Yedioth Ahronoth with U.S. officials involved in the negotiations.

What has to be recognized is that I (and many others) rely on tracking the data on Israeli settlement activities through the reports of the FMEP edited by Geoffrey Aronson. (Cf. Report on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories) What also has to be known is that since Merle Thorpe Jr. founded the FMEP in 1979 and published her book, Prescription for Conflict: Israel’s West Bank Settlement Policy in 1984, FMEP has always held the position that the settlements are the main obstacle to peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. As has been clear, it is not an interpretation with which I agree, but it is the thrust of the results of the unattributed interviews with American officials and certainly of both Peace Now and B’tselem which also track settlement activities. I will deal with that thesis in tomorrow’s blog.

The big noise that arose out of the publication of the summary of the interviews in Israel focused not on the analysis of blame but on the remark that, “It seemed as if we’re in need of another intifada to create the circumstances that will allow for progress,” even though instant clarification noted that the American participants regarded such a possibility, not as something to be welcomed, but as a tragedy. Nevertheless, they believed that recent history indicated that Israeli-Arab peace only happens after war makes it urgent.

Before I turn to the full post-mortem tomorrow, let me deal with the connection between an intifada as a catalyst to peace with the Palestinians and the more general thesis that war has been the catalyst to peace between Israel and Arab states. This specific correlation became a truism when the 1967 war brought Sadat to the realization that he had to make peace with Israel, but he had to instigate the 1973 war in order to get Israel to draw the same conclusion. As a result, the Egyptian-Israel Peace Accord was signed six years later. There was at least some plausibility in the simplistic connection in this case.

However, the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty was signed in 1994. Was that a product of the 1987-1991 first intifada? Was the Oslo process a result of that intifada?  What is not debated is that immediately after the eruption of the intifada in 1987, Shaikh Ahmed Yassin created Hamas as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood which Israel had been supporting to counter-balance the PLO. Instead of remaining committed to non-violence, Hamas took up arms against Israel. As an immediate result, in the first full year of the intifada, 304 Palestinians, 6 Israeli civilians and 4 IDF soldiers were killed.

Most significantly, Israeli naval commandos killed Abu Jihad (Khalil al-Wazir) in Tunis in April. This refugee from Ramla completely committed to the right of return and the elimination of Israel, the militant behind Black September in Jordan and the terrorist incursions into Israel from Lebanon, the co-founder with Arafat of Fatah and the leader of its militant wing, al-Assifa, and the key organizer of the youth committees that instigated the intifada in the West Bank in December of 1987, was the Palestinian leader most committed to the military overthrow of Israel. His death – setting aside the deaths of 300 other Palestinians – was the initial most significant outcome of the intifada because his elimination meant that the greatest obstacle to a rapprochement between the Palestinians and Israel had been removed. In that very ironic sense, the intifada did help create the possibility for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

There was a second outcome of the first year of the intifada that also dialectically facilitated peace between Israel and Jordan. In August of 1988, King Hussein of Jordan abandoned any claims to the West Bank, his first key step in forging a separate peace with Israel. In that sense, the intifada had instigated a peace deal, but not because of its effects on Israel, but because of its effects on Jordan, especially when the Palestinian National Council in Algiers then declared an independent State of Palestine. If the Palestinians could go ahead ignoring Jordan on top of instigating war against Jordan in Black September, Jordan was preparing itself to forge a peace independent of the Palestinians.

In the subsequent three years of the intifada, the huge disproportion between Palestinians and Israelis killed recurred each year until it became clear to Arafat that the only outcome of the intifada had been suffering for the Palestinians and tremendous loss of material assets as well as greatly increased repression by the occupation forces. The Palestinian intifada had been a bust except that some leaders, in addition to Faisal Husseini who had been among a small minority promoting non-violent resistance, began to believe that armed resistance was not the path to self-determination. But the intifada had buried that idea temporarily. At the same time, doubts deepened over whether Arafat had surrendered his belief in the use of violence to achieve peace.

What is also undeniable is that the Madrid Conference was a direct product of the end of the intifada as was the UN resolution retracting by a substantial majority the equation of Zionism with racism. However, the Madrid Conference was also a failure. Further, the killing of Palestinians in great disproportion to Israelis continued on virtually the same scale through 1992 and 1993 as when the intifada was in full force as Israelis engaged in mopping up operations of those still committed to violent revolt. However, via the Track II route, Israelis and Palestinians had been meeting in a multiple of tributaries – when I was involved, I counted 18 – but one which most of us knew nothing about led to Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin signing the Oslo Accords in August of 1993. In one sense, this was an outcome of the first intifada, not as implied by making the Israelis more amenable to a peace agreement, but by making the Palestinian leadership recognize that violence was not the best route to an independent Israeli state.

So all of the immediate and direct outcomes of the first intifada had to do with the effects on the Arab (Jordan) and Palestinian positions and not on Israel’s position. Perhaps not all. It seems that the intifada could have played a significant role in the growing recognition by the Israeli right that they could not achieve the vision of a Greater Israel and that they began to recognize that an independent Palestinian state would have to develop in the West Bank. I happen to believe that this shift in perception would have come quicker without the intifada, but that would be difficult to prove. In any case, Rabin had all along been prepared for a two state solution and the intifada only made him very cautious in approaching that possibility.

Further, the series of killings of Israelis that followed Oslo and the Jordanian peace process in 1995 alienated many Israelis from the peace process: the Beit Lit massacre by Islamic Jihad in January that killed 21, the Kfar Darom bus attack in April that killed 8 and injured 52, the Ramat Gan bus bombing in July that killed 6 and wounded 33, the Ramat Ashkol bus bombing in August by Hamas that killed 5 and wounded 100. The more obvious conclusions that many Israelis drew, though equally simplistic as the conclusion connecting intifadas as a causal condition of peace agreements, is that, in fact, peace agreements bring more violence than the combination of occupation and any uprising by the Palestinians.

What about the connection between Intifada II and peace? When Ariel Sharon took a stroll on the Haram al-Sharif or the Temple Mount in September of 2000, clashes between Palestinian militants and Israeli police allegedly set off what Arafat dubbed the Al-Aqsa Intifada. We only learned much later from Imhad Falouji, the PA Minister of Communications, that, in fact, the intifada had been planned ever since the failure of the Camp David negotiations. In examining the argument that violence leads to peace, two reverse propositions seem to have much greater truth: failure of peace leads to violence, and peace agreements can just as well produce violence. Since both peace and its failure can both be connected with an upsurge of violence, it seems both absurd to suggest that another intifada may be needed to bring about peace, even if you agree that violence is a tragic course.

The outbreak of the second intifada led the newly elected Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, to call off peace negotiations in the aftermath of Taba. The lynching of two Israeli soldiers in a Palestinian police station in Ramallah in 2000, the deliberate killing of an Israeli baby by a Palestinian sniper and the Dolphinarium massacre by a Hamas suicide bomber killing 21 young Israelis and wounding 100, the August Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing that killed 15 including 7 children and a pregnant mother, and the December Hamas suicide bombing killing 9 teenagers and wounding 188, encouraged Israelis to turn against peace and accommodation with the Palestinians. After 131 Israelis were killed in March 2002, Israelis once again turned to extensive use of repressive force though suicide bombings continued. The full scale Operation Defensive Shield was launched at the end of March at the same time as the Tel Aviv café suicide bombing and the Haifa Hamas suicide bombing of the Arab Matza restaurant that killed 15 Israelis.

The result was enhanced security, enhanced repression of Palestinians and the construction of the Security wall/fence that eventually could be directly correlated with a severe reduction in violence against Israeli civilians, though during the process the pattern of suicide bombings continued — including the junction massacre killing 19 Israelis and wounding 74, the Immanuel bus attack that killed 9 Israelis, the Hebrew University massacre that killed 9 students, the Karkur junction suicide bombing that killed 14, the Jerusalem bus massacre in November of 2002 and the Hamas suicide bombing on bus 20 that killed 11 and wounded over 50. By the time the Quartet at the end of April 2003 announced a road map for peace and two months later Hamas, Jihad and Fatah agreed to a three month truce, many more instances of terrorism had taken place. Though the International Court of Justice in an informal ruling declared the security barrier being constructed by Israel as illegal, there was a closer connection between the security barrier and the reduction of violence than any connection between the violence and peace. The belief in connecting the intifadas with instigating peace is a myth with virtually no empirical evidence to back the thesis up. If members of Martin Indyk’s team really held such views, then I was completely incorrect in praising the quality of the team the Americans sent.  

Did tit for tat military responses bring about the peace? I doubt if there is a 1:1 connection. The October 2004 military operation, “Days of Penitence” in Gaza, along with the construction of the security barrier, was followed by a significant reduction in the killing of Israelis in  2005. This was followed by a unilateral disengagement plan from Gaza by Israel, not peace, and that was followed by the appearance of a unity government among the Palestinians – that needless to say did not last – and the initiation of the Annapolis Conference to discuss peace in November 2007, but the unilateral withdrawal and the peace talks only led to a much bigger war, the devastating Israeli Operation “Cast Lead” against Gaza that killed 1300 Palestinians before it was terminated 22 days later in January of 2009. 

The 2010 Fall direct talks followed and, like the 2013-14 talks, they too ended in failure. I find it impossible to make a 1:1 correlation between an upsurge in violence and peace. So why would mediators engaged in the peace process utter such a mythological connection?

Tomorrow: the building of settlements as the key obstacle to peace.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem

by

Howard Adelman

From my recent blogs, the two issues that seemed to arouse some need for further discussion were the conclusion about Jerusalem remaining the key obstacle to peace and the implication that the United States and Israel would be at odds over negotiating with a possibly reunited Palestinian entity involving Hamas as well as Fatah. In this morning’s blog I will focus on Jerusalem and, more particularly, on a report on the conference, “The Road to Jerusalem” that took place from Monday to Wednesday of this week in Amman, Jordan.

The conference was opened by HRH Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad, Jordan’s King Abdullah II’s Advisor for Religious and Cultural Affairs. It was not just a conference of Muslims. Christian clerics and scholars as well as politicians from across the Arab world were in attendance. Secondly, the premise of the conference was that Jerusalem was an occupied city. Given that it was occupied, how were both Muslims and Christians to deal with their holy sites when the occupying and controlling authority was neither Muslim nor Christian. The conference was organized by the World Islamic Sciences and Education (WISE) University, the Lower House Palestine Committee and the Muslim World League, a clear indication that the dominant instigation for the conference was a Muslim one. Christians had a token role.

WISE, for example, located in Amman, was only established four years ago. Its purpose from the beginning was primarily political rather than educational since it was established to be the home of the Arabic League and National Identity Conference. The university has nine faculties including Theology, Sharia Law, Humanities and Education, Traditional Islamic Art and Architecture, Information Technology, Business and Finance, Basic Sciences, A Graduate Faculty and an Institute for Quranic Studies and Recitation complete the list. It is, in other words, a traditional religious-based university. Thus, the Faculty of Theology offers a PhD in Faith and Islamic Philosophy as well as bachelors and graduate degrees in “scientific interpretation” of religious texts and ritual. In contrast, its Faculty of Arts and Education only offers a bachelors degree majoring in either English literature or Education. There are no courses in social sciences or history. The applied professional fields of study – information technology and business and finance – are concerned with business management and accounting as well as information systems and technology. The Faculty of Basic Sciences has a program in “Islamic Sciences” not chemistry, physics, etc. It also has a department of English, finance and education. This is not your typical model of a western university.

The focus of the conference was the religious significance of Al Aqsa Mosque as well as other Muslim – and Christians – sites in Jerusalem. Given the special custodial role of King Abdullah II for the Al Asque Mosque, the issue was how “the Arab and Muslim worlds and the international community can come to the aid of the occupied city.” The assumption was that aid was desperately needed because of “Israeli arrogance and violations against the Palestinians in the West Bank” as well as to thwart Israeli schemes vis a vis Islamic holy sites, in particular the expenditure of $4 billion dollars by the Israeli occupation on the Judaization of Jerusalem. The clear thrust of the conference was to document the central importance of Jerusalem and its holy sites in the history of Islam. The explicit goal was to preserve the Arab identity of the “holy city”. There was absolutely no indication that at least 40% of the Jews in Israel came from the Arab world.

Within that core focus was the central theme – how to protect the Haram al-Sharif, the site of the Al-Asqua Mosque and the Dome on the Rock given that Article 9 of the 1994 Jordan-Israeli Peace Agreement assigned Jordan that prime responsibility, an assignment confirmed by an agreement signed between King Abdullah II and Mahmoud Abbas on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in March 2013. What is also clear is that this new focus on Haram al Sharif is also fueled by Jewish religious extremist rejection of the Muslim control over the Temple Mount. As stated in the conference, Israel traditionally had respected Islamic control and had agreed that the site was to be protected by unarmed guards paid for by the Jordanian government. However, given Israeli control of the one gate, the Mughrabi Gate, in order to allow access to the Western Wall, unauthorized visits of militant Jews using that gate have significantly increased to the  Haram al-Sharif.

A central theological issue was whether visits to Jerusalem by non-Palestinians were a) acceptable and b) to be encouraged, given that the sites were under the ultimate control of the Israeli authorities. Abbas and Mohammed Hussein, the Mufti of Jerusalem, were promoting such visits. Yehiya Soud, a Palestinian-Jordanian firebrand, recounted how, in spite of his Jordanian diplomatic passport, he was held up for five hours at the king Hussein Bridge before allowed entry. Given an Egyptian theological ruling, Muslims from Turkey, Indonesia and Jordan, countries who recognized Israel and whose passports would allow them to visit, were to be encouraged to visit Haram al-Sharif, but this was a ruling hotly disputed by Islamic scholars from Qatar, Yemen and Morocco who held that, while the holy sites were under Israeli – read Jewish – control, such visits only legitimized Israeli occupation. Further, the Arab Peace Initiative of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation prohibits normalization with Israel until Israel withdraws from Arab areas occupied in 1967. Yusuf Qaradawi, a prominent Egyptian cleric at odds with other Egyptian policies, had issued a fatwa against such visits. However, the trend to not recognize such visits and to view them as beneficial for the fight for Islamic control of the holy city was viewed as on the upswing. In parallel with the conference, Abbas I Ramallah pledged $1million towards an endowment to secure Muslim control of the holy city.

Abbas won. The majority of Islamic scholars in attendance reversed past practice and supported visits by Muslims in addition to Palestinians to Haram al-Sharif. This can be read in two different ways – as progress towards recognition of Israeli de facto control and sovereignty and as a source of further disruption and controversy for Israel as Islamic militants from Egypt or Turkey take to seeking access in large numbers. On the one hand, Islamic tourism could be fostered which could bring about greater understanding even if that was not the motive. On the other hand, the new move could be a source of new tensions

The situation is further complicated by corresponding shifts in attitudes and approaches by religious Jews. Traditionally, since 1967 the two chief Israeli rabbis, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi, have concurred and made visits to the Temple Mount off limits for devout Jews lest they trod on what was the Jewish temple. However, militant religious Jews have begun to challenge that ruling. In fact, recently right wing Israelis have begun visiting the area and provoking controversy by seeking to pray on the site. Muslims see this as an initiative to blow up the site – there have been incidents of such efforts in the past – in order to rebuild the Temple.

With the possible increase in both the numbers of Muslims and religious Jews visiting the Islamic holiest site in Jerusalem, the potential for clashes also increases enormously. But the way to sort out the issue of sovereignty also becomes more complicated as emotions get roused on both sides over incidents that are bound to take place. The more Jerusalem becomes the final redoubt in the negotiations between Israel and Palestine, the more the Old City is in danger of serving as a tinder box. The diplomatic issue exacerbates the concern, the concern exacerbates the security issue from both sides and the security issues compound the difficulties in resolving the conflict over Jerusalem and endangers the Israeli traditional stance of acknowledging Islamic religious control while insisting on sovereign control. Thus does the dialectic dance of extremism undermine the search for stability of moderates.

As Ezekial describes it, the road from Babylon split in two, one road going to Amman (then Rabbah in Ammon),  the other to Jerusalem then the capital city of Judah. Islam has always wanted to make the road to Jerusalem the ultimate destiny on that route as a path of Islamic religious expression. Jews have always recited, “Next Year in Jerusalem” and regarded Jerusalem as their one and only holy city, though religious Jews have other holy sites. Ezekial prophesied that the Babylonian king would set Jerusalem as his goal and thereby threaten Jerusalem as a Jewish city. Plus ça change, plus la même chose.

And for Christians and Messianic Jews, “Remove the turban, and take off the crown; things shall not remain as they are; exalt that which is low, and abase that which is high. A ruin, ruin ruin will I make it; there shall not be even a trace of it until he comes whose right it is; and to him I will give it.”

In such a controversial historical, religious and political quagmire, can anyone expect that proposals for international sovereignty over the city have any more headway and strength than when proposed in 1947. When the UN advance guard came to the city to take over administrative control in 1948, they were totally ignored as irrelevant.

Though I now see that all other aspects of the dispute are in principle resolvable – water, refugee return, security, even borders except for Jerusalem, I have no idea on how to resolve the Jerusalem issue except by divided authority. I think international authority – though international involvement in an advisory or observer role would be welcome – is not acceptable to either side. I do not even think joint control is possible. There will have to be continued divided authority, but Israel remaining the default sovereign control remains unacceptable to both Abbas and Muslims.

So that is why there will be no formal deal in the near future.

The greatest potential for violence has resided in Jewish zealots who are determined to pray on the Temple Mount under the guidance and incitement of the Temple Mount Faithful in defiance of Israeli political prudential decisions. On 7 December 2000, the al Aqsa intifada was instigated by a visit of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount and fiery sermons in response from Muslim pulpits. Neither side believes in sharing. Will the historic situation of the Second Civil War in 68CE repeat when moderates lost control of the Temple Mount to both the zealots entering from the West and the Edomites from the east?

Fallout from the Failed Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

Fallout from the Failed Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

by

Howard Adelman

By fallout, I am not talking about the post-apocalyptic scenario envisioned as a result of a nuclear war that is the backdrop of the videogame of that same name. Fallout need not be so drastic but can initiate a widespread piecemeal catastrophe. I am referring to the fallout Barack Obama predicted that would result if the peace talks failed. At the beginning of March, Obama warned Israel that the United States would have more difficulty defending Israel if the talks faltered let alone failed. Both Barack Obama and John Kerry have warned both sides that the window of opportunity for a deal was closing. “Seize the Day,” was the message. Rephrasing the Jewish sage, Rav Hillel, Obama told Netanyahu directly, “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?” The negotiating parties did not for some of the reasons I outlined in previous blogs seize the day or the hour.

ALL failures have consequences. Those consequences are now upon us. The peace talks did not result in an agreement. They did not result in a watered down framework agreement. They did not even result in an agreement to continue the talks. Now is the time to observe the fallout.

Economic – Israel

At then end of January, Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid, a strong supporter of the peace negotiations, predicted that Israel was approaching a tipping point in the BDS movement in Europe based on a Finance Ministry study. The Israeli economy was already jittery in response to an anticipated failure. If a European boycott movement expands, not only in the number of parties engaged in the boycott, but in the breadth of the sanctions movement beyond products produced in West Bank settlements and businesses operating in the West Bank, as is expected, the Israeli economy, that sailed through the international downturn of the last few years, will now contract. This downturn will be exacerbated as the BDS movement spreads its tentacles, including to the southern sphere, especially Australia, where a recent court case against BDS was lost. The decision of Dutch asset manager PGGM, which manages 150 billion in euros in investments, to halt investments in Israel’s five banks is but a foretaste. It is but the tip of the iceberg of shifts in patterns of investment that have fuelled Israel’s tremendous growth over the last decade as private investors, pension funds and foundations begin to shift resources away from Israel, even if they do so only in anticipation of the economic effects of others shifting their investment priorities. Thus, Obama’s warning in early March that Israel could expect sanctions and international isolation should Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fail to support a framework peace agreement was totally consistent with results of the Israeli Ministry of Finance own study and may result even though, in the end, Netanyahu ended up saying yes to a framework agreement.

Economic- Palestine

Any dramatic economic turndown in Israel will have even more dire consequences for Palestine since the West Bank is so dependent for its economic health on trade with Israel. Parallel to the Israeli Ministry of Finance study, a separate study by the Palestinian Authority adumbrated the negative economic consequences of failed peace talks. 

The economic consequences for the Palestinian Authority will be even worse than the consequences for Israel.

An IMF study prophesied that a breakthrough in the peace negotiations would result in a 6.5% growth rate in the West Bank, but its failure would result in a significant economic contraction, increasing the already fraught situation and undermining efforts to forge a non-violent political effort. Instead of the projected 4.5% growth, there would be a significant economic contraction. Even if talks just continued, even if inconclusive, the growth rate would be 2.5%. Given the termination of the talks, expect a decline in growth rate of at least 2%.  If Israel resorts to economic pressure tactics against the PA, that decline will be even worse.

Political – Israel

With all her experience in leading the negotiations under Ehud Olmert, Justice Minister Tzip Livni has been the widely respected chief negotiator for the Israeli side who has been clearly and unequivocally committed to a two-state solution. Though she was undercut by a number of decisions: 1)  the decision to postpone the release of the 26 Israeli Arabs from prison until the Palestinians agreed to continue the talks beyond the end of April deadline, a decision contrary to the agreement on entering the negotiations; 2) Livni was then undercut by the decision of the PA to apply for membership in 15 of 63 international organizations by becoming a signatory to those international conventions, but explicitly excluding the International Criminal Court, though Mustafa Barghouti held out the promise that this graduated approach will end with joining the ICC as the final step. The move to join fifteen rather innocuous conventions was, in itself, a move contrary to the agreement about the negotiating process, all on top of the decision Housing and Construction Minister, Ariel of the HaBayit HaYehudi Party to announce the building of 700 more housing units in Gilo in Jerusalem, a move, though not contrary to what was formally agreed in the conduct of the negotiations, but was a de facto understanding in  proceeding with those negotiations. Livni’s political wisdom is now undermined. Setting aside her rival within the party, Shaul Mofaz, who had his own plan for advancing the peace negotiations but was ignored even though he was the initiator of the previous interim security agreement, Amram Mitzna and Amir Peretz, who backed her controversial move to join the Netanyahu government even with the strong presence of right wing parties, may now enact their calls for their Hatnua party quitting the coalition. The party is in danger of splitting. If it does not leave the coalition, a move unlikely since Livni has been adamant in placing the bulk of the blame on the Palestinians and has defended Netanyahu as having backed her fully in the negotiations in spite of twice being sideswiped by her cabinet colleagues. 

Political – Fatah/Hamas Reconciliation

If Livni blamed the Palestinians, Saeb Ekrat blamed the Israelis. “To build settlements in occupied land, kill Palestinians and demolish hundreds of Palestinian homes is certainly not the behavior of a government that wants to end occupation but of a government that wants to turn occupation into annexation,” Ekrat  explicity labelled the Netanyahu government an apartheid regime. Abbas went out of his way to insist that East Jerusalem is an Islamic and Christian Arab city and will be the capital of a Palestinian state, a capital that will include ALL of Arab East Jerusalem including at the very least the Arab arts of the old city.

Contrary to many, I think the PA/Hamas negotiations will come to an agreement to set up a technical government and to schedule elections. It is in the interest of both parties to do so and instigates an end run around Israel’s complaints that Abbas was not a spokesman for all Palestinians while, at the same time, solidifying Abbas’ position against his rivals. Whether the two parties will be able to go further and unify their competing administrative organizations, given the radically different culture that inform both, is a very different question. But political unity does not require administrative unity. The latter can be postponed.

In the meanwhile, Abbas has stacked up credits by calling the Holocaust the most heinous crime of the twentieth century in direct refutation of the way he downplayed the Holocaust in his PhD thesis written in Moscow years ago. Israelis may dismiss the comment as empty rhetoric, but you cannot call his other denials of the extent of the Holocaust themselves heinous and be unwilling to offer credit when he reverses himself. All this positive payoff is in spite of Abbas’ explicit unwillingness to go ahead with a framework agreement, when Netanyahu approved it, Abbas timing the announcement to sign fifteen international conventions, contrary to the terms of the peace negotiations, on the precise day before the prisoner release was to go ahead in return for America’s release of Jonathan Pollard. Abbas further undermined the initiative to cede control of part of Area C to the Palestinians for building homes in areas slated to be part of Palestine according to previous negotiations, an initiative that in turn was blown up by the announcement of the PLO-Hamas agreement.

One important fallout of the PLO/Hamas reconciliation is an emerging split between the USA and Israel. After all, the USA deals with the Lebanese government even though that government includes Hezbollah characterized as a terrorist organization. As long as the merged government adheres to the three principles of not resorting to violence, accepting a two state solution and recognizing Israel, America sees no obstacle to negotiations with the new government any more than America refusing to negotiate with Israel because its cabinet includes a few from the hard right who still reject Palestinian self-determination and a two-state solution. Israel, thus far, has rejected such a possibility, but as in the case of negotiations with Iran, Israel’s resistance may simply drift into the byways of history as once did its refusal to negotiate with the PLO.

Political – Israeli Unilateralism

In spite of the negative lessons of the past critical of unilateral moves, it is more rather than less likely that Israel will not sit back passively as the PLO pursues broadening its international recognition and status and consolidates unification. Israel is already on the road to consolidation of its settlements. Whether Israel will actually annex the settlements scheduled for the swap, move the 100,000 or so settlers outside the consolidation areas or, at the very least, offer them compensation to relocate at a cost of up to $US10 billion, and, more problematically, whether it will enact the swap and transfer jurisdiction to the PA over the territory scheduled to be swapped, would require a bold conjecture. Michael Oren, Dan Meridor and Amos Yadlin have been advocating bold moves along these lines. Even bolder still, would it be for Israel to offer Palestinians within the annexed territories – an estimated 150,000 – citizenship in Israel, or offer them the houses of the settlers evacuated from the rest of the West Bank? Naftali Bennet, of all people, has proffered such an offer.

But there are moves underway in that direction. After all, in the immediate aftermath of the termination of the negotiations, Netanyahu scheduled a cabinet meeting to discuss future Israeli unilateral moves.  There are even more solid moves to transfer more control over Area B to the Palestinians that could be used as a trade off for Palestine slowing down its own moves towards self-determination. One does not necessarily need a peace agreement to advance the two-state solution and avoid the “apartheid” state Kerry anticipated as one possible outcome. Abbas has been asking for a firm delineation of borders. Israel is free to create them – excluding Jerusalem – thus saving both Abbas and Netanyahu the embarrassment of coming to an agreement on Jerusalem that, depending on its contours, would hurt either or even both parties.

Political – USA

The flak over Kerry’s expression of fear that Israel might in future become an apartheid state, a prediction engaged in freely by Israeli politicians on the left, is only a glimpse of the squabbles sure to erupt as America approaches its mid-term elections in November. of what actually happened. But emerge they will. Kerry may launch a grenade himself by publishing the framework agreement he offered both sides. Martin Indyk is going to go back to the United States and will resume his post in Brookings, putting the final stamp and seal on the failed process. I am unable to imagine what will emerge about the process of negotiations that will shift our perceptions.

Military

Will some of that fallout include increased militancy by Palestinians? We have already witnessed an increase in tensions on the Temple Mount with a resumption of rock throwing by the Palestinians and provocative moves by Jewish zealots who dream of rebuilding the ancient Jewish temple. The root of the militancy is not likely to come from Hamas in the immediate future given both the pressures upon it and its agreement with the PLO, but from other more militant outliers. How much leeway they will be given by the PA or Hamas is a matter of debate, but given Abbas’ international approach and his need to shore up his peaceful modus operandi, it is likely he will continue to cooperate with Israeli security in squelching such developments. Similarly, Hamas, if it is to secure a place at the table given its current weakened state largely as a result of what is happening in Egypt, is also unlikely “to stir the kasha”. So I do not believe that Kerry was correct, at least in the immediately foreseeable future that there will be a significant upsurge in violence. This, in itself, will favour the Palestinians and undercut the rhetoric of the Netanyahu government.

Parallel Tracks

It is here that I betray the hoots of my Owl of Minerva still sitting on the branch of my front tree and engage in prophecy. The Palestinian Authority and Israel will both operate now on unilateral tracks, cooperating when it is in their common interest to do so, and working to undermine one another when that is in each party’s interest. But both sides will be moving towards a de facto two state solution since no other solution is feasible for either side. Each will both help strengthen its rival while trying to undermine the rival in the realm of world public opinion. My suspicion, given that Palestine is the weaker party, it will win this public relations war but Israel will advance and solidify its position on the ground. Israel, in contrast to its previous initiative in Gaza, has had lots of time to work out the logistics of these unilateral moves with careful planning and coordination with not only the USA, Egypt and Jordan but with the PA as well. These moves will be both pressure tactics but also de facto additional moves to instigate Israeli separation from occupation and Palestinian self-determination towards full statehood.

Kerry was right. The status quo is unsustainable. But the alternative is not necessarily the two options he adumbrated. Obama’s prediction that if Israel did not support the framework agreement – which Netanyahu actually eventually did and Abbas did not – then the US would no longer be able to effectively defend Israel, is a threat rather than a prediction. Obama, in particular, cited the Israeli settlement construction efforts. “If you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction – and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple of years than we’ve seen in a very long time,” Obama went onto claim that, “If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.”

Very true! But Israel and Palestine will now have to manage the pursuit of a two-state solution now on parallel tracks rather than through mediation. The consequences of the loss of American leadership could be terrible. But it could also be beneficial. Recall that the Oslo process got its start when America had dropped into the background and other avenues opened up in the pursuit of peace. The USA was a Johnny-come-lately in the Oslo process. 

So there is hope even though Hope is Barack Obama’s middle name and even if he has given up hope for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.