Democracy against peace
Dr. Asem Khalil*
‘An optimist in a pessimist world’. This was the title of an article published in the Israeli newspaper Yadout Ahraonot, the day of Palestinian presidential elections last January 9th. The ‘optimist’ for the author, Rony Shakid, would be Abu Mazen, the new PA president. “The future is full of interrogatives –he continued- for this reason, we need to be realistic and not to expect radical changes. Being optimist in a pessimist world may lead to greater disappointment".
than one month after his election, positive reactions started to join Mahmoud Abbas from
all over the world: beside the
implementation of those promises will depend mostly on the Palestinians ‘good
behaviour’. In case the Palestinian resistance groups break the cease-fire,
the Palestinian respect of their duties, set up in the Road Map, especially related to security and reform, would not
guarantee in itself the Israeli application of their engagements. Actually, this
does not depend on the good will of the Israeli government nor on the pragmatism
of its prime minister (in case one admits their existence) but rather on the power
Churchill said: “Democracy is the
worst form of government, with the exception of all others”. Far
from denying the importance of democracy and its existence in
First, the electoral system: All the country is considered as unique electoral circumscription. The party that obtains at least 2 % of the ballots, according to the proportional system, obtains a seat in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Consequently, in order to ensure its survival, the party that obtains the majority is constrained to look for coalition with small parties, mostly the religious ones (24 governments over 29!). This explains, for example, why successive governments, without distinction between left or right, had always constructed new settlements in the Palestinian territories, despite the large opposition of the public opinion.
Second, the decision making
process in the Israeli cabinet: In case of divergences inside
the cabinet, the prime minister, elected directly, submit his decisions to the cabinet’s
vote which may also adopt different position, ignoring his engagements in the
international arena. For example, after the Knesset’s approval of the
Third, the applicability of international
In the ‘other side of the wall’, the Palestinians seem to start controlling the game’s rules, in the post-September 11’s international community. They understood that self-determination is not enough by itself since the "right" depends mostly on the existing relations of force between states and/or other international subjects and actors in an international community that lacks a central executive power. Besides, they discovered finally that being victim is no more sufficient to obtain justice. A people, in the name of self-determination, cannot violate other imperative international laws without risking the legitimacy bases of his right to resist occupation.
conscious that making peace is much more difficult and sophisticated than
declaring war, Israelis and Palestinians need to be much more attentive not to
repeat the errors of the recent past. This time, Palestinians must be much more
sensitive to the Israeli necessities of security and the Israelis to the
improvement of the economic situation in the Palestinian territories. But this
is not enough.
An Israeli journalist has written recently that the Palestinians and the Israelis seem two exhausted boxers that wait for the end of the match, without worrying of who has won and who has lost! We hope that this occasion will not be reduced to a mere break for the two parties in order resume their remaining forces for the next round!
The author is Palestinian scholar living in
 Original italian version published in Toscana Oggi, N.6, 13 February, http://www.toscanaoggi.it/a_notiziabase.asp?IDNotizia=4484&IDCategoria=206