x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The roadmap to peace needs an Israeli partner

Munther Fahmi, a revered bookseller in Jerusalem, is a foreigner in his homeland. For 16 years the Palestinian has had to renew his visa every few months to run his bookshop. As The National reported yesterday, even that option is now no longer available to him.

Munther Fahmi, a revered bookseller in Jerusalem, is a foreigner in his homeland. For 16 years the Palestinian has had to renew his visa every few months to run his bookshop. As The National reported yesterday, even that option is now no longer available to him.

This may be one man's story, but it is also the latest incident to highlight the Israeli government's clear lack of intent to seriously engage the Palestinians in a workable two-state solution.

This week, the UN praised Palestinian officials for improvements in six areas that it considers key for an independent state to function efficiently. These include governance, rule of law and human rights; livelihoods; education and culture; health; social protection; infrastructure and water.

Such advances, though, are in vain without a willing peace partner.

Israel's obstructionist policies are not the only obstacle to progress. A recent UN vote in favour of an independent Palestinian state was predictably vetoed by the US. Equally unhelpful, peace negotiations have been stalled for six months as Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank. Meanwhile in Gaza, military exchanges between Hamas and Israeli forces have flared up again.

Yet even the UN agrees that peace is now in Israel's hands. "I believe Israel needs to roll back measures of occupation to match the PA's achievements," Robert Serry, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said in a statement on Tuesday.

When Al Jazeera unveiled the Palestine Papers in late January, there was widespread anger in the Arab world at the extent to which PA officials were willing to compromise on the three major areas of disagreement: right of return, Israeli settlements and the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent state. What the documents also revealed, though, is how apparently uninterested in a two-state solution Israelis currently are.

Facilitating movement and access is just one of the issues Israel must address. It may be too late for Mr Fahmi, a 57-year-old American passport holder and his business. But with the UN embracing state building, it is time for the increasingly isolated Israeli government to do the same.