With the fall of the Jenin refugee camp and the crushing of resistance in the casbah of Nablus, April 9 — the twelfth day of the Israel’s final push to defeat the Palestinians – marks the end of yet another stage of the Palestinian’s struggle for self-determination. April 10th, when Powell meets the Spanish presidency of the European Union, it will become clear whether the “political process” that must now emerge will lead to a viable and truly sovereign Palestinian state or to the dependent mini-state Israel has had in mind since the start of the Oslo process in 1993.
This is an either-or situation; nothing can “bridge” the fundamental interests separating the two sides. The Palestinians, who already agreed on a demilitarized and semi-sovereign state on only 22% of mandatory Palestine, must receive a state that is territorially coherent, economically viable, in control of its borders and natural resources, with full access to Jerusalem and a meaningful degree of sovereignty. Israel, which needs a Palestinian mini-state to “relieve” it of the three million Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories who pose a threat to the “Jewish character” of the state, will not agree to relinquish control or to fully dismantle its infrastructure of settlements and “by-pass roads.” It is determined to maintain its occupation in one form or another. Only one of these two options is possible: either a viable Palestinian state or a dependent bantustan.
With the breaking of Palestinian resistance on April 9th, Sharon would appear to have reasons to rejoice. The multi-pronged strategy of his “National Unity” government to force the Palestinians to accept a bantustan seems to have achieved its major goals:
Will Israel succeed? Sharon thinks so. He believes that Europe, critical as it might be, has no independent foreign policy apart from the US. The Arab countries have some limited clout – the US will press Israel to make concessions so that the Arabs will submit to an attack on Iraq – but those concessions will stop far from a complete end to the occupation. Both Israel and the Arab world know Congress’s “red lines” on Israel, and they fall much closer to a Palestinian mini-state than to a viable and truly sovereign one.
Still, it is up to us, the international civil society of NGOs, faith-based organizations, political groups, human rights advocates and just plain world citizens, to monitor the fateful period we are now entering. April 10th begins our test. Having shed the naivete of Oslo, we must follow the up-coming political process with eyes wide-open and critical. Our goal must be to see a viable, sovereign state emerge in all the Occupied Territories (giving the Palestinians the right to negotiate border adjustments and other compromises they see fit). Unlike Oslo, the political process must have a just peace — a viable Palestinian state and a just resolution of the refugee issue, as well as Israel’s security concerns – as its explicit goal. And it must have a binding timetable.
In the Oslo process and during the past year and a half of Israeli repression the international community let the Palestinians down. It did not insist on negotiations that would lead to Palestinian self-determination (after seven years of negotiations the Palestinians ended up confined to tiny, impoverished islands while Israel doubled its settler population). And it did not provide the protection and support available to the Palestinians through international law, according to which the occupation was illegal, unjust and immoral in every respect. One cannot criticize an oppressed people’s resort to armed resistance – even terrorism – when it finds itself abandoned by the international community that offers its only source of redress. We must not again allow occupation, repression and violence to overwhelm the progress towards a just peace as we have over the past decade. It is truly time to end the occupation.
Jeff Halper (53) is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and a Professor of Anthropology at Ben Gurion University. He has lived in Israel since 1973.