The creation of a new Arab State between Jordan and Israel -the so called “two state solution” - is by no means an assured certainty - despite the confident predictions emanating from such influential sources as President Obama and the Quartet over recent weeks that it remains the only viable solution to resolving the 120 years old conflict between Jews and Arabs over the territory once called Palestine.
The latest meeting of the G8 world leaders concluded in L’Aquila Italy on 10 July 2009 appears to have taken a far more cautious approach - refusing to back itself into a corner by endorsing the two state solution as the only viable option to resolve the conflict.
The G8 Summit annually brings together the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In addition, the European Union participates and is represented by the president of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.
The Chairman’s Summary presented by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the conclusion of the three day meeting included the following statement:
“Looking forward to a comprehensive peace between Israel and all its neighbours, the Leaders reiterated their full support to the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and urged the parties to rapidly resume direct negotiations. They also called on them to fulfil their obligations under the Roadmap. G8 Leaders remained engaged to fully support the Palestinian Authority including, once a peace agreement reached, through the launching of an ambitious and comprehensive plan that would develop infrastructure and foster economic activities in the future Palestinian State”
This statement is silent on how the G8 sees a comprehensive peace between Israel and all its neighbours being achieved and the G8 was apparently loath to indicate how it could expect that to ever eventuate.
It is noteworthy that whilst the G8 fully supported the two state solution it specifically refrained from endorsing it as the only viable solution - which puts the majority of the G8 leaders distinctly at odds with the pronouncements of President Obama and the Quartet.
Since America, and Russia comprise two of the four members of the Quartet and two of the 8 members of the G8, the failure of the G8 to collectively toe the American and Quartet line indicates considerable doubt by the remaining members of the G8 in the two state solution ever coming to fruition.
The statement also calls for the rapid resumption of direct negotiations. However the senior negotiator for the Palestinian Authority- Saeb Erekat - has angrily denounced the conditions laid down by Israel’s Prime Minister - Benjamin Netanyahu - for the creation of this new Arab state - especially its demilitarization- with the following dismissive declaration:
“Netanyahu will have to wait 1000 years for someone to agree to talk to him”
Interestingly the G8 have also called on the parties to fulfil their obligations under the Roadmap first proposed by President Bush in 2003. These obligations still remain unfulfilled in any substantive detail - despite six years of the most intense international diplomacy to procure compliance.
Indeed one of the complexities to be resolved at the present time is the status of the Roadmap itself and whether Israel and the Palestinian Authority still regard themselves as obliged to negotiate solely on the basis of the proposals laid out by President Bush.
Whilst Israel has indicated its acceptance to enter negotiations based solely on the Roadmap, the Palestinian Authority has been calling for negotiations based on the Arab League Initiative as well.
Until the ground rules are definitively established it is difficult to see how any negotiations can ever commence.
The pledge by the G8 of full support for the Palestinian Authority might give its President - - Mahmoud Abbas - some traction in seeking popular support for his Fatah administration to represent the Palestinian Arabs. It will not and cannot disguise the huge gap in the positions of Hamas and Fatah as they compete for undivided political control of the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza.
The G8 statement remains silent on the ability of the Palestinian Authority to enter into a final and binding peace treaty with Israel that would be capable of being honoured or enforced in the face of Hamas opposition to any such treaty - especially whilst the West Bank and Gaza remain divided as separate territorial units under respective Hamas and Fatah control.
The carrot dangled at the end of the statement promising an ambitious and comprehensive plan for the development of infrastructure and economic activities in the future Palestinian State “once a peace agreement has been reached” - amounts to a sober realisation that the billions of dollars that have been recklessly poured into the bottomless coffers of the Palestinian Authority for years by the G8 members - without any substantial improvement in infrastructure or economic activities - will not be repeated by them until a peace agreement has been signed..
The G8 communique amounts to nothing more than a motherhood statement with one notable exception - it does not endorse the two state solution as the only solution to the conflict. Given the difficulties in negotiating such a solution after seventy two years of international efforts trying to do so, this assessment represents a welcome acceptance of reality and lays the way open for alternative solutions to be proposed or adopted by the G8 leaders as the two state solution continues its slide to its inevitable denouement.