Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Temperature rising as hope fades: Why it is still so hard to achieve peace


By F.T Hupsel - June 16, 2019
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Peace Process] [Two State Solution] [US foreign policy]

5 June marked 52 years since Al Naksa, or the setback, when Israel gained complete control over all of historic Palestine’s borders. As Israel still holds all the cards in this volatile political period supported by its strongest ally, the United States, the possibility of a lasting peace deal with Palestine might seem as far away as ever.


As the White House prepares to disclose the final details of their 'deal of the century’, there is not much hope in how the deal will effectively assist the Palestinian fight for freedom and statehood.


Throughout the decades, The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), has continuously emphasised any successful peace initiative would need to tackle the fundamental issues that have doomed past negotiations: An independent state based on the de-facto borders before the Six-Day War of 1967, illegal settlement expansion, freedom of movement, the right of return to the refugees and East Jerusalem as their capital.


By failing to address many of these permanent issues which Palestinians have been advocating for so long, US President Donald Trump’s new 'deal’ has already been dismissed by Palestinian President Mohammed Abbas, following the conclusion that it is entirely biased in favour of Israel.


The refusal to address such issues reminisce from the Oslo Era and remain as the major factor why no progress has been seen since then.


In breach of the Oslo Accords, Israel was able to keep increasing its matrix of control under “peaceful” conditions by continuously expanding settlement activity and military presence in the occupied territories, which undermined the notion that Israel was ever genuine about making way for a Palestinian state.


Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, told Palestine Monitor that it is hard for Palestinians not to lose hope when since the Oslo talks, Israel has “killed every opportunity to implement what was established and agreed in the negotiations”.


“The only thing we have been fighting for is the fulfilment of international law and justice,’’ Dr. Barghouti added.


After the Six-Day War, the Naksa, more than 300,000 Palestinians were displaced, many of whom had already sought refuge in these territories after the 1948 war, known as the 'Nakba’, meaning 'catastrophe’, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes and villages.

Today, the territories that were occupied after the 1967 war remain under Israeli dominance and control.


Two-state solution undermined


For decades, there has been backing for a two-state solution among the international community and the more liberal spectrum of Israeli parties and activists. However, according to Dr. Barghouti, it is still not sufficient.

“Making statements supporting a two-state solution is not enough, actions are necessary, to make Israel understand that there is a price for violating international law and human rights,” Barghouti said.


Dr. Barghouti also stressed that it is highly necessary for the international community to recognise Palestinian struggles and make occupation costly for Israel, by establishing harsh sanctions and suspending military and economic agreements.


One of the designers of the long-awaited peace plan, Trump's senior advisor, Jared Kushner, has indicated that the US would be withdrawing from its long-standing support of the two-state solution.


Renouncing the call for a Palestinian state would end decades of US bipartisan support for the two-state solution. A new US Senate resolution insists that the American peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must include a two-state solution.


US Congresswomen, Ilhan Omar, has accused the Israeli embassy, following direct orders from Netanyahu, of lobbying to have the term “two-state solution” removed from the newly planned bill.


“Endorsing a two-state solution while simultaneously attempting to block a Palestinian state is what Netanyahu has been doing for decades,” Omar stated.


International relations lecturer who teaches at Tel-Aviv University and a senior analyst for I24News, Dr. Emmanuel Navon, told Palestine Monitor that the problem with the two-state solution for Israel revolves around the fact that the Palestinians were and still are, “unwilling to compromise”.

“I think much will depend on the Palestinian leadership. If there was an actual Palestinian leader who would be serious about compromising and reaching an agreement that would be a game changer but as of today, I don’t see any sign of the Palestinian leadership going that way,’’ Navon said.

A researcher for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), an organisation that monitors violations of human rights in Palestinian communities, told Palestine Monitor under the condition of anonymity, that the Palestinian communities he works with are supportive of the two-state solution.


“They [Palestinians] seem to be very ready to live side by side with Israelis if they just had their own land, the right to move freely and the right to use the land’s resources,” he stated.


The researcher explained how a school in Hebron which he monitored, teachers and students go through three checkpoints every day just to arrive at the school.


Regarding resources, access to “Area C” which makes up 61 per cent of the West Bank under full Israeli control, contains the majority of natural resources and open spaces. According to the World Bank, if Palestinians were given access to this area, it would constitute an increase in their economy by a third.  


But even though much land in Area C is undeveloped, Israel does not permit Palestinian construction for residential, commercial or industrial purposes.


Maintaining the Status Quo


In an essay published in The Guardian, American writer, journalist and analyst on the Middle East, Nathan Thrall, explained many of the reasons why there is still no peace and why Israel has been so comfortable in maintaining the situation as it is.


“The consequences of choosing impasse are hardly threatening: mutual recriminations over the cause of stalemate, new rounds of talks, and retaining control of all of the West Bank from within and much of Gaza from without. Meanwhile, Israel continues to receive more US military aid per year than goes to all the world’s other nations combined,’’ said Thrall.


The US, as Israel’s biggest supporter, has to exert such pressure if it wants to act as a mediator but in the past few decades, the US has done quite the opposite, making sure to maintain the cost of Israel’s fallback is very low.

As the former Israeli defence minister, Moshe Dayan, once said: “Our American friends offer us money, arms and advice. We take the money, we take the arms, and we decline the advice.”

After having to dismiss the Knesset and face another election in September, there is a growing concern Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will endorse even more his usual stance, with no intentions of making concessions regarding the Palestinian cause and a future Palestinian state.

On June 25 and 26 in Bahrain’s conference, the US plans to lay out an economic component of the peace deal together with Arab states, aimed at finding alternatives to improve the Palestinian economy.

Palestinian officials have called for a boycott of the conference and the PLO has dismissed the Kushner effort as an attempt to bribe Palestinians.

Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammed Shtayyeh, said that the Palestinians are not seeking an improvement of living conditions “under the occupation.”


As the crucial and so long unaddressed political aspects of the deal still won’t be unveiled, peace once again, seems far away.

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