Irish Examiner View: Palestinians’ absence means Israel and UAE deal is a farce

Irish Examiner View: Palestinians’ absence means Israel and UAE deal is a farce
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces full diplomatic ties will be established with the United Arab Emirates. Picture: Abir Sultan/Pool via AP

The tributes paid to John Hume were a reminder of how very difficult, how very demanding building peace can be. Every effort he, and his non-violent supporters made, to end the North's bitter conflict involved Belfast, London, Dublin, Washington and Brussels. They also involved all of this island's divided communities though they were locked in what very often seemed an accelerating spiral of despair. 

Any agreement reached, or rejected, was with the approval or otherwise of all stakeholders. Anyone with a real interest was a participant, there were no interested, marginalised onlookers excluded from the peace-making process.  

On that principle of inclusion alone, it is very hard to hope, no matter how deeply held that hope might be, that the “historical peace agreement” between Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced on Thursday might be the gamechanger that the region so very badly needs and has needed for generations.

Endorsed by America's President Trump, Israel, as part of the deal, promised it would suspend its planned annexation of swathes of the West Bank. There was, as expected, and immediate welcome from the United Nations, from France, from Egypt and even Trump’s November opponent, Joe Biden. 

There are suggestions that there may be a triumphant White House signing ceremony within weeks - just as America's presidential race intensifies. How very convenient for a president whose poll ratings are toppling. That collapse may be behind Trump's decision to encourage his national security adviser to declare that the president “should be a frontrunner for the Nobel Peace Prize”. Indeed. The honour bestowed on his predecessor still rankles obviously.

Any eve-of-election signing ceremony would be, and cliche is all but unavoidable here, Hamlet without the Prince. Just as they were excluded from the deal, Palestinians would not participate in what seems a scheme more to bolster the positions of the signatories than one that might lead to a resolution of one of the world's most enduring conflicts.

If that analysis is dismissed as scepticism veering downward towards cynicism then a reminder that the opening of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial in May ended after just an hour when his defence team requested a lengthy delay. That was granted but no resumption date was set. 

Netanyahu has said that the case was a left-wing plot aimed at "toppling me in any way possible" so it seems reasonable to suggest that he too would welcome any distraction, and any chance to pose as a peacemaker on the international stage.

Despite all that jockeying for position, the Palestinians, broken and divided by relentless land thefts, must again look on as others determine their fate without consulting them or even seeking their approval. 

The UAE rubbed salt into these wounds by abandoning the long-held Arab position that there could be no lasting peace without reversing at least some of the injustices inflicted on the Palestinians over the last 75 years.

The region has lived on tenterhooks for generations, the never-ending conflict encourages hate where something far more positive is needed. The situation is layered with many shades of grey - and conflicting dreams and rights -  yet this pact seems a black-or-white response. 

During his lifetime Hume was excoriated because he acted - alone and bravely - on his belief that conflict can only be brought to an end if all participants are involved in ending violence and are convinced that that change will pay real dividends. 

What a pity it is then that the resolution of this tragedy is in the hands of opportunists Trump and Netanyahu rather than a Hume.

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