UNITED NATIONS. DIARY OF A DISAPPOINTED NEGOTIATOR: "THERE WILL BE NO PALESTINIAN STATE"

 

15 OCTOBER 2010

DIARY OF A DISAPPOINTED NEGOTIATOR: "THERE WILL BE NO PALESTINIAN STATE"

The year 2011 will mark the 20th anniversary of the start of the "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians and the first official talks between the two parties at the Madrid Conference in October 1991. Two years after President Obama's arrival in the White House and the war in Gaza, the everlasting peace process has reached a deadlock. Ziyad Clot's inside story shows how, and why the Israelis and the Palestinians will not be able to achieve peace on the basis of the two-State solution.

THERE WILL BE NO PALESTINIAN STATE is the diary of the French lawyer "returning" to Palestine to explore his roots who ended up helping the PLO negotiate on the Palestinian refugee issue. This lively and engaging non-fiction book provides an exclusive and astonishing insight on the last peace negotiations between Israel and the PLO. The original version of the book in French (Il n'y aura pas d'Etat palestinien) was published in France in September 2010. It brings to light the manipulations and secret games played behind the scenes by different actors in the peace process. It also shows why the author, with his unique bird's eye view, believes the creation of a Palestinian State alongside Israel has become a fantasy.

THE ANNAPOLIS NEGOTIATIONS: In November 2007, President George W. Bush initiated a conference in Maryland that gathered more than 40 countries. The goal was to re-launch the peace process between Israel and the PLO and to create a Palestinian State by the end of 2008. A race against time began: George W. Bush was approaching the end of his term, the PLO was experiencing a grave crisis of legitimacy, and Israel desperately needed a peace treaty with the Palestinians to preserve the Jewish character of its State. The "NSU" (Negotiations Support Unit) and its consultants, a donor-funded project advising the PLO on its negotiations with the Israeli government, were on the frontline of these discussions.

A KEY WITNESS: NEGOTIATOR FOR THE PLO, Ziyad Clot was one of these advisors. A French national and specialist in International Law, he was 30 when he arrived in Ramallah, a "bubble" in the occupied West Bank. A grandson of a former Palestinian Consul who became stateless in 1948, Ziyad was recruited by the NSU to be the PLO's legal advisor on the refugee issue.

PESSIMISM AT THE NEGOTIATION TABLE: the Annapolis process brought to the negotiation table two parties: Mahmoud Abbas' PLO and the Government of Israel represented by Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. Ziyad experienced the rounds of bilateral talks from the inside. He struggled to offer his experience and knowledge of refugee issues in the quest for a negotiated agreement, despite his own growing skepticism. The creation of a viable, sovereign and independent Palestinian State inside 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital soon appeared unachievable. On the Palestinian side, the PLO, weakened by its many compromises, was out-of-breath. The approach of the Israeli delegation was clearly to "wait and see." The sponsor of these peace talks, the Bush administration, maintained a policy doomed to fail, supporting the creation of a Palestinian State, which would serve Israel's security interests, while allowing continued settlement construction in the West Bank and effectively undermining the PLO vis-a-vis Hamas. The peace process quickly became for Ziyad a cruel farce. After fruitless meetings that made clear Palestinian refugees would pay the price of any (unlikely) peace treaty between Israel and the PLO, Ziyad resigned in November 2008. A few weeks later, his fears were realized with the Israeli attack on Gaza.

BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE PEACE PROCESS - Ziyad recounts a year behind the scenes of the daily negotiations as an advisor/negotiator for the PLO, making his book an important and an unusual contribution to understanding the failure of the peace process. The main permanent status issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are explored in the account of a young negotiator, who ardently hopes for a peace deal but realizes its impossibility. Ziyad weaves together two tales: one, legal, neutral and rigorous; the other, partisan, fervent and loving. By small bits, he discovers his own attachment to the land, including Haifa, which his family originated. The Levant that he describes is an invitation to travel: Jerusalem, Ramallah, Beirut, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Gaza.

FROM THE END OF THE "TWO-STATE SOLUTION" TO "ONE STATE" - At the end of his tale, Ziyad concludes that there will be no Palestinian State. Peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only be possible now with the establishment of a single State where all individuals will enjoy equal rights.

ZIYAD CLOT is French, now 33. He lived and worked in Paris but also in Egypt and in Israel/Palestine. He now resides in the Arab Gulf. After graduating from "Sciences Po" and the University of Law of Paris II-Assas, he practiced as a lawyer for five years in a UK firm based in Paris. His family on his mother's side is originally from Haifa, which became part of Israel in 1948. After the "Nakba," which literally translates as the "catastrophe" that accompanied the creation of Israel, his family found refuge in Beirut before emigrating to North America and Europe in the late 1960's and 1970's. Ziyad Clot has published several articles in English and French on Palestinian issues.