The new Israeli government wants to create international precedent by its demands that Palestinians unilaterally end what it calls violence and terrorism as a condition for the renewal of the Israeli Palestinian negotiations. The Israeli government’s request seems oblivious to its own violence and that of its citizens as well as the fact that people under military rule have an internationally- sanctioned right to resist occupation. Peoples around the world have acted to rid themselves of foreign military rule, and have never been known to stop their resistance as a condition to begin talks.
Certainly in times of war parties have reached cease-fire agreements, but cease-fire agreements have two basic conditions. Both sides commit to take them and they have always had a political dimension to them. Without these two conditions and without some guarantees from a third party have not lasted very long.
The Sharon administration ran an ambitious campaign on the basis that it will bring security and peace. Short of the Israelis crushing the Palestinians and the Palestinians surrendering this is highly unlikely unless is done in parallel and not in that sequence. Peace talks during times of conflict have been held throughout mankind’s warfare. One is reminded of the resistance of the Vietcong and the bombing of Hanoi by US B52 bombers at the same time that Americans and Vietnamese were holding peace talks in Paris. A simpler example can also be taken into consideration. Workers striking against unjust work conditions and salaries refuse to stop their protests until their demands are met. How much more is this not possible for a proud people. Palestinians fighting for the right to live in freedom can’t be expected to stop, presumably for a certain period in order to convince their oppressors that they really want to live in peace.
A closer look at the Israeli demands is needed to see how one sided and impossible they are. For 34 years Israel, its army, its intelligence service, its torturers and all other acts of oppression have failed to stop Palestinians’ resistance. Now Israel wants the Palestinian leadership to do its dirty work. Israel’s conditions for the restart of the peace talk is for the Palestinian Authority to take an active, in need be military action against its own people, in order to stop Palestinian resistance acts against Israeli soldiers and illegal settlers.
True during the first years of the peace process establishment, such attempts to hold own Palestinian resistance was seen in the higher national interest of the Palestinian cause. The PA did arrest and stop those extremists who were attempting to delay and frustrate the peace process, Palestinian security officials coordinated with the Israelis because its was believed both sides were eager to allow the peace process to move ahead.. At that time the level of trust was high enough to allow Palestinian leaders to take a chance for peace even though the PA and Arafat were getting a lot of flak for there position. Leading Palestinian opposition groups as well as some leading thinkers like Edward Said called Arafat a quisling, traitor an uncle tom, etc. They attacked the Palestinian Authority for doing the dirty work of the Israelis.
But now, after more than seven years of unfruitful talks, with Israeli refusing to re-deploy from areas it was committed to withdraw from in the Oslo Agreement and dealing arrogantly with Palestinian negotiations and the Palestinian public, the motivation of the Palestinian Authority has disappeared.
Without any reason to have trust and confidence in Sharon and his government the Palestinian leadership is not keen on violently standing up against its own people and taking a chance on another open ended peace talks that Sharon has said must start from the point zero.
Armed with UN Security Council resolutions, successive agreements with the Israelis governments, the Palestinian leadership is simply asking that Israel fulfill these agreements. For its part, Palestinian officials have stated that they will reciprocate and carry out their part. But they will not agree to be left hold the bag while Israel places three million Palestinians in a huge prison, shell residential areas, shoot at demonstrators and then ask that the Palestinians stop their fellow nationals acts of resistance. Palestinians feel that their violence is similar to a woman biting and scratching her rapists as she is being brutally rapped.
The Sharon administration’s real reason behind this impossible request is simple. It is unwilling and probably unable to respect international law and the political price that a genuine lasting peace requires in order for Israel and Palestine to live in peace and security.
Daoud Kuttab is a journalist who covered both intifadas and Director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Jerusalem.