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The Palestinians have an opportunity for strategic changes in the current crises

June 3, 2020 at 5:33 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) greets Benny Gantz in Jerusalem on 19 September 2019 [GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP/Getty Images]

With the Covid-19 pandemic causing health, political, social and economic crises around the world leading to a new “normal” way of doing things, in occupied Palestine there’s no change. Israeli colonialism continues apace.

Israel knows well what it means to be in crisis: it has had three General Elections since April last year; the Prime Minister is accused of fraud, bribery and abuse of trust; and just a few weeks ago Benjamin Netanyahu formed a unity government with the leader of Blue and White, Benny Gantz, who had said that he would never go into partnership with his rival. The pandemic pushed the politicians to get together with a common agenda to annex the Jordan Valley and other occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank.

The fact is that the colonisation of all of Palestine has been supported by all political parties in Israel since 1948; it still is. “Greater Israel” is a national priority, and several Israeli leaders have said so. Zeev Jabotinsky, who inspired Netanyahu’s Likud party, said: “We cannot give any compensation for Palestine, neither to the Palestinians nor to other Arabs. Therefore, a voluntary agreement is inconceivable. All colonisation, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population. This colonisation can, therefore, continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population – an iron wall which the native population cannot break through. This is, in toto, our policy towards the Arab. To formulate it any other way would be hypocrisy.” (The Iron Wall, 1923) He added that Zionism “is an adventure of colonisation.” (Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians, 1992)

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Yitzhak Rabin of the Israeli Labor Party signed the Oslo Accords. He also announced the new guidelines approved by his party leadership. They established that his future government would “consolidate and strengthen settlements along the confrontation lines” in the main strategic locations — the Jordan Valley and the Syrian Golan Heights — having also being in favour of continuing construction in Jerusalem. This clearly shows that the Labor government had no intention — although some believe it did — of stopping colonisation during the Oslo process. Indeed, as its settlement strategies prove, it increased it considerably.

Thus, many Palestinians do not understand why the international community is surprised at a policy that has been supported by successive Israeli governments and even intensified post-Oslo when Israel was supposed to stop building settlements and engage in a “peace process”. With annexation included in the US-Israel “deal of the century”, history is about to repeat itself. A new phase of Israeli colonisation is about to begin, behind the fig leaf of Oslo and Trump’s “deal”.

Palestinians protest against US President Donald Trump’s so-called Middle East peace plan on 1 February 2020 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

Palestinians protest against US President Donald Trump’s so-called Middle East peace plan on 1 February 2020 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

In response, the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has repeated yet again that he will “withdraw” from all agreements with Israel, including security coordination with the occupation state. It is time to change the strategy, though, and turn this crisis into an opportunity to widen our perspective and face the grim reality overwhelming Palestine. Oslo was a failure and was only one phase of the Israeli colonial project, which not only triggered the acceptance of the “legitimacy” of the colonisation of historic Palestine, but also led inevitably to annexation and total disregard for Palestinian rights.

Oslo changed the concept of the “Palestinian problem”, and yet between the signing of the accords and the presentation of the Trump “deal”, nothing has been done for Palestine; all the while, the premise has been promoted that this is a “conflict” between equal parties. The international community has shifted from seeing Palestine as a land still to be decolonised and the legitimate right of return for Palestinian refugees, to putting pressure on the Palestinians to accept the farce of a “two-state solution” whereby the Palestinians must resign themselves to living in a cage in exchange for a non-existent “state” that looks increasingly unlikely to materialise.

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Moreover, the so-called security agreements in the Oslo Accords made it clear that the victim in all of this is Israel and not the Palestinians; that security is the right of the occupier and the people living under a brutal military occupation must guarantee the security of their oppressors. This was and remains totally illogical and unprecedented in international affairs. Oslo effectively made Israeli aggression something that it needs to do, as if it is indeed acting in self-defence every time it bombs, displaces, kills or wounds Palestinians and colonises their land. Hence, the international community, contrary to international laws and conventions, has basically accepted as valid Israel’s colonial logic.

What remains of Palestine is fragmented, occupied and confined to just eight per cent of what it was in 1948. Faced with this calamitous situation, it is vital for Palestinians to take control of our own narrative and focus on Palestine as a place to be decolonised. Forget about a “two-state solution”, no matter how tempting it may seem, because it distracts attention from what is really needed: decolonisation of our land.

Twenty-seven years since the fateful Oslo Accords, Israel continues to treat Palestinians as an unwanted and colonised group, whether they are Israeli citizens or residents of occupied Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip, or even refugees in the Diaspora. Dividing us into such relatively small groups is part of the colonial strategy. This is not just about territorial fragmentation, but also the tearing to shreds of the identity and social fabric of the Palestinian people.

Mobilisation by the Palestinians is essential. It will not be easy and results will not be instantaneous, but effort is necessary to maintain our identity as Palestinians no matter where we are.

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The truth is that Abbas’s announcement about withdrawing from the Oslo Accords is meaningless, not least because Israel has never respected the agreement in any case. Putting an end to Oslo would also mean the end of the PA, which was created by Oslo. The Palestinian and Israeli leaderships are unlikely to do it.

Due to the impunity with which Israel continues to violate international law in the occupied territories, and following the annexation announcement, there is no better time for the Palestinians to give up the “solution” that apparently only satisfies those in the international community who have provided the framework for Netanyahu to continue Israeli colonisation under the excuse of stalled negotiations.

Despite their limitations and misrepresentation by others, the Palestinians have made all of the concessions and given the international community time to correct the gross injustices, but the world has still done nothing for Palestine. The international community, through its inaction, has actually given Israel enough time to carry on with its colonial policies. In view of this, the opportunity to change strategy is not only available for the Palestinians, but also the international community itself, which surely must realise that the situation on the ground makes “two states” totally unrealistic with the proposed Palestinian Bantustans lacking autonomy and controlled completely by Israel’s military occupation.

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It is not necessary to wait for annexation to start thinking about anti-colonial sanctions, since Israel’s violations of international law are more than evident. This much has been said by the International Court of Justice and the UN Security Council, and I hope that the International Criminal Court will also soon strengthen the case. We must, therefore, act now to end Israel’s ability to act with impunity as a preventive measure in the face of its annexation plans.

Annexation of the West Bank will bury the already moribund “two-state solution” and will shatter the foundations of international law and order under the UN Charter. The international community’s strategy must be to put pressure on Israel to end its current apartheid and erect a structure for equality before the law for everyone living in the territories that make up Palestine-Israel.

Furthermore, the international community must reflect and understand that the current situation is the result not only of Israel’s policies but also of the exceptionalism that it has been allowed to enjoy. Not enough has been done to turn the two-state solution into a reality, nor has the world been willing to confront Israel’s illegal actions, or even recognise the State of Palestine, apart from some notable exceptions.

Policies must be designed to highlight the implications of the reality imposed by Israel. This must be done in an effective way so that relations with Israel are weighed against the supposed desire to maintain the current international structures which have not only classified apartheid as a crime against humanity, but also banned the acquisition of territory by force. Such very clear legislation has to be backed by robust action against those who violate these and countless other laws.

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