APN Urges Israel, US: Peace Talks Now with Legitimate Palestinian Interlocutors

With official representatives of Israel and Hamas indirectly negotiating a ceasefire agreement in Cairo today, Americans for Peace Now (APN) is strongly urging the government of Israel, the Obama administration, and all stakeholders in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts to bring the PLO and the Palestinian Authority – the sole legitimate representatives of the Palestinians – back into a final-status peace negotiations process.

APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee said: "It's time to pivot from war to real, credible peacemaking. Everyone knows what such peacemaking requires, including U.S. leadership that is prepared to hold both parties accountable for their actions. The only one viable way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a two-state solution – Israel and Palestine, each living in recognized borders in peace and security. The only legitimate interlocutor for negotiating such a settlement on behalf of the Palestinians is the PLO, headed by Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority. Furthermore, having signed a reconciliation agreement with Hamas earlier this year, the PLO is well-positioned to negotiate on behalf of all the Palestinians, to make hard decisions around the negotiating table, and to deliver when time comes to implement a peace agreement."

"Make no mistake: President Abbas' role cannot be diminished to a security-contractor, who provides security services for Israel in the West Bank and is now sought after to do the same in the Gaza Strip. Abbas' PLO and Palestinian Authority have been and can be partners for peace with Israel, but only if there is a serious and willing partner on the Israeli side. However, with every bloody war, and, ironically, with every ceasefire agreement negotiated with other Palestinians –and with every peace process that yields only more humiliation and more settlements – the authority, legitimacy and credibility of the PLO and its leaders is further eroded.

"Now is the time to return to the negotiating table, the inevitable tool to reach the only viable solution to the conflict, a two-state solution."

APN repeats its call, made during the past month's hostilities, on all parties involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to view the Gaza War as an opportunity to achieve valuable clarity regarding the conflict:

 •   There is no stable status quo possible in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Absent a clear political horizon and credible effort to reach it, the situation on the ground will always get worse. It is now clear that periods of apparent "quiet" mask growing extremism and desperation on both sides, and have only paved the way for escalating paroxysms of violence. The repeated cycle – the "mowing the lawn" approach embraced in Israel, and the apparent "we will force them to deal with us" approach of Hamas – is a disastrous, self-defeating strategy for both sides.

 •   With this latest round of fighting, Palestinians are seeing, once again, that violence and terrorism will not defeat Israel and cannot improve their lives or deliver an end to occupation and statehood. What it can do is sow fear and anger, including among Israelis who are sympathetic to their cause, and provoke Israel into using its superior military might, to devastating effect.

 •   Israelis have seen, once again, that military power cannot bring about the capitulation of the Palestinian people or force them to abandon their aspirations for freedom and self-determination in a state of their own. Sophisticated missile defense can insulate Israel from some immediate dangers, but Israelis running to bomb shelters know that the suggestion that Israel can live in a state of perpetual conflict, secure under an "iron dome," is a fantasy.

 •   Military conflicts , such as the one that we hope just ended, are not the cause of Israeli-Palestinian tensions; they are a symptom of an underlying conflict. While some may seek to depict them as evidence that the conflict is a zero-sum game, the truth is that this is a political conflict that is still amenable to a political solution.

 •   The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can and must be solved in a peace agreement that addresses the core needs of both sides, including with respect to security, sovereignty, and national narratives. It is imperative today to pave a clear road back to a diplomatic process that can, once and for all, address the causes that are at the root not only of the recent round of violence, but of the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 •   Failing serious re-engagement to achieve such a solution, both sides are today seeing what the future looks like for Israelis and Palestinians alike. It is a future defined by constant and escalating conflict. This conflict will increasingly be across not only Israeli-Palestine divides –in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, but also within Israeli society, where growing tribalism, intolerance, and racism are degrading Israeli democracy, civility, and security.

 •   Failing a return to a political process and a good faith commitment to a two-state solution, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue to play out in ever-more ugly ways in the international arena.  While much of the world is sympathetic to Israel's right to self-defense, Israel's refusal to deal with the core issues of the conflict – and the continued expansion and deepening of the occupation – will mean increasing vilification and isolation of Israel for its policies and actions. While much of the world is sympathetic to the Palestinians' plight under occupation and their political aspirations for statehood, their cause will increasingly be tainted and discredited as it is exploited by those with extremist, anti-Semitic agendas. Along the way, innocents on both sides – Israeli and Palestinian alike – will bear the costs.

 •   The recent crisis can lead easily to a hardening of views on all sides, and to the adopting of zero-sum positions. Such a hardening will be welcomed by extremists on both sides who have long opposed a political solution and a peace agreement to end the conflict. Both peoples, and their leaders, must resist this urge to give in to hopelessness, anger and hate. The recent conflict underscores the futility and disastrousness of zero-sum agendas. It also highlights what has always been the only realistic, viable, solution to the core issues in this conflict: a negotiated two-state outcome. A realistic agreement can meet the fundamental requirements of each side in order to live as neighbors with peace, security, and sovereign borders – and is the only option that can prevent a perpetual and escalating cycle of mutually-imposed fear, misery, and bloodletting.