The truth is that the term “ceasefire” has no relevance in the current Israeli-Palestinian confrontations. The situation here is one where a belligerent illegal military occupation is being imposed by virtue of force on the Palestinian people who, as a result, are deprived of their basic rights including all of the important rights that derive from citizenship under a government, including the right to self-determination.
Consequently, the Palestinian people have resisted this occupation since its start in 1967. During that time, the resistance has taken on different forms. Sometimes Palestinian resistance has been one of armed struggle, while at other times–such as the first Intifada that began in 1987 with a groundswell of popular protest activities and civil disobedience–it has taken the shape of non-violent demonstration. Indeed, the only period in which there was no Palestinian resistance, especially a violent resistance, was the years of the peace process. The reason for that calm was that the Palestinian people were under the impression that this peace process would end the Israeli occupation–exactly what they had been fighting for. Israeli journalist Danny Rubinstein noted just days before the outbreak of the current phase of confrontation on September 29, 2000 that the most recent Palestinian attack had occurred four years before.
With this history in mind, for Palestinians to call a “ceasefire” now means to express willingness to live peacefully with the Israeli occupation, an occupation that is violent not only in the traditional sense in that its army shoots and kills Palestinians, but is violent at its heart. Because even when the Israeli army’s guns are completely silent, the occupation continues to forcefully restrict the rights of the Palestinian people.
One must never be fooled; the Israeli occupation is about the forceful confiscation of Palestinian land to build more settlements for expanding Israel’s presence on the land. The occupation is about the forceful demolition of Palestinian homes to erase Palestinian roots and historical claims. The occupation is about the violent restriction of Palestinian thought, political expression and political leadership. As such, the only way to have real calm and security and safety is if there is a real exchange: an end to this violent occupation in return for an end for an end to Palestinian violence.
To discuss a ceasefire in the sense of stopping all shooting at one another only makes sense in the context of a meaningful political process based on relevant international law and legality. That process should give the impression to both Palestinians and Israelis that it is truly concerned with producing a political settlement that will give Israelis their legitimate right to peace, security and economic prosperity, and Palestinians their legitimate right to self-determination, independence, liberty, an end to the occupation and, of course, economic prosperity.
If there is such a process, the call for a ceasefire will make sense, first because it will be possible and convincing and second, because it will create a process that is vital to both sides. That is why all tries at a ceasefire in isolation of a meaningful political have failed, including American government attempts through Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet and US envoy Anthony Zinni. Everything that has been tried has separated the security components from the other aspects of this conflict. There will be no meaningful ceasefire until there is an end to the occupation on the one hand and the realization of Palestinian self-determination on the other.-
Mr. Ghassan Khatib is a Palestinian political analyst and director of the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center.