Sunday, March 30, 2014

Palestinian Exasperation - Israeli Desperation

In July, 2013 United States Secretary of State John Kerry brought the Palestinian and Israeli parties to the negotiating table to discuss peace yet again. The deadline for those talks was set as April 29, 2014. To entice the parties to the table, certain agreements were made by both sides.  But the alluring factor for many Palestinians was that final status issues would also be discussed.  With less than a month before that deadline, we are entrenched in a dispute not over those core issues but about whether side issues will be met or whether the Palestinians will seek justice at international forums.  Another 9 months have been wasted and the status quo has gone from exasperation to desperation.

There was a great reluctance among the majority of Palestinians to begin yet another chapter of talks with the Israelis. Many Palestinians felt and continue to feel that they do not need to endlessly talk to no real end and that talking to Israel served Israel’s interest to perpetuate the decades old cruel military occupation of their land and their people and preventing the Palestinians from seeking justice through international forums.  Israel, instead of agreeing to stop all settlement building activities, agreed to release 104 pre-Oslo prisoners in four installments, the latest of which has been breached. The Palestinians agreed not to go to United Nations forums to seek international justice against the Israelis—and Palestinians have thus far kept their end of the bargain.

Now the talks are at a juncture which is not aimed at resolving the issues of the status of Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the border issues or even water rights—a fundamental issue to any peace agreement but which has not been given much consideration by the parties and the media.  Instead the topic of discussion is whether the Israelis will release the last batch of Palestinian prisoners and who will decide which prisoners will be released but only for extending the talks.  

During the last 9 months of “talks” Palestinians have witnessed

  •          over 60 Palestinians being killed and over 900 wounded by Israeli soldiers.
  •          an increase in housing starts in the illegal settlements

o   August 12, 2013."Israel approves 900 additional homes in East Jerusalem".
o   On 10 January 2014. Israel approved plans for 1,400 settler homes.
o   January 21, 2014. Peace hopes fade as Israel plans 381 more settler homes
  •       reports of olive trees being cut down are rampant in the media. Here is but a sampling:

o   March 27, 2014 Settlers cut down 50 olive trees near Nablus
o   October 5, 2013 Palestinian farmer: West Bank settlers destroyed 129 olive trees
o   October 21, 2013 Israeli Settlers Chop down more Palestinian Olive Trees (having destroyed 800,000 since 1967)
o   March 3, 2014  Israeli settlers destroy olive trees in West Bank

The results of the talks have been a step forward for Palestinians, not in terms of achieving a State anytime soon, but in terms of positioning in negotiations.  While it is the Palestinians who were and continue to be exasperated, it is the Israelis who are desperate. The Palestinians have been exasperated by 20+ years of endless talks that have led to no end. Palestinians are no closer to a State then in 1993 or the last 9 months. The Israelis are desperate to prevent the Palestinians from seeking justice at UN forums, especially at the Human Rights Commission and at the International Criminal Court. Additionally, Israelis are deathly afraid of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions Movement which is growing by leaps and bounds.  Secretary of State Kerry has warned Israel of a third Intifada and further isolation.

Continuing the “talks” without any real progress to date is an exercise in futility for Palestinians and will only serve Israel’s interests.  By agreeing to the continuation of the talks, Palestinians will allow Israel to buy additional time to continue building more settlements; continue building the apartheid wall; continue to murder, wound and imprison more Palestinians; and continue to uproot more and more Palestinian olive trees.  Additionally, the abusive Israeli military checkpoints will not be eased and Israeli dominance over Palestinian lives will go unabated.

Exasperated by another Israeli demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, Palestinians obtained the support of the Arab League in rejecting this demand.  This demand was not imposed upon the Jordanians or the Egyptians when Israel negotiated peace treaties with these countries. Additionally, this was not addressed in the Oslo Accords or any of its ancillary agreements. It is yet another demand creatively concocted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not for any altruistic purpose but for Israel’s selfish purpose—to kill the peace process. This is not Nethanyahu’s first attempt to redefine terms or impose new wordings in order to kill the peace process. In 1996 during his first stint as Prime Minister, he changed the Madrid Conference formula from “land for peace” to “land for security” which inevitably destroyed the Oslo movement towards a comprehensive peace.

Today, Netanyahu is concocting all sorts of schemes to maintain the status quo for as long as possible and to preventing the Palestinians from seeking justice at international forums. All the following proposals are aimed at eliciting a rejection so as to blame someone other than Israel for the failure of the “talks”:

·         Besides, the Jewish State recognition demand, Netayahu wants to maintain a military presence in the Jordanian valley thus eliminating a border between Palestine and Jordan.
·         March 2, 2014. Israel: Stop nuclear Iran and we’ll agree to Palestinian state
·         March 23, 2014 Swap proposed over release of Palestinian prisoners and spy (Jonathan Pollard)  Israel’s yet another attempt to have the notorious Israeli spy released from an American prison.
·         Netanyahu earlier tried to tie the Wye River Agreement to the release of Jonathan Pollard in October, 1998.

The one proposal that will win over hearts and minds for peace is not even suggested by Netanyahu—freezing settlement activity. While Netanyahu does not want peace, he wants the peace talks to endlessly go on to no real end. This duplicity in political posturing has caught up with him as the world understands his witty proposals are not aimed at furthering peace but at perpetuating the Israeli hegemony over the Palestinian people and land.

After nine months of “talks” there is a complete perpetuation of everything negative about the occupation. Palestinians are positioned at this time with a stronger negotiating power. They should use this power effectively.

The “talks” can go on for another 6 months but only if the Palestinians extract certain conditions from the Israelis. Palestinians should demand the following in exchange for not pursuing unilateral diplomatic actions in international forums, such as taking Israel to the International Criminal Court:

  •         Demand that any further Palestinian deaths at the hands of Israeli soldiers be investigated by a trilateral Palestinian/Israeli/US tribunal.
  •          Demand that all Israeli settlement building activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem be frozen, including but not limited to “natural growth.”
  •          Release of additional Palestinian prisoners including Marwan Bargouti
  •          Demand that a joint tribunal of Israelis and Palestinians will investigate and prosecute those responsible for destroying the Palestinian olive trees.
  •          Demand that Israel arrests and tries Israeli settlers who commit crimes against Palestinians.

Should Israel not agree to these demands, Palestinians should walk away from the “talks”. There is no need to discuss anything with Israel while Palestinian rights, land and dignity are continually trampled upon.  

Should the Talks Collapse, Palestinians should then then employ the following (from my article Should the Talks Collapse—What Then?  

  •         Palestinians should demand that Fatah and Hamas reconcile.
  •          The Palestinian police should be ordered to take their guns and give them to the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoints. We need to be David using a rock against the military might of the Big Israeli Army.  We do not need the guns that are not effective against the Mighty Israel Army.  We should confront Israel with our stones from Mother Earth against the tanks and helicopter gunships.
  •          The Palestinian Authority should no longer accept money from donor nations.  We cannot afford to be bribed into complacency and to accept the status quo of a continued brutal military occupation.
  •        Palestinians should use their cameras, camcorders and cell phones to inundate Facebook, Twitter, blogs and all forms of social media with images of the atrocities of the Israeli army.
  •        Support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel
  •        Palestinians need to organize a coherent message of non-violence that needs to be shared by thousands on these social media outlets.  Throwing stones against the military occupier is within the international right of Palestinians to resist the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
  •        Palestinian youth need to understand the power of the land and use it against the military occupation forces.  This is not a call to arms but a call to repel the occupation. 

Additionally, Palestinians should do what the Israelis fear most—go directly to the International Criminal Court and hold Israeli officials accountable for its human rights abuses toward Palestinians.