Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak succeeded as no one before him (not even the Israeli right wing) in destroying the infrastructure of the peace process and pushing Israel to political extremism. Ingenuously, he was able to destroy the peace camp inside Israel and render it a camp of surrender, only defending itself instead of defending the future of Israel. And then came Ariel Sharon, who reaped what Barak had sown, expending neither sweat nor toil.
So as to avoid delving further into political events in order to diagnose Israeli political shortcomings, I want to ask: Is it possible under this ruling Israeli government to attain a historic reconciliation based on a political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that includes a Palestinian state within the borders of June 1967 with Arab Jerusalem as its capital and a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem?
Very simply, the answer is an adamant “no.” I insist that we have not invented this “no” just because we do not like Sharon and his racist cronies. It is true that I loathe this gang, but love and hate are irrelevant in this situation.
Instead, my conclusion is based on recognizing and analyzing Sharon’s vision, politics and ideology. It is also based on the idea that real peace, which needs sustenance to survive, must have specific foundations. These foundations are an international consensus with legitimacy in international law and which the political leadership of the Palestinian people agreed to many years ago.
At this point, it cannot hurt to reaffirm those foundations as follows:
Principle One: Complete cessation of the Israeli occupation on all land occupied in 1967 that falls within the June 4 borders, including Arab Jerusalem.
Principle Two: The establishment of a Palestinian state on this land side by side with Israel and not at its expense. The Palestinian state must be real and on the ground, with full sovereignty and respect for its agreements and its neighboring countries.
Principle Three: A just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, according to United Nations Resolution 194. This principle has been turned into a kind of “scarecrow” by some Israelis in order to terrorize and frighten Israel from a solution. For us, it is not in any way a trap through which to swallow up Israel. Rather, it is a door through which we must pass in order to bring finality to an issue that is the crux of the cause.
I do not think that any of the negotiations that have taken place have given the Israeli negotiators the idea that we want to swallow up Israel. We are not so naéve or foolish as to play a child’s game of hide and seek.
Principle Four: This is a complex principle in that it dictates a full halt to the mentality of domination in all its forms; that historic reconciliation is a historic event and not a historic slogan; and that all segments of the Zionist movement, in particular the state of Israel, realize that military power will not succeed in breaking the will of the Palestinian people no matter how it is fortified by American might. The world has tired of the occupation and will not accept the lies of the occupiers forever.
Principle Five: Israel must realize that the Palestinian people are in dire need of peace (more so than any other people in the world) and that their decision in this regard was a strategic decision and not one forced upon them. Even if there is at times political or even military confrontation against the occupation, we continue to recognize–at a very high price, I might add–that peace and coexistence in the two-state framework on the land of historic Palestine is the final solution. It is not some kind of stage, but a historic ending.
Will Israel accept this solution? That is what must be proven now, since Israel has not yet declared the abandonment of its overall aspirations towards domination. It certainly has not declared the abandonment of its occupation of the Palestinian people and their land. Israel remains a state that has not yet defined what it wants from the region in which it lives.
Therefore, is Sharon and his government or even the next government capable of formulating a “strategic political vision” for a real peace? Is Israel, as a society, prepared for this vision? The answer is clearly “no.”
Current Israeli leaders are presenting us with their agenda. In short, they are telling us: “The Palestinian people have no hope of seeing an end to the occupation of their land taken in 1967. There is no way that you will see Arab Jerusalem as part of your national soil. You will not see, during our government or the next, the dismantling of Israeli settlements on your land. In addition to all this, you can forget forever any just solution to the refugee problem.” These are the components of the “Israeli vision” for a political solution.
In tandem with this vision, the current Sharon-led government is demonstrating its own political inventions by destroying the national integrity of the Palestinian people and the cohesive Palestinian identity. If we reject these measures, we are accused of being “terrorists” and sometimes “anti-Semites.” The Zionist jargon of this government says, “You must accept what I want.”
If we do not accept the occupation, they say that we want to destroy Israel. If we do not accept the annexation of Jerusalem in its entirety, it means that we are denying their religious beliefs. If we do not accept their settlements inside our occupied land, they consider this a denial of their history. And if we do not accept their terror and killing of our people, then we are denying them the right to “defend” themselves.
This is the broken record. Even so, we have not lost our faith in peace. We will fight in every way alongside each Israeli who wishes to live on the principles of real peace. We must work towards peace, despite that we cannot envision its birth under the likes of the current Israeli leadership.
But how long will this take? It requires action and wisdom. Neither we nor they have any other choice. We demand a political solution, not its mirage. The starting point is to rehabilitate peace and its infrastructure.
Hasan Asfour is Palestinian Authority minister of Non- Governmental Organizations and a Palestinian Legislative Council member and was part of the Palestinian negotiating team that produced the 1993 Oslo Declaration of Principles.