Mitchell Reports | November 21, 2012
>>> former u.s. ambassador to israel , martin, now at brookings. author of "bending history president obama 's foreign policy ." thanks to both. martin, we've seen this before. we've seen crease fires that hold and that don't hold. first of all, this is an unusual role because we've never seen the muslim brotherhood leader and now president of egypt brokering this and he taking responsibility as hillary clinton was very quick to point out for making sure it does hold.
>> i think it's a hugely important development. first of all the cease-fire itself which means a relief for the citizens of gaza and the citizens of israel , which is important in itself and let's hope it holds, but the fact that this was brokered by the united states in the form of the secretary of state on one side and the democratically elected muslim brotherhood president of egypt on the other is a new post-arab spring development which bodes very well because there was always a question, the muslim brotherhood with its anti- israel , anti-western ideology, taking power in egypt whether they would live up to the commitments of the peace treaty and use their influence in a positive way over that other muslim brother hood faction which is hamas . the muslim brotherhood is a generator of hamas . we have them using their influence in this way, as the united states used its influence in israel , obama spoke to netanyahu and told him you need to sign this, he said he was happy to do that. there you have a very good foundation for what needs to be done next which is once we get through the immediate cease-fire, how to stabilize the situation in a way that makes life normal for both israelis and palestinians and that's clearly going to have to be on the agenda. otherwise this will not be a long-lasting cease-fire.
>> james zogby .
>> life won't be normal for people in gaza or the west bank until they're freed in this occupation and that's the problem, what's happened here is yet another tragedy, another round of violence, hundreds on the palestinian side dead or wounded, both sides afraid of each other more than they were before, and nothing accomplished, other than another cease-fire that will hold for lord knows how many years. and egypt has, you're right, martin, has played the role of mubarak and hamas is agreeing to play the group the fatah once played in policing the gaza trip. but if that's all that we have, which is a passy fide gaza under the control of hamas and a passy fide control of fatah and no peace we're waiting for the next round of violence and that's where diplomacy has to start and become very vigorous, is to get us off this dime that we're on right now, waiting for the next catastrop catastrophe.
>> jim , you're expressing the frustration of palestinians and dare i say israelis as well, that the peace negotiations, the peace track, whatever you want to call it, has been absolutely dormant and you can blame the fact of weakened palestinian leadership, benign neglect from this administration or the prior administration or the decisions that went into the elections premature some said back then when hamas actually defeated or gathered more votes. there was a lot of blame. we can go back decades or thousands of years. what now has to happen to get past this immediate crisis and to some point where there is a real negotiation, where people are not living in -- behind, you know, the barriers here in the west bank and in gaza ?
>> i think we have to stop with gaza and not imagine that wes can just springboard into a peace negotiation. i mean i agree with jim 's sentiments wholeheartedly but first thing's first. the cease-fire has to be stabilized and effectively in my view, the siege has to be lifted because it's become totally counter productive from israel 's own point of view. all it does is strengthen hamas , weakens the palestinian authority in the west bank --
>> what about israel 's security concerns?
>> indeed, undermine's israel 's security. the rockets are smuggled in and eventually get fired. so, and now they're reaching tel aviv and maybe jerusalem. so, the siege needs to be lifted but the siege can't be lifted unless hamas decides it's going to be a responsible government , rather than a terrorist organization that's going to continue the struggle to destroy israel .
>> should the united states --
>> if it's willing to do that -- look, first thing's first, if it is willing to become a responsibles government, that means that it's responsible for no violence emanating from gaza into israel . if it wants a siege lifted it's got to act responsibly.
>> here --
>> and it can't smuggle weapons into gaza to use against israel either. and the egyptians can be the guarantors of that. if that happens, hamas is meeting one of the most important requirements for recognition which is to stop its violence against israel .
>> i'll give you two steps that ought to be taken now. the u.s. ought to back off in terms of opposing a u.n. declaration of palestinian statehood. giving abu maysan some legitimacy and supporting his leadership is critical.
>> this is scheduled for the general assembly for november 29th . he lost in the security council which would have been statehood supposedly. now it is a symbolic gesture in the general assembly . hillary clinton said today in ramallah to abu massen, also known as mahmoud abbas , by his proper name, said do not pursue this. this will only create problems for you in congress. you will lose money, you will lose legitimacy, not gain legitimacy. why do you think that's an important step?
>> that one vote will hurt but it can be compensated for elsewhere. the point is this man and movement that he heads and this government that he heads in the west bank , is struggling for legitimacy. what hamas has done is become the center of attention and the driving force in -- on the palestinian street --
>> hasn't the train left the station for abbas and fayyad and the others in that wing of the palestinians .
>> i was going to say the second step. the first step is recognizing that right to independence and statehood. giving it some formal credence. secondly, is to support palestinian unity which is absolutely critical. you cannot have a hamas government in one place, a palestinian authority in the other place, both of them dependent on external funding sources to survive and consider this somehow an approach to peace. there has to be one negotiating authority on the palestinian side so every time there's been a unity agreement, efforts have been made to sabotage it. there cannot be sabotage. we have to support and recognize it is the only way forward if we're going to get a peace settlement is to have a unified palestinian national --
>> isn't that partly up to the palestinians themselves? they're divided, martin.
>> that's right.
>> but we --
>> sabotaged it.
>> you know, jim , the problem is fatah and hamas are deeply opposed to each other and the rivalry has only been deepened i think by this latest crisis.
>> which supports netanyahu saying i have no negotiating partner because you have two warring factions.
>> i agree with jim , that unifying the palestinians is a precondition to having a viable negotiation because these -- otherwise, the israelis can legitimately say who are we negotiating with.
>> hasn't this administration, though, hasn't this administration not paid enough attention? hillary clinton first trip to ramallah in more than two years, five trips overall since she became secretary of state, compare that with condoleezza rice , 25 trips in the same number of years? maybe that shows just the futility of it. warren christopher , 34 trips to israel . how do you compare the intensity of diplomacy?
>> well, i think that this administration did try, but it failed. and there are lots of reasons why it failed, and lots of blame to go around as you said before. but that's not a reason for not trying again. especially because we see the consequences of not trying is in the bloodshed and the conflict. so the question is, how to do it this time in a bert way than last time? part of the problem was that president obama managed to alienate all israelis from left to right. he managed to convince them he wasn't their friend. now he's managed to convince them in this crisis he has their backs. they stood up for their right to defend themselves. he provided the funding for the iron dome system that's protecting israelis from the rocket fire. he has a lot of credibility with the israeli public these days. and he should use that. and not to speak of secretary clinton. maybe he should make her the special envoy in a new position. but there is no substitute for u.s. engagement and the fact that there is a potential for us to have a partner in the muslim brotherhood leader of egypt in this effort to resolve the israeli/ palestinian conflict is an advantage that we need to use for positive effect in terms of creating the basis for a viable negotiation.
>> final thoughts.
>> but there has to be pressure from washington and not simply accepting the terms laid down by congress and telling the palestinians you can't do this because of congress. we have our own politics here in america. they have their politics there. and apec may rule the street in congress --
>> because of pro israel lobby .
>> and deny palestinian aid if, in fact, they declare independence and statehood but the fact is, they have to be concerned with what is important to them and that is their credibility and their legitimacy as a governing authority. if we have a situation where hamas has won a victory and that's how it will be perceived and abu mason and the palestinian authority have been humiliated an that's how it will be perceived that is not a recipe for success. the congress be dammed in this context. palestinians have to do what they think is best for them and the u.s. should back them up and support them and the rest will take care of itself. aid will be forthcoming for palestinians i believe from the arab side, but we cannot allow this moment to pass without the palestinian authority being somehow rehabilitated so it become an equal partner.
>> we have to leave it there for now. thank you both very much.