Time for a Rolling Hudna

Here is one clause that has not been included in any Israeli-Palestinian deal to date: Before an agreement is signed, both sides must guarantee that they have absolutely no intention of making real and sustainable peace.

Here is one clause that has not been included in any Israeli-Palestinian deal to date: Before an agreement is signed, both sides must guarantee that they have absolutely no intention of making real and sustainable peace.

This stage of the peace process would last three years, starting from September 30, 2000. Only after Stage One ends, and each side has proved beyond any doubt to the other side that its intentions are not serious, can the sides more on to the next stage. Therefore, both sides have to invest 100 percent effort to undermine every drive toward a diplomatic settlement.

In order to make things easier for the sides, an international arbitration committee will be established to lay down clear and agreed criteria on how to measure efforts to derail the peace, and the member nations will be asked to make their contribution to this effort. No donations or loans will be transferred to either side during this first period, so as to further compound the economic hardship that will accompany the security threat. The overseeing nations can weigh other steps to help the sides get through this first stage.

In less than two weeks, the first stage will come to an end. The Al-Aqsa Intifada will "celebrate" its third anniversary, and it seems that the two sides have never been more ready to move on to Stage Two. Both sides have proved, according to the above criteria, that there is no partner on the other side; both sides have made a real and sincere effort to scupper the peace process (over 2,000 fatalities and tens of thousands of casualties are testament to this); the territories have, to a large extent, been recaptured; buses, shopping malls and restaurants have joined the heroic narrative; suicide is no longer just another term in the field of psychology, but rather a landmark in the arms race; illegals, collaborators, mortar shells, Qassams, Anthony Zinni, roadblock births, terror infrastructure, Defensive Shield, security fence, Park Hotel, Jenin, painful concessions, and peace of the brave have all be inserted in our brave new language, and have become cultural assets.

Both sides have expertly trampled on the Tenet and Mitchell plans, have made a mockery of the Aqaba and Sharm peace summits, have turned the hudna into a ball of rage and can no longer even spell road map, let alone implement it. The lack of mutual trust is now complete. It seems that the competition between them is only over the question of who has done more to derail the peace process and to delay moving on to the next stage.

It would be wrong to suggest that Israel and the Palestinians are back to square one, especially given the renascent relevance of Yasser Arafat. In actual fact, both the Israeli and the Palestinian public have changed. After three years of intifada, both sides are carrying the heavy baggage of experience and an understanding that was achieved at a massive cost - the understanding that a military solution has very little ammunition left in its holster, together with the understanding that one cannot change a country's leadership as one would chance a disc, that no outside figure (even if he is called George W.) can dissolve local stubbornness, that economic hardship on both sides is no guarantee of political reason, and, primarily, that lack of trust is not a goal in itself.

In order to soften the traumatic transition from total lack of trust to some trust, here is a new suggestion for starting the second stage, based on the assumption that the above understandings have been well learned.

Since a full diplomatic solution is currently a hallucination, it would be wise to start getting used to the phrase "rolling hudna." If Arafat wants and is able to arrange a rolling hudna, then Israel would be pleased to join. The status of the hudna would be similar to the Grapes of Wrath agreements between Israel and Hezbollah: An attack would be met with a counterattack; a complaint would be met by a complaint; but there would be no more routine of attack, retaliation, attack. The sticking point between Israel and Palestinians would then be who broke the hudna and who did not adhere to the peace plan. If the hudna were to last any significant length of time, one could start to thing about the third stage - joint patrols designed to ensure that the hudna holds.

In the meantime, this is all the two sides have to offer each other, and anyone who remembers the seven-week hudna we enjoyed over the summer knows that this is significant. By the time we reach the third stage, it is quite possible that the names of the leaders on the Israeli or Palestinian sides will no longer be relevant.