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‘Talk of a peace process is play acting’

Nov 22,2017 - Last updated at Nov 22,2017

The declaration by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) that it is freezing all communication with the US, following the Trump administration’s decision to close its diplomatic mission in Washington is play acting.

Although concern has been expressed that cutting communication would end the peace initiative, dubbed the “deal of the century” or the “ultimate deal”, US President Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner plan to launch, the duo has nothing to offer the Palestinians they could ever accept.

The administration could suspend closure of the mission if the PLO accepts to resume substantive talks with Israel although it has no intention of withdrawing from Palestinian territory, halting colonisation of Palestinian land, or permitting Palestinians to form an independent state, their historical demand.

Israel seeks to restart negotiations as cover for its stepped-up colonisation drive in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat rightly accused Washington of capitulating to pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who responded by saying closure of the office would be a “matter of US law”.

US officials agreed, naturally.

The administration announced that the PLO had violated the provision, adopted in 2015 by an Israeli-subservient Congress, which says the PLO cannot continue to operate a Washington office if the Palestinians propose that the International Criminal Court prosecute Israelis for war crimes against Palestinians, although Israelis have been committing such crimes since 1947-48, crimes the Western powers refuse to admit.

The Trump administration seeks to make the Saudis and other Arab allies to agree to a deal which would leave Israel in permanent occupation of all of Palestine while permitting Palestinians a minimal measure of autonomy.

This is a far cry from the 2002 Arab summit’s proposal, drafted by the Saudis, pledging full normalisation with Israel in exchange for full Israeli withdrawal from territory occupied in 1967: Palestinian East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, and the Syrian Golan Heights.

Trump’s offer of a still secret plan is meant to be in exchange for a US pledge to join the Sunni Arabs in their campaign to counter the regional machinations of Shiite Iran.

The US is already involved in the Saudi-led offensive against Iran and does not need any quid pro quo on Palestine to take part. 

While Palestine is no longer a priority for the US, Iran is portrayed by Trump as a global “bogeyman”.  He prefers to focus on non-nuclear Iran rather than nuclear-armed North Korea because he has no leverage on Pyongyang.

This “deal of the century” is too late for a Palestinian-Israeli peace process. The Israelis and the international community missed the chance of bringing off a deal in 1993, with the signing of the Oslo Accord. 

Under that agreement, the PLO, disguised as the “interim Palestinian Authority”, received limited autonomy over Palestinian urban areas while Israel — allegedly temporarily — held onto the land of Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem.

I say temporarily because the Israeli army was meant to withdraw from the land in stages. It withdrew in 2005 from Gaza, but maintained the occupation by retaining access by land, sea and air. At the same time, Israel deepened its hold on the West Bank and East Jerusalem by constructing colonies and imposing full military control, even of areas nominally under Palestinian administration.

Israeli vows not to give up territory or relocate Israeli settlers mean there can be no Palestinian state.

A century after British foreign secretary Lord Balfour issued his infamous letter promising that Britain, as the colonial power in Palestine, would facilitate the creation of a “Jewish national home” in that country, Palestinians remain marginalised as “non-Jewish communities”.

Israel has succeeded in taking over the entire country and is and either occupying its indigenous people or driving them into exile.

The US and the Western powers which should have had leverage on Israel have never used it. Consequently, talk of a “peace process” is play acting. The sooner everyone admits this the better.

Some argue that the only option left to the Palestinians is to become citizens of Israel, demand equal rights with Jewish citizens of Israel and mount global campaigns for human, civil and cultural rights. This could be a long and disappointing struggle.

The 1.7 million Palestinians, 20 per cent of Israel’s citizens, who are descendents of those who remained in Israel after it expelled two-thirds of their countrymen and women in 1948, still do not enjoy equal rights with Israeli Jews.

Israel’s Basic Law is weighted to give rights to the state as a Jewish entity, Jewish institutions and Jewish citizens of the state at the expense of the rights of non-Jews.

Palestinian citizens of Israel face discrimination in all aspects of life. Their land is expropriated and houses are demolished.

Palestinians who marry citizens from the occupied territories or the wider world have great difficulty securing permits for them and their children to live in Israel. Families are divided. 

Jews from the diaspora are welcomed with their spouses and children, and quickly absorbed.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel described the situation by saying: “The right to equality is not yet enshrined in law.”

And it will not happen any time soon. The idea of granting Israeli citizenship to those living in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank is anathema to Israelis, who are determined to live in a “Jewish state” rather than a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian state.

Israelis, who claim to be the only democracy in this region, are all the more determined to deny Palestinians citizenship because in 2016, Palestinians became the majority in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

Israelis cannot accept that one day Palestinians could out-vote them and take over governance of the country.

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