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Negotiations continue as international law is suspended

Negotiations between Israel and the Arabs have continued to go back and forth since Camp David. All of these experiences of the past few decades, such as the Madrid conference and others have proven to be useless. The main complication lies in the inconsistent negotiations that have taken place between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Many questions have been raised regarding what the potential solutions are that can come out of these talks which can also fit the minimum framework of international law.

I am not convinced of the argument that international law is unable to function as a practical framework or foundation on which a suitable solution can be built, and on more than one level, for that matter. If we do not wish to return to the language of violence, we must reconsider whether or not we can consider international law as a suitable platform for finding a solution, achieving peace and dealing with the consequences.

We cannot overlook the fact that international politics hinders the application of international law, even if these politics are partial to or relevant to international law at large. Many have pointed out or suggested that the solution to the Arab-Israel conflict lies specifically with recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. However, this recognition would entail disregard for a number of provisions within the domain of international law.

What does the Jewishness of Israel as a state imply? In addition to the fact that this claim naturally tests the feelings of Palestinian Christians and Muslims, especially those who are citizens of Israel, it also requires in-depth political and legal research that would be able to determine Israel’s intentions and plans for the future.

Is the intention behind calling Israel a Jewish state to demonstrate that it is a majority Jewish state or that it can be considered as the Zionist homeland for all Jews around the world? The claim that Israel is a Jewish state was rejected by the United States and by the principles of international law in 1964.

Both of the points of view I mentioned above have resulted in their own political and legal consequences, especially when it comes to the negotiations, which have been doomed to failure due to the first definition of Israel as a religiously Jewish state. As for the second definition of Israel as a Zionist homeland, what it truly implies is the need for Israel to expand beyond its current borders and to engulf and control surrounding countries, which would result in numerous consequences on its own.

What we cannot avoid asking, however, is how international rights revolve around and govern the definition of Palestinian rights. The most prominent of these rights is the right of return to the land, which embodies a natural and inevitable law within the domain of international law and the Palestinian issue specifically because it is the only way to ensure a fair, just and balanced solution.

The right of return has been sanctified by numerous UN resolutions that have been dedicated to the Palestinian issue. The right of return, although agreed upon universally as a foundational basis for achieving justice for the Palestinians, remains suspended without any actual implementation within the realm of international law. The right to Palestinian self-determination was also agreed upon in a number of international resolutions after it became clear that Palestinian refugees would not achieve equal rights in their host countries. Moreover, with the refugee question becoming a priority, it also became clear that Palestinian refugees had the right to return to their homeland and work on implementing their future in accordance with their free will.

Within this context, one of the main principles in international law as it relates to this issue has been focused on achieving a just and equal partition of historic Palestine so that the negotiations successfully lead to the formation of a free and viable state for the Palestinian people.

The legal status of Jerusalem, as it is defined under international law, rejects completely the Israeli claim that it is the “eternal and undivided capital” of the state. International law called initially for the equal division of Jerusalem as the Israeli and Palestinian capital; however, there have been many calls to internationalise Jerusalem as a demilitarised city under the authority of the United Nations.

These controversial topics are only a fraction of other major and more complex topics. We can no longer ignore the reality that the objective problem here does not lie in the lack of international political options but in the actual implementation of international resolutions in the name of peace. We should not continue to prolong matters until the status quo is normalised and accepted.

It is from this point that we question the Madrid framework for international legitimacy if we no longer see the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations as having any reference to this framework, especially concerning the following points. The terms agreed upon in Madrid serve as a reference for all of the following international resolutions:

– Resolution 181: the Palestine partition plan, which issued by the Security Council and was rejected by the Arabs for decades until they asked for it to be adopted partially into some resolutions as an attempt to give Palestinians a portion of their rights.

– Resolution 194: issued by the UN General Assembly to address the refugee issue, which is still considered to be the most important and crucial issue at the heart of the Palestinian cause.

– Resolutions 244 and 338: issued by the UN Security Council after the 1967 war and its subsequent changes on the ground.

– Resolutions 2649 and 2672: issued by the UN General Assembly confirming the Palestinian right to self-determination.

In addition, no solutions have been found for either the refugee or the settlement expansion issue. Furthermore, Israel’s refusal to withdraw from the occupied territories in addition to its insistence on stationing soldiers in Jordan are not only violations of international law but have also caused the inherent and continued failure of the peace talks. America has done very little to overcome these obstacles and tear down the wall.

The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has failed to find a solution in any of the steps that he proposed. This is not due to the fact that he does not personally possess the capability of doing so but that he and the US administration have a bias for ensuring that Israeli interests take priority. Thus, the American sponsorship of the negotiations has been nothing but a formality to date. This places the possibility of finding a settlement for the negotiations as well as other issues in a deadly downward spiral.

In this context, one must question whether the Palestinian determination to uphold the values of international law is still feasible.

In reality, Palestinian adherence to international law can only achieve concrete results if the negotiations are successful and if their demands are met on a broader level. If the negotiations fail, Palestinians must convince the American administration to take practical steps to change the Palestinian reality and status quo and this must be done in a way that does not place everyone in a situation where all options are worthless.

The negotiations are the result of an international political framework and international legal framework and they will not lead to any concrete results unless these frameworks are in agreement; this is not a calculated and forgone conclusion in the upcoming period.

Translated from Al Jazeera net , 14 May, 2014

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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