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As a negotiator, I firmly believe that peace is possible. Two thirds of the Palestinians support negotiations with Israel, and the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians back a two-state solution. It is clear that both peoples see there is no alternative to a negotiated peace, that war will not provide any solution, and that the status quo is untenable, and in fact very dangerous.
We were able to reach agreements with all the governments of Israel up until the Camp David summit in 2000, including agreements signed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself from the years 1996 through 1998. The roles played by President George H. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker and President Bill Clinton and Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher were quite helpful in reaching these agreements.
The leadership of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and President Arafat played a crucial role. This success can be repeated, if Israel decides that peace is more important than a land grab.
Palestinians have once again entered this peace process in good faith. But there is little sense in negotiating the end of occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state while Israel continues to build and reinforce its settlement enterprise. Internal Israeli politics cannot impose the standards for peace. It is time to stop thinking of “creative ways” towards a “more tolerable” occupation and make the tough decisions needed to end it.
The United States and the rest of the international community must transfer their words into actions and take a firm stance to bring the parties closer to peace. As time runs short and prospects for peace are fading, only bold actions and positions can bring the change needed to end this protracted conflict.
Peace must succeed. There are no other viable alternatives. Israel must realize this. And for the sake of stability in the region and global security, the international community must see this, too.
Dr. Nabeel Shaath is a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s negotiations team. He has been involved in negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis for more than 20 years, including as chief negotiator of the Gaza-Jericho agreement in 1994. He also leads Fatah’s International Relations Commission and is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.