What has been disclosed regarding the peace talks so far does not give us hope, and this latest effort can already be judged to be an immense failure for the simple reason that it will not achieve the minimum essential requirements of a just and lasting peace, embodied by the inalienable right of the Palestinian refugees to return to the villages and towns they were ethnically cleansed from in 1948.
In order to be objective, I would like to refer to what has been disclosed so far. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said on 1/8/2013 that US Secretary of State John Kerry made "written guarantees" separately to both the Palestinian and Israeli sides relating to the issues of borders and refugees, in which he pledged to the Palestinian side that the border will be conducted on the basis of the 1967 lines with land swaps, and that his commitment to the Israeli party on refugees included a US statement that "Israel is a Jewish state and that the United States' position is that the Palestinian refugees return to a future Palestinian state."
Mr. Kerry also said at a press conference in Washington announcing the start of negotiations: "The parties have agreed that all of the final status issues, all of the core issues, and all other issues are all on the table for negotiation. And they are on the table with one simple goal: a view to ending the conflict, ending the claims. Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months. The parties also agreed that the two sides will keep the content of the negotiations confidential."
Furthermore, he announced that the US envoy for the talks is Martin Indyk, the self-confessed Zionist who is hostile to the rights of the Palestinian people, and especially the right of return of the refugees back home. Indyk played a major role in the failure of peace talks at Camp David in 2000, accusing the late Palestinian leader Arafat and the Palestinians of being responsible for its failure and rejecting to accept "Barak's generous offer," which Barak had refused to put it in writing, let alone it being generous.
Haaretz also revealed on 1/8/2013 that Prime Minister Netanyahu said during a meeting to evaluate the negotiations that "if the issue of the Palestinian refugees has been solved within the borders of the future Palestinian state and everyone agrees on the issue of compensation, the majority of the other issues can be agreed upon within a few days."
Moreover, it was revealed that talks were taking place between a US security team led by Gen. John Allen and an Israeli security team on Israel's security arrangements accompanying any future political solution. A Palestinian official concerned by these talks was quoted by Al-Hayat Arabic newspaper on 11/8/2013, as saying, "The US security team has been working in the country for more than two months on drawing the map of the Israeli security interests to be present at the Palestinian – Israeli negotiating table under US-sponsorship…What is worrying for us is that these talks are taking place regarding what is relating to us and without our participation," he said. "The big problem is that Israel wants to draw its borders according to its security needs, but these needs are artificial aimed to steal more land, the American side should have asked us for our participation in these talks because we are part of the process. We are concerned with Israel's intentions. The Israelis presented at the earlier exploratory negotiations 21 negotiation points for demarcation of the border based on Israel's security, and the result was that Israel is demanding continued occupation in the Jordan Valley, and the settlement blocs and East Jerusalem, which is equal to more than 40 percent of the West Bank."
If the United States' stance indicates anything, whether in this security negotiation, the "letters of guarantees," its choice of an ideologue Zionist as its representative in the negotiations and other such conspicuous bias, it shows, notwithstanding all the ridiculous justifications it provides, that no evolution has taken place in its policy, it did not learn anything from its experience and history, and has become, because of internal factors and the enormous influence of the monstrous Israel lobby, incapable of playing an impartial role to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict and achieve a just and lasting peace, and the desired security and stability in the Middle East. As is evident, what the US is trying to achieve is not solving the Palestinian question and peace, but saving Israel from the impasse it is in internationally, gaining it more time, and trying to implicate Abu Mazen and the Palestinian negotiators, as it tried with the late Arafat at the notorious Camp David.
Every time an Israeli government is in trouble, rather than reconsider and redevelop its policy, it resorts to utilizing its US agent to save it from its predicament through the game of negotiations as a means to: stop the advancement of the political achievements of the Palestinian people on the international level; exhaust the Palestinians in meaningless and endless negotiations, like the curse of Sisyphus, who was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a rock up a mountain, only to see it roll down again and start all over again; deceive the international community by giving the impression that it is working for peace; and gain more time to fortify its expansionist colonial project.
The Israeli government's decision to conduct a referendum on what will come out of the negotiations is a new acrobatic invention of the Zionist mind to give the extremist racists who are benefitting from the occupation, the final decision in what they accept to return to their victims, and to use them to blackmail the Palestinians. Since when was the withdrawal from territories occupied by war and aggression subject to a referendum by the occupiers? And when was the recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and their right to return to their homes and their properties and to live in their homeland, from which they were ethnically cleansed, subject to a referendum by the culprit? And is complying with international laws and UN resolutions subject to the mood and referendums of a colonial invading people brought up on hatred, racism and aggression, and who are benefactors of the occupation and theft of the properties of their victims? And why did Israel not conduct a referendum to withdraw from occupied Sinai?
Palestinian refugees represent the core of the Palestinian question. The right of return is an inalienable human right, it is their right to return not to Gaza or Ramallah, but to their towns, villages and properties from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948, when Zionists occupied the largest part of Palestine while ensuring the minimum number of Palestinians in order to make the Jewish minority a majority and to establish a Jewish state in the Palestinians' homeland and on their ruins.
Accordingly, the right of Palestinian refugees to return is not subject to negotiations nor referendums by the culprit, it is not a favor given to them. It is a legitimate right guaranteed to them by international law, the norms of human rights and UN Resolutions, including Resolution No. 194, and they alone have the right to choose between return and compensation. If this is not resolved to the satisfaction of the refugees themselves, nothing is resolved even if a hundred agreements claiming peace were signed.
The right of return is a key pillar of the Palestinian consensus that the Palestinian people are united around, they launched the armed revolution in 1965, and established the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to achieve it, prior to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.
What is required of any negotiations aimed to achieve a just and lasting peace is to deal with the root cause of violence and conflict, to put the right of return into action and lay out a mechanism to implement it within a program and a specific timeframe, for it to be carried out in a smooth and orderly way.
While the policy of deception is an integral part of the politics and culture of Zionism, the irony is that the Zionist leaders did not only succeed in deceiving some of the people of the world, but due to the magnitude of their lies and repetition, they also believed their lies themselves and became with most Jews of the world the main victims of their own deception. But the problem does not lie in Israel, its nature, the wishes of its leaders and their hallucination, but in the US which adopts these hallucinations and trys through pressure, intimidation, carrots and stick to coerce the Palestinian side, employing its latest political acrobatic inventions to achieve that.
Israeli leaders have deluded themselves through their policies of aggression, expansion, stealing of Palestinian land, creation of facts on the ground, playing with time and imposing a fait accompli on the one hand, and on the other the policy of ethnic cleansing, racial discrimination, oppression, collective punishment, siege, economic strangulation and impoverishment of the Palestinian people, and through forgery, deception, pressure and intimidation, that they can exhaust the Palestinian people, blackmail them and force them to relinquish their right of return, in exchange for Israel halting its violations and crimes and allowing them to establish, a mini-state on part of their territory occupied since 1967.
They also believe the international community should even reward Israel, and that the Arabs and Muslim countries normalize their relations with it and bear the responsibility to employ their armies and security agencies to protect Israel and suppress any criticism or anti-Israeli activity, even if it were just a newspaper article, under the claim of anti-Semitism, spreading hatred and incitement against Israel and the "spirit of peace".
Israel together with the International Zionist Organization are also trying to claim the Arab Jews, whom they did everything to uproot and transfer to Israel, to the extent of sending Mossad agents to throw bombs into their synagogues and cafes and to distribute anti-Semitic leaflets, as they did in the well documented case against the Jews in Iraq, and launching international campaigns against other countries, such as Syria and the Soviet Union, to force them to allow their Jewish citizens to leave, are refugees! And should not have the right of return to their original homeland, but to be compensated and exchanged with the Palestinians!! As if the Zionist objective was to encourage Jews to stay in their homelands. Of course the international community and the UN does not recognize this Zionist lunacy and forgery.
But as the Arab proverb says "the calculation of the palace does not match the calculation of the threshing floor." The calculations of Israel and America and their followers are not as the Palestinians whom are adhering to their right to return, self-determination and existence in their homeland, supported by millions of Arabs, Muslims, and justice and freedom loving people around the world. They will never give up their inalienable human right to return no matter how long it will take and whatever the sacrifices and the price, and anyone who thinks otherwise is simply deluding themselves.
Palestine's history is full of struggle against dozens of colonial invasions for thousands of years, from the Hebrews, the Greeks and Romans to the Crusaders, the British and the current Zionists. They have proven to the world after 65 years of ethnic cleansing from their homeland and the stealing of their possessions, and after the suffering of the pain of homelessness, and more than a million killed, maimed and wounded, that they and their generations are clinging to their legitimate rights now more than ever. If you ask a child in any refugee camp in the West Bank and Gaza and in the countries of the diaspora, where are you from, they will tell you they are from Haifa, Jaffa, Acre or Safed. These are the people whose generations compete one after the other in their struggle for justice and liberty, like the legendary Phoenix bird, rising from the ashes to shake the throne of the tyrants and colonial racist occupiers, to achieve their rights, dignity and freedom.
The strange absurdity in all this is that the Americans and Israelis who claim wisdom and intelligence, after all these years of conflict and wars, seem not to have learnt anything about the Palestinians.
Why should the Palestinians give away their sacred right of return after all these years of struggle, patience and suffering? In fact, their situation is better now than it ever was; they are marching forward on all levels, whether in recognition of their rights or in the international support they enjoy or in the increase of their population, strength and progress.
In contrast, Israel is in trouble, despite its attempts to cover up on the great dilemma it faces. It knows with certainty that the wheels of history are moving towards the end of its colonial apartheid project as a Zionist Jewish state claiming democracy. Israel has to choose one of three options. It has either to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people and live with them in one state, from the Mediterranean sea to the Jordan river, within a democratic system giving equal rights and duties to all its citizens (a la South Africa, USA, Australia …etc.), which is the most favorable solution because it will solve all the problems and difficulties the Palestinians and Israelis are facing, whether the question of return, the settlements and settlers who can stay where they are, or Jerusalem, which will be the capital for all. Or the establishment of a confederation between two states, Palestine and Israel (a la the European Union), with open borders, movement and the right to live for both their citizens, in two parliamentary systems, giving the right to Israelis and Palestinians in both countries to elect their parliamentary representatives. Or the third option in which racial discrimination will become more apparent to the world and increase its international isolation and sanction, and follow in the footsteps of the vanquished apartheid regime in South Africa,.
It is time for the United States and Israeli leaders to deal with reality and put an end to the fantasy and deceiving themselves and their people about the possibility of circumventing the core of the conflict, the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their towns and villages and the delusion of achieving peace without the recognition of this inalienable fundamental right. They need to use their talent, intelligence and energies in a positive creative way, if Jews really want to live in the region in peace and security, equal with other people of the region. Peace is achieved only with justice, by addressing the root cause of the conflict.
What Netanyahu needs to say is that an agreement could be reached within days if he and his like were to abandon their racism and recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian refugees to return to their towns and be compensated, and to apologize for the crimes they have commented against them.
Israel's claims that the return of Palestinian refugees to their towns is the destruction of Israel, is in fact only the destruction of the racist system represented by its Zionist ideology, similar to the destruction of the apartheid system in South Africa, and not the destruction of Jews as its deceptive rhetoric suggests. Historic Palestine is big enough to accommodate both people.
The Palestinian leadership need to be prepared and to prepare the Palestinian people for the next day after the failure of the negotiations.
Ali Kazak, Former Palestinian ambassador, born in Haifa and a refugee from ten months of age.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.