Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Labyrinth of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Palestinian-Israeli negotiations have entered the labyrinthine stage: everybody is present and moving forward, but the paths within the labyrinth do not intersect.

The Palestinians say they want nothing but negotiations, yet these negotiations either stumble or end in vain. For the Israelis, they also say they want nothing but negotiations, which for them means the seizure of more Palestinian land. [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu expressed this extremely skilfully when speaking of “safe” borders, ignoring the term “withdrawal”, and instead focusing on borders that “guarantee security” for Israel.

Such a negotiating reality cannot change unless the different parties, particularly the Palestinian side, resort to new pressure tactics. It is common now that the word “negotiation” is interpreted to mean nothing more than a meeting to exchange opinions and proposals, whilst everyone – including even school children – are aware that negotiations cannot take place without pressure being mounted on the occupying party to prompt it to withdraw [its occupation]. Israel is mounting pressure by persisting with its occupation, whereas the Palestinians are retreating from pressure to rhetoric by saying that there will be no return to violence, which means that there will be no return to the “resistance” approach against the Israeli occupation. Whilst it is true that the concept of public resistance has been highlighted recently, this idea is one that the Israeli occupation is comfortable with, as it has become accustomed to handling such resistance either by ignoring it or through traditional popular suppression.

Throughout history, negotiations between two parties that confronted one another with arms means translating the balance of power into a reality. Yet when the Palestinian resistance’s pressure on the [Israeli] occupation is absent, the occupation becomes the predominant force and feels as if it is able to persist [with the occupation] so long as it can easily deal with or contain the pressure it is facing.

The negotiating reality today is based upon three axes:

The first axis is that the Palestinian leadership is rejecting the principle of armed resistance, and is seeking to create a situation whereby the occupation force does not feel that it is paying the price for its occupation.

The second axis is that the Palestinians are solely confronting Israel with diplomacy, and this is a situation that allows the Israelis to feel comfortable. The situation is not explosive on a regional level, nor is there any tension on the international level; therefore the conflict will continue to be the subject of this tug-of-war until a change occurs. However a change such as this is not expected in the foreseeable future.

The third axis is that the US is persisting with its support of Israel, and is even intensifying this support, which has allowed Israel to feel completely at ease, and continue its occupation with considerable international support. Perhaps one of the most prominent new manifestations of the American support of Israel is the US insistence that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict not be deliberated on by international institutions, such as the UN Security Council. Indeed the US officially announced that it would not offer aid to the Palestinians if they insisted on putting forward their cause in international institutions. This US stance is the first of its kind to be expressed in such a crude manner in the history of US involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

We must recall how the US rushed to deny President Mahmoud Abbas access to the UN Security Council chamber to deliver a speech in the name of Palestine, forcing him to deliver this speech at the Security Council’s door, rather than inside, saying that only UN member states are allowed access to the UN Security Council chamber, and Palestine is not a state. The US is covering up its illogical stance by continuing to call for both parties to return to direct negotiations, although everybody knows that direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis – without international support to the principles of the negotiation (namely that the withdrawal of the occupation forces is necessary) and without overt and direct Arab support of the Palestinian position – will only produce results in Israel’s interests. These results will not reach the level of approving the principle of an Israeli withdrawal from lands that it occupied by force, as expressed in the texts of international decrees.

In light of these realities, we must draw logical conclusions; most prominently that independent Palestinian diplomacy has reached a glass ceiling; and this will not change unless there is joint and direct Arab support for the Palestinian position.

This, however, necessitates that the Palestinians abandon the idea of independent Palestinian operation and take the initiative to carry out intense contacts with all Arab states with the aim of drawing up comprehensive joint-Arab plans to be put forward to the UN in a manner that puts pressure on the US and Israel. Unless this is achieved, the on-going US pressure will yield a bitter harvest and result in the US – Israeli view of [Israeli] settlements to be taken for granted.

Unilateral Palestinian diplomacy is no longer capable of passing through the US – Israeli barrier; whilst Arab diplomacy is no longer capable of achieving anything for the Palestinians unless the ceiling of Palestinian demands is raised.

We must go to the UN Security Council and General Assembly with an Arab project, not a Palestinian one. This would allow the international community to feel as if there were a requirement to take action to defuse the tension in the Arab region.

Let us now take a short pause to contemplate a principle: whenever a foreign occupation of a nation’s soil takes place, all international laws give this nation the right to resist by all possible means, most prominently the use of arms. Unfortunately, the reality on the ground in Palestine is that armed resistance is rejected and emphasis is placed on popular resistance, which is not effective at this time.

The popular resistance to the Israeli occupation is directed against Israel; however it has been made apparent that this occupation enjoys US protection. Therefore, pressure must be exerted against the US so that it stops this illegal protection, which represents an awesome task that the Palestinians cannot carry out alone. Sound logic dictates that there must be a Palestinian work plan in this regard, which the Palestinians should firstly put forward to the Arabs to ensure that this has their full backing, and then this issue should be put forward to the UN as a joint Arab – Palestinian project.

The popular resistance to any occupation will eventually result in armed resistance, and it is high time that the new Palestinian leadership became aware of this, so that the situation between the occupiers and the people being occupied can reach its logical conclusion.