Since 1967, the Americans have embarked on thousands of rounds of negotiations in the Arab and Islamic world with the hopes of finding a solution for the Palestinian issue and they have not succeeded.
Recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry approached the negotiations with high spirits and is insisting on finding a new framework that would be agreed upon by both the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority. According to Kerry, this new framework will be the new horizon that is needed for reaching a final settlement. While Kerry has not been successful until now, it appears as though he has succeeded in overcoming several obstacles, paving the way for a new agreement that greatly reassembles Oslo.
America’s history in the Middle East:
American intervention in the Palestinian issue began in the late 19th century when the American ambassador in Constantinople placed pressure on high-ranking officials to allocate Palestinian agricultural land to Jews. American arrogance continued with US President Harry Truman, who supported the British in their Judaisation of Palestine and encouraged hundreds of thousands of Jews to immigrate to Palestine from around the world.
Initially, France took on the role of supporting Israel after its establishment; however, the Americans later took over the role after the June 1967 war by providing Israel with a myriad of economic, military and diplomatic support, which of course came at the expense of Palestinians and Arabs.
America enabled Israel by saving it from Arab hands and preventing it from facing military defeat on the battlefield. Palestinians did not receive any benefits from America as the Palestinian situation continued to deteriorate with every US intervention.
With time it became clearer that the Americans were not involved to pass good judgement or be mediators in this situation, they were merely concerned with the American part of the equation.
The Americans are the enemy of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims and they possess a severe bias in favour of Israel and its interests. Because of this, Palestine has continued to shrink over time and with the decrease in land comes an even weaker possibility for finding a solution that would please all Palestinians.
The American administration did provide some monetary assistance to the Palestinian Authority. These funds however came with a certain number of preconditions and were only given after the Palestinians made even more concessions. Never has this aid been given to the Palestinians with the intention of enabling them to confront challenges.
Palestine according to Kerry:
Palestine was annexed from the greater Levant as a result of the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916. It was later recognised as a mandate by the League of Nations in 1922. It was in this way that the Levant (greater Syria) and its people were reduced to a number of mandates, leaving the Palestinian people to face their fate alone far from other Levantine populations in Jordan, Lebanon and modern day Syria. Thus, Palestinians were given 44 per cent of the Mandate of Palestine (according to British colonial demarcation) leaving the Jews with approximately 53 per cent of the original land despite the fact that they composed less than 25 per cent of the population in 1947.
Palestine was further reduced to less than 23 per cent of the original land after the 1948 war, in which the Arab armies met their defeat. The United Nations did not bat an eyelid or lift a single finger in Palestine’s defence. Palestine shrank by 1.5 per cent after the Jordanian monarch gave up part of the Israeli Triangle as part of an armistice agreement, allowing Israel to expand its narrow waist. Palestinian territory was further reduced after Israel took control of a neutral zone between Palestine and the Sinai Peninsula and subsequently expelling its Bedouin population.
The Palestinians willingly made the biggest compromise of all during the 1993 Oslo Accords. The Palestinians not only actively reduced Palestine’s land area but they also confined it completely within the occupied 1967 territories. They began to use terms such as Palestinian Territories or the West Bank and Gaza to refer to Palestine according to 1967 borders and by doing so they willingly acknowledged that Palestinians no longer occupy part of the land.
What Kerry is asking the Palestinians to do now is far worse than oppression. He is asking Palestinians and Arabs to recognise the Jewishness of the state, that is to recognise that Palestine is Jewish or at least the parts that are now referred to as Israel. By agreeing to Kerry’s demands, Palestinians and Arabs would be acknowledging that there are no Islamic or Christian monuments and Holy Sites in Israel, which would provide Israel with the perfect opportunity to demolish Al- Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock and the Church of Resurrection under a legal international cover. Furthermore, this acknowledgement paves the way for Israel to expel Palestinians who have remained steadfast on their land in the occupied territories since 1948 and eliminates the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Kerry is also looking toward to annexing the Jordan Valley, which constitutes nearly one-third of the West Bank at approximately 2,000 square kilometres. He is also working towards annexing approximately 80 per cent of the landmass with Israeli settlements and is attempting to do so under a legal cover.
Under his new framework, Kerry is not only infringing on the land but he is also infringing on the Palestinian people’s right to exist. He is not satisfied with changing the political identity of the land by deeming it Jewish, but is also looking to erase the Palestinian identity by allowing other identities to eliminate Palestinian rights, authenticity, history and nationalism.
Kerry aims to do what Israel, western countries and Arab regimes failed to do after Israel’s establishment.
Israeli and Palestinian security:
In all of its interventions, America has consistently given Israeli security priority over all other issues and it has insisted that Arab countries adhere to Israel’s security requirements unless they wish to lose American aid and anger the United States. In light of this, we have witnessed Arab armies defend Israeli security instead of guarding their own countries’ borders. For example, the Jordanian army actively patrols Israel’s eastern border despite the fact that they were defeated in the 1967 war, forcing them to relinquish the West Bank to Israeli control. As for the Egyptian army, it has willingly accepted for Sinai to remain outside of Egyptian sovereignty, succumbing to Israeli demands that Egypt is not allowed to be militarily involved in the peninsula. Thus, the Egyptian army continues to seek Israel’s permission to enter Sinai for military purposes, as is currently the case.
In all its discussions with the Palestinians, the US insists on incorporating the Palestinians in its efforts to protect and defend Israeli security and the Palestinians have not failed to do so. As the president of the Palestinian Authority recently stated, the Palestinian security sector currently works towards ensuring Israeli security.
Who is the aggressor? Israel is the aggressor. The United States has consistently stayed by its side by offering it all kinds of support. It is the Palestinian people who are in need of protection from Israeli aggression and not vice versa.
Despite this, no one speaks on the behalf of Palestinian security, including the Palestinian and Arab leadership. It is now commonly accepted that there is no such thing as Palestinian security. Any semblance of Palestinian security can only be achieved through their defence of Israeli security, i.e. after the Palestinians surrender all their rights to Israel, proving that security is a privilege for those who have rights only.
Furthermore, Kerry’s plan not only seeks to ensure the Palestinian Authority continues with its duties ensuring Israeli security, but it also seeks to control freedom of expression, movement and the right to assembly. Thus, it will become the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility to put limits on freedom of expression and to consider those who speak out against Israel as insurgents who should be put on trial. These limitations will prohibit weekly sit-ins (held on Fridays) against the wall and protests for the freedom of Palestinian prisoners, which goes hand in hand with what was previously mentioned in terms of eliminating Palestinian rights and continuing the Judaisation of the land.
The right of return:
Although western countries continuously talk about the importance of ensuring basic human rights under authoritarian regimes, none of these countries recognise the Palestinian right of return. These countries always defend the right of refugees to return to their home but they rarely defend the rights of Palestinian refugees. Perhaps they believe Palestinians are neither refugees nor humans.
The right of return was discussed in UN Resolution 242, a resolution passed by the UN Security Council, without giving reference to who the refugees are. At the time, Israel interpreted this resolution as applicable to Arab Jews who chose to emigrate from their homes in Arab countries to Israel. This has emerged once again during Kerry’s negotiations as Israel has demanded Arab Jews, who immigrated to Israel, be compensated for leaving their homes or that Palestinians be transferred to occupy the areas that Jews left as a just form of reparation.
Kerry is not asking for a mutual right of return by suggesting Arab Jews go back to their countries of origin and relinquish their belongings to Palestinian returnees. Why is he not proposing a solution in which a right of return is exchanged for a right of return instead compensation in exchange for compensation?
It seems as though Kerry not only wants to filter the Palestinian cause, but he also wants to erase the Palestinian people completely. It’s possible that the Americans are familiar with the Arab proverb, “He who loses his right goes looking for it.”
Israeli stability cannot be achieved without completely ignoring the Palestinians and transferring them to different parts of the globe thus confirming Israel is a Jewish state.
Where are the Palestinians and the Arabs?
The Americans are not looking for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue; they are looking to solve an issue of land and to erase a people. The bigger issue is that there does not appear to be a single Arab or Palestinian who is willing to say no to Kerry and put things in fair perspective. No one has taken on the responsibility of informing the people what Kerry’s ideas truly are. Thus, the Palestinians and Arabs are leaving people in the dark and paving the way for Israel and America to control the media and announce the news as they please.
We have yet to see or hear a single Palestinian negotiator call for the right of return or defend Palestinian security. All we have heard or seen thus far are unclear statements, which are lacking in valid information, made to the media. It is quite evident that the Palestinian leadership and Arab regimes are complicit to American demands and that political behaviour will not change in any way. Arab parties will continue to make more concessions and the Palestinian people will continue to pay the price.
The only solution is for the Palestinian people to start defending themselves. The Palestinian leadership has crossed many lines and taboos. Unfortunately it is no longer sufficient for the Palestinians to remain patient after they have suffered so many hardships. The only solution for them now is to yield their swords anew if they want their rights to be respected.
The author is a professor of politics at An-Najah University in Palestine. This article is a translation of the Arabic text which appeared on Al Jazeera on 28 February, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.