Thursday, July 7, 2011
Palestinian/Arab-Israeli Conflict: 'Colonisation, Occupation - Core Problems'
By Michael Jansen
Palestinians, Arabs and foreign regional players have to admit that all strategies adopted so far have failed to resolve the Palestinian/Arab-Israeli conflict.
Armed struggle, the 1988 Palestinian declaration of independence and negotiations have not brought the Palestinian people nearer to liberation.
The September appeal to the UN General Assembly for recognition of a Palestinian state within the ceasefire lines of June 4, 1967, is also doomed to fail because the US, Israel’s uncritical, uncomplaining ally, is certain to veto the action and Palestinians have no means to end Israel’s occupation and colonisation enterprise.
Instead of winding down the occupation and rolling up its colonies, Israel is deepening its control over East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, and planting colonies everywhere except in Gaza.
War and negotiations have not dimmed Israel’s Zionist dream of establishing “greater Israel” in all of geographic Palestine and adjoining territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights and water-rich areas of southern Lebanon. Furthermore, the international community has done absolutely nothing to curb Israel’s appetite for territory.
This being the case, it is about time for the Palestinians - notably those in the Palestinian Authority - to declare the death of negotiations as they did the end of the unsuccessful armed struggle, and devise a new strategy. As long as the corpse of the peace process that depended on negotiations is unburied, Israel, the US and Europe will pump it full of preservatives to prevent the mummy from putrefying.
Admission of the death of the peace process is essential in order, as they say, “to move on”. The peace process did not begin with the signing of the defunct Oslo accord in September 1993, but with PLO chairman Yasser Arafat’s 1974 address to the UN General Assembly, during which he offered Israel and the global community an olive branch with the aim of pursuing a peaceful resolution of the Palestine problem. He was ignored, isolated, insulted and bombed.
Unfortunately, President Mahmoud Abbas continues to say he prefers negotiations to a September appeal to the UN General Assembly, a pointless exercise if ever there was one. He is right to hesitate, but not because negotiations might be more fruitful.
Palestinian spokesman Ghassan Khatib revealed that Abbas is not certain how to go about issuing the call or whether it will be beneficial or harmful. He has appointed technical and legal committees to study the issue. The appointment of committees is a traditional way of shelving an issue or aborting a controversial action plan.
Khatib said Abbas has to decide whether to approach the Security Council or the General Assembly or both and in which order.
“It’s already clear that if the Palestinians press for a resolution calling for full UN membership, the US will veto it,” he said.
The US is also certain to exercise strong pressure on the 60-odd UN members that have not recognised Palestine yet not to do so and the 117 members that have, in some form or other, not to upgrade their recognition so it is specific on borders. The last thing Israel and the US want is for countries recognising Palestine to fix its borders on the 1967 line.
The US will also vehemently oppose admitting Palestine as a full member of the UN.
Khatib observed: “If there is no recognition and no admission, there will be no [positive] political or practical impact.”
There is concern “that at the end of the day, [we will not] achieve anything to meet high [Palestinian] expectations,” he stated.
He did not think Abbas would meet the demand of a growing number of Palestinians who call for him to resign and dissolve the Palestinian Authority.
“Giving up autonomy could mean more misery: can the authority simply give its 150,000 employees one month’s notice? A more creative way out of the current impasse must be found. The status quo is unsustainable and cannot be allowed to continue.”
Some say Abbas, who placed all the Palestinian eggs in the negotiations basket, could split the difference by resigning but preserving the authority. But then, no one can name a credible successor other than Marwan Barghouthi, who is in an Israeli prison and unlikely to be freed for many years, if ever.
Abbas could, however, push forward with reconciliation with Hamas, with the objective of unifying Palestinian ranks as soon as possible. But he hesitates on this issue as well because the US and its pals threaten to boycott a unity government in which Hamas proposes ministers and to suspend financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority, which administers Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank.
Abbas has said he would forego the cash but the authority does not have the funds to pay the full salaries of employees this month because donors have not honoured pledges. Consequently, Abbas drags his feet over reconciliation while Hamas, which rules Gaza, expresses frustration.
By declaring the death of negotiations and an end to the peace process, Abbas could force the US and the international community to change strategies which have done nothing to bring the Palestinians any closer to statehood, or improve the situation of those who live in the occupied territories or in refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
This could be a positive development if the West, in particular, finally admits that the core of the problem is Israel’s colonisation enterprise and the occupation that permits Israel to pursue its objective of keeping all the Arab land it now occupies.
This commentary was published in The Jordan Times on 07/07/2011