No Progress in Peace Talks before Occupation Ends

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The situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is steadily deteriorating and it seems inevitable that it will have to get much worse before it gets better, if it does, in the foreseeable future.

There might be a chance that Israel may reconsider its severe onslaught an innocent Arab civilians under its military occupation if the upcoming Arab Summit in Amman would take drastic decisions, sending Israel a clear message that it should end its 34-year-long occupation of Arab land, not only in Palestine, before any talk of resumption of peace negotiations should be allowed.

Most unfortunately this is unlikely to happen, and if that is to be the case, Israel will get the opposite message, as it did after the last Arab summit of October 2000 in Cairo, and further escalate its punishing measures, use more force, intensify its policies of blockading and isolating Arab towns and villages, and further tighten the stranglehold already causing the Palestinians unprecedented human tragedies and endless suffering.

In the face of all this, it is most regrettable that the rather hesitant and craven expressions of concern over this deterioration are meant more to shield from blame those who pronounce them and less to be of any meaningful help to the Palestinians themselves. Any calls on Israel to put an end to the siege, to release Palestinian funds held as part of its collective punishment scheme, and to stop its severe oppressive measures, are often outweighed by calls on the Palestinians to put an end to violence. The implication here is that such Israeli measures are merely a reaction to Palestinian violence.

This trend is, in fact, the main theme of the pro-Israel media in the United States and in the West. The blame there is put entirely on the Palestinians and Israel is only “acting in self defence.” This is a grave reversal and distortion of the truth, and a flagrant misrepresentation of a situation the seriousness of which requires a great deal of objective, courageous and responsible assessment.

Such media bias may please Israel and the Israeli lobby in the sense that it may temporarily salvage some aspects of its deteriorating image, but it will also, and most certainly, harm its interests in the long run. This policy of protection and appeasement has been mainly responsible for the entire collapse of the peace process.

It is a large part the impunity afforded to Israel by enormous military, economic and diplomatic support, mainly from the United States, which has encouraged Israel to pursue unhindered its expansionist designs, disregard its commitments and signed agreements with the Palestinians, ignore its obligations with respect to the United Nations and its relevant resolutions, continue with its harshest oppressive measures in the occupied territories, in flagrant violation of the international law and, specifically, the Fourth Geneva Convention.

This, no doubt, was a major factor in destroying the peace process and in initiating this dangerous cycle of violence. If this Israeli behaviour is to continue unchecked, it will plunge the region in more violence and war, and it will destroy any prospects for peace in the future.

Blaming the Palestinians is certainly easier because they don’t have the powers of intimidation Israel and the Jewish lobby have, but it is morally unjust and unfair, it is legally wrong and it is practically misleading and deceitful, in the sense that it conceals the real root causes of the problem and, therefore, obstructs any effective treatment.

It is true that the Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers, tanks and bunkers, and continued to do so even when their young innocent souls were riddled with bullets and rocket shrapnel, but they did not do it because they are naturally evil minded or destructive or of an abnormal species, or because of the evil nature of their culture and religion, as the supporting Israeli propaganda likes to make believe. They did it, and still do, to rightly and legitimately express their rejection of a harsh, unjustified, unprecedented and illegal military occupation that has been ruling over their lives for more than five decades. They did it as a result of their bitter disillusionment with a seven-year-old absurd play called the peace process, the only achievement of which, was to provide the Israelis with the time, the security and the convenient cover they needed to continue the implementation of their expansionist settlement plans on the conquered Arab lands and to consolidate their aggression gains.

In the meantime, the Palestinians are witnessing the continued destruction of their society, the annihilation of their rights, the distortion, indeed, the abolition of their history, and the shrinkage of their land and homes.

While the Palestinians are within their right to resist occupation and to seek freedom by the use of any means available to them, especially after exercising so much patience and showing so much moderation in accepting (and not getting) to settle on only 22 per cent of the land of historical Palestine, the Israelis are wrong to be there in the first place.

Israel is wrong and stands condemned because its continued occupation of Arab lands is in flagrant violation of international law and of specific Security Council resolutions, dating from 1967. The occupation is the root cause of the problem and the main source of violence. It is wrong just because it exists, even if it were not accompanied by the harshest measures of oppression and cruelty, which is not the case anyway.

Ending the occupation, not treating its symptoms and complications, is the primary pre-requisite for any meaningful effort to resuscitate the peace negotiations, as it is an absolute international law obligation which is not optional, not conditional and not negotiable. It should be axiomatic that Israel has no right to hold as hostage, and by military force, peoples and lands and to bargain on their destiny and freedom, demanding high price, from their very inalienable rights, for their release. There should be no place for this kind of behaviour in the realm of international relations in our time.

Any real concern, therefore, over the deteriorating situation should firmly address and highlight the occupation, not obscure it, and certainly not endorse it as a fait accompli part of the equation.

Dealing with the situation while the occupation is right in place is heading in a direction opposite from peace, straight into a huge reservoir of insecurity and violence.

The writer is former Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations. He contributed this article to the Jordan Times.

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