Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Palestinian-Israeli negotiations are impossible | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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At present, there are no Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, as the conditions laid down by Israel would render them doomed to failure before they even start. Yet the Palestinian side has no alternative plan to the negotiation theme, which means that the issue will remain pending and frozen unless some change happens on the ground and alters the balance of power.

The logical principle of negotiation necessitates that Israel must withdraw [from the Palestinian territories] in return for its security demands being met. This means that Israel must agree to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967 in return for certain measures it deems necessary for its security. However, Israel has now leapt from the issue of withdrawal to that of changing the border lines, which would mean the continual occupation of new territories in the West Bank.

In the last Israeli offer made to the Palestinian delegation during the Amman meeting, Yitzhak Molko proposed that a Palestinian state be established under three conditions: Firstly, that Jerusalem remains under Israeli control, secondly that Israel’s control extends to the settlements it has built in the West Bank, and thirdly, that the Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley is preserved.

Practically speaking, according to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Member Yasser Abd Raboh, such conditions mean annexing large areas of the West Bank and Jerusalem, and transforming the West Bank into a series of isolated cantons, the objective of these principles being to establish an Apartheid system.

Haartez newspaper offered an explanation of the Israeli stance saying that in the framework of permanent settlement, the vast majority of Jewish settlers will want to remain in the West Bank and Jerusalem, under Israeli sovereignty, meaning that the land where settlements have been built should be annexed to Israel. On the other side, the Palestinian stance upholds the necessity of an Israeli withdrawal to the 4th June 1967 border line.

The crux of these two contradictory stances is that the Palestinian side maintains the principle of Israeli withdrawal, whereas the Israeli stance emphasizes the necessity of changing the border line, a demand which Israel insists is a prerequisite for its security.

In all previous rounds, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations relied on the principle of withdrawal, and then a land swap. Now, however, Israel is looking at expansions and annexations in a manner that ensures its domination of the West Bank. This is to say that when Israel puts forward a demand to maintain its control over the Jordan Valley, this would necessarily entail the construction of roads between Israel and the Jordan Valley, passing through the West Bank, a route which would be under Israeli control. Such Israeli conditions, of course rejected by the Palestinian side, would mean that its occupation of the West Bank would continue, and that discussions over a withdrawal would be fruitless. Hence, negotiations will be doomed to fail, particularly after President Mahmoud Abbas announced following the recent negotiations in Amman that the 1967 border will be the base for any future negotiations.

The question to be raised here is: What happens now, after these negotiations have stopped?

The political logic says that it is a necessity for the Palestinians to mount pressure on Israel so as to prompt it to change its attitude, and that the only way for this pressure to happen is through armed resistance towards the Israel occupation. And yet, the Palestinian leadership has announced officially that there will be no return to arms. Hence no one knows how progress can then be made.

Israel made a dramatic change in its political stance by bypassing the withdrawal issue and focusing instead on annexation, whereas the Palestinians continue to call for negotiations and officially declare their rejection of armed resistance against the occupation. This, however, means that issues will remain stagnant until the Israeli side is compelled to return to negotiations. Unless this happens, the Israeli side will remain at ease and the occupation will continue, with deadlocked negotiations and no further pressure being mounted.

This situation requires both the Palestinian Authority (if it still exists) and the PLO to search for logical alternatives, most notably resisting occupation whether in a popular fashion, politically or militarily. In a certain stage in the future, a focus on armed and military resistance will be necessary and pressing, particularly when Israel covers its ears to anything else.

The history of conflict with Israel is not absent from the mind, and Israel is not ready to present any concessions unless it is forced to do so. If the Palestinians adopt this endeavor and consider armed resistance, they will find themselves in a position where they need to discuss this in the wider Arab sphere. This is because an armed Palestinian act against the occupation will need to be fostered by neighboring states, and perhaps will also require more comprehensive protection from the Arab League. Essentially, this means that we cannot be content with Palestine acting alone; Palestinian-Arab cooperation must be considered. Yet the Palestinians seem intent on doing things by themselves, and this cannot continue.

In fact, confining the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to the Palestinians alone grants superiority to Israel from the very first moment, and no change is likely to take place in the balance of power unless the conflict returns to the original point from where it started; an Arab-Israeli conflict. This requires both the Palestinian Authority and the PLO to emphasize such an approach once again, otherwise their endeavors will reduce day by day.

The negotiation only approach has not been met with an acceptable response from Israel. Rather, this theory has encouraged the Israelis to feel comfortable, and so it must be reconsidered in order to develop a new political climate in the region.

We must not forget the reality of the American sponsorship for the Israeli stance, a reality which the Palestinians cannot confront without Arab support and an Arab diplomatic movement. Yet, such an Arab stance is not possible unless the Palestinians move towards a new political position and then demand others to act likewise.