Palestinians fear bloody nightmare

The PLO is facing up to the collapse of the peace process after the `su mmit of hope', writes Robert Fisk in Cairo

When Nabil Shaath starts talking about the "third option" - the "nightmare option" as he calls it - you realise how close the Arab-Israeli "peace" has come to collapse. The third option is what he calls "total conflict", the collapse of the Pales tinian Authority in Gaza and Jericho, a return to the intifada, all-out war between Arab and Jew. "In the event of the third option," he says, "the odds are on a very bloody conflict that would not be like it was before - both parties would resort to bru talities . . . militant Islamists will have grounds for recruiting even more suicide bombers."

The PLO leader Yasser Arafat's closest adviser speaks eloquently, fearfully, of this option. His remaining optimism is almost as brave as his ability to fear the worst.

Management consultant, publisher, philatelist, Mr Shaath is having to contemplate failure ever more frequently. "The peace process is in deep trouble," he says. "And if it collapses, what will happen?" You realise then that the PLO has been talking aboutjust such a possibility, that they have been staring into the darkness for the first time.

Last week's Arab-Israeli "summit of hope" in Cairo has not fooled the Palestinians. No date was set for long-postponed Palestinian elections on the West Bank, no date agreed for further Israeli "redeployment", no promises made of an end to Jewish settlement on Arab land. Mr Shaath's nimble mind has therefore been moving between the best and worst of all possible worlds, acknowledging failure and contemplating hope while excoriating those Palestinians who choose to oppose him.

"There are now three possible outcomes. The first is an alternative peace process in which we would go straight to the final settlement [talks on Jerusalem and Jewish settlements, the return of 1948 and 1967 Palestinian refugees], abandoning the interim settlement [elections and military withdrawals].

"So far, the interim process has failed. On both sides, it has failed," he says. "This interim stage was intended to improve the climate and build confidence between Palestinians and Israelis. But it is deepening the lack of confidence in the agreement

Sitting in his Cairo office Mr Shaath has rarely been so forthright. "The interim stage has not changed the image of Palestinians in Israeli eyes nor vice-versa. We were not able to give them more security. From their point of view, another Beit Lid [suicide bombing] will be the end of the road. From our point of view, more settlements are the end of the road. The idea of moving straight to permanent status discussions is gaining ground even in Israel."

The second option, Mr Shaath says, is "to live with closure, this wall of separation, for a while until something changes the balance of power, which means the Israelis will clamp down a new closure [on the West Bank and Gaza] until a new process has been found. We would have to build our relationships to Egypt and Jordan and build an economy that is self-sufficient for a while. We are working on this very fact."

And then he comes back to option three. "If number three ever takes place, it would eventually lead to a redefinition of the peace process. But it would meanwhile produce nothing for us and nothing for the Israelis. It would destroy both our goals of peace until it was replaced by something better. It would mean the collapse of the Palestinian authorities and resort to resistance again."

When asked how seriously he has contemplated this nightmare, he admits that he - though not Mr Arafat's "cabinet" - has contemplated a mass resignation of the Palestinian Authority, which would remain in Gaza but perhaps go underground. And he launches into a bitter attack on those Palestinians who, he believes, wish the peace process to fail.

"The intellectual opposition wants to make us look . . . incapable of meeting the Israelis at their own level of sophistication and connivance. Would they rather see a Bosnia or a Chechnya in Palestine? In the post-Soviet era, UN intervention has just stabilised the status quo in favour of the physically stronger party.

"Most of [the Islamic militants] Hamas's actions directed against the Israelis are in fact directed against us, to make us hit at them, to foment civil war or to make us look impotent to the Israelis."

Mr Shaath is now demanding the "Egyptian model" for peace. "Egypt took every Jewish settler and every settlement out and this produced a real peace. And in the West Bank, every settler and every settlement has got to go."

Jerusalem can be a capital for two nations, he says. "If the United States recognises all Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, that will end the peace process." He even talks about returning 1948 refugees to Galilee, inside Israel itself. "If you return 100,000 Palestinians to Galilee, that's only 10 per cent of the Palestinians in Israel already. Will the Israelis go along with that? I think they'll have to."

And then you realise that Mr Shaath wants what the Israelis thought they no longer had to contemplate: implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 242. Even if the nightmare third option was fulfilled, it would lead, after much blood, to another peace process because there is no going back.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Chosen to lead the women's wing of the ruling Zanu-PF, the wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding the 90-year old
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model of a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution