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Limited opportunities and flawed choices

December 29, 2016 at 4:58 pm

Image of the UN Security Council in session [Twitter / @katherga1]

The US decision to abstain, rather than use its veto, at the UN Security Council last Friday has generated a limited spectrum of possibilities and definitely raised Israel’s ire, given its retaliatory antics against countries supporting the resolution in question. Israel’s façade, particularly the democratic fantasy which it has promoted while heaping human rights violations upon the Palestinian population, has been altered irreversibly. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, has remained tethered to an imposed and flawed narrative, which may further entrench symbolism as an additional, yet useless, political parameter.

In comments following the Security Council vote, Abbas reportedly stated that Resolution 2334 “paves the way for the international peace conference,” which should take place next month in Paris. Departing from the resolution’s condemnation of settlement construction, Abbas called for Israel to “sit together at the negotiation table to discuss all the outstanding issues between us and resolve them with good intentions.” The statement ended with the usual kind of flimflam characteristic of the PA: “We are neighbours on this Holy Land and we want peace.”

Within the convenient narrative of the two-state compromise espoused by Israel, the PA and the international community, rhetoric and action constitute two separate dimensions. Such a separation is fuelled by the perpetual application of hypothesis. On the other hand, Israel’s belligerence regarding settlement expansion offers no discrepancy between statement and action.

Abbas has preferred the diplomatic comfort of endless negotiations over a direct challenge to Israel’s colonial ambitions. This preference has materialised in his recent sweeping statements regarding “neighbours” and “peace”. Each time the reality of the coloniser and the colonised is eliminated, Israel gains more leverage. If colonial expansion is going to be discussed under such tame frameworks, there is little that can be achieved politically to restore Palestinian rights to land and memory, let alone a struggle towards liberation. What should be addressed is not a selective definition of what constitutes settlement construction, but, rather, Israel’s presence in Palestine per se.

The impending Paris conference, which has already drawn strong criticism from Palestinian factions, will most probably include references to Resolution 2334. If Abbas is seeking another round of symbolic reference points, Paris will fulfil the PA’s meagre expectations. However, it is a far cry from a solution that will benefit Palestinians. The aim of the conference is to attempt an initiation towards negotiations which, as has been proven in the past, have served to shift focus away from Israel’s colonial expansion in Palestine.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has, in the aftermath of the resolution, been more vocal regarding Israeli violations: “The problem obviously goes beyond settlements.” However, Kerry embroidered a partial reality without going into the historical ramifications of such a statement. The “settler agenda” and “Greater Israel” – both mentioned explicitly by Kerry — do not automatically portray a change in US policy or a shift in how diplomacy will be conducted. Moreover, if Abbas remains ensconced within the prevailing paradigms, the risk of symbolism becoming an acceptable alternative to anti-colonial struggle will remain, given that the resolution itself and the politics promoted at an international level have thus far only enforced clarity regarding the acceptance of Israel as a colonial state.

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