There are no Palestine-Israel negotiations being held at the moment because Israeli preconditions kill them before they begin. The Palestinian side doesn't have any alternative to offer instead of negotiations, which means that the issue will remain in limbo unless there is a change in the balance of power on the ground.
The logical basis for negotiations has to be the importance of Israel's withdrawal from the land it has occupied since 1967 in return for the security demands it wants. However, Israel has switched from the issue of withdrawal to a plan to change borders, which will allow it to continue its occupation with new land in the West Bank.
A suggestion made by Israeli representative Yitzhak Molcho to the Palestinian Authority team in the recent Amman talks proposed the establishment of a Palestinian state on three conditions:
1. Jerusalem to remain under Israeli control;
2. Israeli control to cover the settlements built inside the West Bank; and
3. Israel to maintain a strong security presence in the Jordan Valley.
It's all about Israel, Israel, Israel, not the Palestinians. According to Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, these more or less mean that cutting large parts from the West Bank and taking away Jerusalem will leave "Palestine" as a non-contiguous series of cantons. He added that these principles mean the establishment of an apartheid system.
Haaretz newspaper offered an explanation for the Israeli position, saying that in the framework of a permanent settlement, the vast majority of Jewish settlers will remain in the West Bank and in Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty; this requires the annexation of the territories upon which settlements are built. In return, the Palestinians are sticking to the demand for Israeli withdrawal to the borders of June 1967.
Thus the argument revolves around two opposing positions: the Palestinians emphasise the principle of Israeli withdrawal, while the Israelis push for a change in the border. And Israel frames this within the context of its own "security".
Talks have taken place before on the basis of withdrawal and on the basis of land exchange, but now Israel is looking to expansion and annexation as the solution which suits itself best. It will ensure its control over the whole West Bank; a military presence in the Jordan Valley will require a series of roads connecting the "military zones" with Israel, passing through the West Bank and, of course, also under Israeli control. These preconditions, which are rejected by the Palestinians, mean that the occupation of the West Bank will continue, and that withdrawal is not on the negotiating table in a manner conducive to any meaningful discussion. Hence, negotiations will grind to an inevitable halt, especially after President Mahmoud Abbas announced after the Amman meetings that the borders of June 4th, 1967, are the basis for a return to negotiations.
This begs the question: what will happen after negotiations come to that halt? Logic suggests that the Palestinians need to exert pressure on Israel in order to bring about a change in its position, but the only way to exercise such pressure is armed resistance against the occupation and colonisation of Palestine. However, the Palestinian leadership has declared officially that it does not want to return to the use of arms, and no one has as yet come up with a practical alternative.
Israel created a fundamental change in its position when it leapt from withdrawal to annexation, while the Palestinian position remained the same; the latter is an invitation to negotiate, along with the official refusal to resort to armed resistance. So there will be a stalemate until Israel feels that it has something to gain by going back to negotiations and ready to compromise. The Israelis need to be pushed in this direction; if not, they will stay in their comfort zone, and the occupation and colonisation – and the repression of the Palestinians that goes with them – will continue.
This requires the Palestinian Authority (if it still exists in a practical sense) and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation to look at the logical alternatives, namely various means of popular, political and armed resistance. It may be necessary at some stage to focus on armed resistance, especially when Israel refuses to listen to peaceful dialogue. Whatever means is chosen, the Palestinians need the support of their Arab neighbours; it is time to return to Arab, rather than solely Palestinian initiatives. Limiting the opposition to Palestinians alone guarantees Israeli superiority from the first moment; there can't be a change in the balance of power unless and until we get back to an Arab-Israel conflict, which was its point of origin.
The Palestinian strategy of negotiations and nothing but negotiations is entirely acceptable to Israel, so it must be re-examined if a new political climate is to develop. America's unstinting support of Israel must be countered as much as possible by Arab backing for the Palestinians. This, however, can only slot into place if there is a fundamental shift by the Palestinians.
Middle East Newspaper
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