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Resuming negotiations at any price

Looking back at the year since Israel’s assault on Gaza it is clear that despite everything, and against all the odds, the resistance of the Palestinians can be viewed as a victory against the Zionists’ aggression. In fact, Israel’s inability to smash Hamas militarily was most certainly a loss of face if nothing else, and the occupation state has faced political and media losses as well. The year 2009 ended with the Obama–Mitchell “peace efforts” in the doldrums after they couldn’t even get the Israelis to agree to stop building their illegal colonies in the West Bank; those who looked to the new US president to realise a “final status, two-state solution” must also think again. This includes the Palestinian president – his mandate has ended, so should we still call him that? – Mahmoud Abbas.

The failure, yet again, of the negotiations strategy actually serves to highlight the resistance and its strategy as, arguably, a more effective way to keep the rights of the Palestinians alive. Such resistance is not, of course, acceptable to the US, Europe, Russia or even the Arab states who have banked on the negotiations and an acceptance of the Israeli colonisation of Palestine, a policy that has failed miserably. The Palestinians’ right to return to their land, their right to self-determination, even their right to resist the military occupation of their land, have all been sidetracked by the negotiation route, which has led to nowhere in particular, and certainly not towards peace.


Ever since the days of the British Mandate over Palestine, in order to establish the Zionist state of Israel with its aggressively expansionist aims it has been regarded as essential to convince Palestinians and the Arab states to accept the “facts on the ground”, even as they change by the hour. One step at a time, this tactic has worked by dangling the “carrot” of hope before a desperate people, while maintaining the “stick” of a massive military machine just in case; and that stick has been used to suppress a civilian population on many occasions, leaving a trail of evidence in its wake pointing to the commission of war crimes. Does that matter to the Western backers of Israel? Not a bit. Hardly a year goes by without some “peace initiative” or another international resolution to keep the hopes and dreams of the Palestinians alive; and while the negotiators have talked – and only talked – the Israelis have kept on taking more and more land with their illegal colony-settlements, the immoral Wall and settler-only roads across the West Bank. Then these initiatives are quietly packed away and redrafted to take the new facts on the ground into account and another “new” initiative is wheeled out for the negotiators to talk about; until the next time, and so on.

First we had UN partition plan resolution 181 in 1947; then the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from the land allocated to them by the UN; then resolution 194 calling for the return of the refugees and other resolutions calling for a return to the borders proposed by the partition plan. Meanwhile, the Israelis were strengthening their position, displacing more Palestinians and taking in immigrant Jews from around the world. With its act of war in 1967 – planned by its politicians and military since 1956 – Israel faced UN resolution 242 calling for it to withdraw to the armistice lines of pre-June 1967, although the UN’s ambiguity about the territory involved and the refugees meant more obfuscation. UN resolutions kept Palestinian expectations high for a political settlement but they were to be disappointed.

Next came the call to stop all Palestinians resistance to the occupation of their land and drop the Nasserite doctrine of “what is taken by force can only be restored by force”. This was cemented by the Camp David accords and the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. Then came Madrid, Oslo, “the road map” and other initiatives, all failures. Meanwhile… you guessed it; the Israelis kept on building and taking more and more Palestinian land. The Obama-Mitchell plan saw the Palestinian Authority dropping claims to 78% of historic Palestine, dropping the refugees’ right of return, “negotiating” over the status of Jerusalem (which we know is being “Judaized” to an enormous degree by a ring of giant colony-settlements), the Jordan Valley (virtually annexed by the Israelis as “nature reserves” or “military zones”) and more than half of the West Bank. Oh, and the Palestinians must recognise the right of the state of Israel to be a Jewish state, asking them to give legitimacy to the entity that has raped them and their land. This was so bad that even Abbas announced his disappointment with the Obama administration and said he would not stand for re-election.

Despite all the evidence that negotiations have, over many years, failed spectacularly to offer Palestinians anything more than hope and plenty of false dawns, the so-called Quartet of the US, Europe, Russia and the UN are standing stubbornly by their illegitimate child. Working with the right-wing Netanyahu government in Tel Aviv yet another initiative/carrot is prepared to be dangled before an increasingly sceptical Palestinian public. Instead of acknowledging the failure of the strategy to-date, and working towards genuine solutions that include the concept of justice, this discredited Quartet and its Israeli conductor look set to fiddle away while the Palestinians’ hopes burn. And who is likely to benefit from that? Not the Palestinians, that’s for sure.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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