Until the Israeli elections on 6 February, there will be no official negotiations between Israel and PA officials. On Sunday, 28 January, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak decided to halt “diplomatic contacts with Arafat and his people” until after the vote.
This statement comes a day after Israeli and Palestinian negotiators issued a joint statement in Taba, Egypt, which stated that they were closer than ever to an agreement. For anyone who watched the joint-press conference it was more than obvious that the Palestinian negotiators at Taba were performing in Barak’s election campaign.
After 325 Palestinians have been killed in the past four months, Arafat and his negotiators found it necessary to publicly support another period of the Barak administration. They found it fruitful to prolong Barak’s term, under which, 1,924 new settlements, along with the usual roadwork, have been started in occupied Palestine – a policy more in line with the legacy of Yitzhak Shamir than Yitzhak Rabin. The Israeli elections pit one ex-general against another, both of whom have a history of responding to Palestinian demands with brutal repression.
Up for grabs with the Israeli elections is not merely the post of prime minister but the fate of Oslo, the faltering framework for Middle Eastern diplomacy over the last seven years. The crisis of this “peace process” is a death crisis. But that death is due, not to the failure of the process, but to its resounding success. It is dying, simply and plainly, because it has fulfilled its promise. Why, then, rush to and link up life-support systems and try desperately to keep the heart beating and the lungs breathing, though each and every brain scan reveals a flat line – one which points directly towards the final endorsement of the racist and exclusivist nature of the Israeli state.
The agreement in Oslo was based on apartheid and whether the Palestinian Authority would take a bigger or smaller share makes no difference. The renewed partition born of the Oslo agreements further entrenched the apartheid rule and reinforces the walls of the Israeli ghetto. Israel now divides its subjects into the privileged class, second and third class citizens, and modern slaves who hold magnetized identity-cards. It has averts its eyes from the expulsion, destruction and oppression it has forced on the residents of the Bantustans it created, and focuses on expanding its realm of control.
The Israelis, be they settlers or soldiers, have been brought up with racism and the feelings of superiority to prove to themselves daily that their presence on stolen land is acquiring legitimacy. But they have to seek peace with those who they are able to kill without anyone holding them to account or condemning them. All the military achievements Israel has made, including its nuclear bombs, have failed to provide them with a modicum of confidence or reassurance. Their system was established on a series of lies and myths which they knew how to implant in the minds of those in the West who persecuted them and now nurture them. They continue having to lie to protect their earlier lies, and there are those in the West who are prepared to believe them in all circumstances. So the lies turn into policies, strategies and alliances.
In Sharm al-Sheikh and Taba, all parties involved in the Oslo process agreed that the negotiations have served their respective interests, and, therefore, must continue. This could be the only reason for which the Oslo process has not been buried yet. After agreeing to the latest round of talks in Taba, Barak quickly announced that he would not give up sovereignty over the Temple Mount, would not discuss the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and would demand that eighty percent of the West Bank settlers remain under Israeli authority — effectively aborting the talks before they began.
Jewish colonies were not on Israel’s agenda for negotiations with the Palestinians. Colonization is at the heart of Zionism and thus the dismantlement of colonies means giving up on the concept of an exclusive Jewish state on Palestinian land. Likewise, refugees were not on Israel’s agenda. Allowing the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin, would oppose the tools of Zionism, the organized removal of an indigenous population to neighboring countries. Israel sees the expulsion of Palestinians as a solution to the “Arab question” in Palestine.
The expulsion and dispossession of the Palestinians has been the logical outgrowth of the ultimate goal of the Zionist project, i.e. the establishment of an exclusive Jewish state through colonization and land confiscation, through a radical ethno-religious-demographic transformation of a country, the population of which had been almost entirely Palestinian at the beginning of the 20th century.
An awkward similarity comes to mind with the incendiary words of the South African philosophy spoken by its Prime Minister Dr. Verwoerd: “We want to keep South Africa white. Keeping it white can only mean one thing, namely white domination, not ‘leadership’, not ‘guidance’, but control, supremacy.”
The discourse should be taken on another level, that is, to discuss the crux of the friction between apartheid and democracy and how Israel deals with past injustices. This would establish a telling indicator of Israel’s commitment to ensure that the same injustices do not occur again. The wrongdoing inflicted by Israel against the Palestinian people, came in many forms and shapes, and accountability for these crimes may, in the end, also come in many forms. It is sometimes said that there is no higher moral than to preserve peace. Rightly so. But as long as there is apartheid and racism, there can be no peace.
The author is a Dutch-Palestinian political scientist, human rights activist and is affiliated to the the Palestine Right to Return Coalition (Al-Awda).