On the same day of the new Israeli Knesset inauguration, the Palestinians were celebrating the 34th anniversary of their independence declaration from 1988, though they are still under occupation witnessing an ongoing diminishing opportunity of making that independence a reality on the ground.
The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, of November 29th, 1947, known as the Partition Plan, divided Palestine between Arabs and Jews excluding Jerusalem which was kept under international supervision as a Corpus Separatum. The Jews who were one third of the Population and owned less than 7% of the land were given 56%, while the Arabs who were two thirds of the population and owned about 93% of the land were given 43%. Therefore, they rejected the plan at the time saying it is unfair and biased against them. It’s unfair to blame them now for not accepting the Partition Plan in 1947, because decisions are evaluated in the context of the circumstances which were existing when these decisions were made. The 1948 war burst out between the two sides and ended by the creation of Israel as the Jewish state. The Palestinians could not establish their Arab state as embodied in the above-mentioned resolution and are still living under Israeli occupation struggling for statehood.
Israel, as the Jewish state, was created not only on 56% of Mandatory Palestine as designated by the Partition Resolution, but on 78% of the total area of Palestine which the Jewish organizations occupied in 1948 war. This area included parts of the areas which were designated for the Palestinian state, for Jerusalem international zone (Corpus Separatum), and for the Jewish state. Later in June 1967, Israel occupied the remaining 22% of Mandatory Palestine, the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
This was in violation of Resolution 181 and all relevant UN resolutions affirming the right of the Palestinian people for a state and calling upon Israel to refrain from any measures intended to change the status of Jerusalem and the occupied Palestinian territory, and from settlement building and any legislative or administrative acts, stating that all these measures are null and void. Israel is continuing this policy of creating facts on the ground through the settlements project, integrating the West Bank infrastructure into Israel, applying Israeli laws on Jews in the occupied territories, and de facto annexation of the occupied territories. The aim is preventing any possibility of withdrawal and undermining the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel as in the Partition Plan.
This reality makes the Palestinian celebration of Independence Day material for cynical comments by those among them who are not satisfied with their leadership’s handling of the national struggle against the Israeli occupation, and its failure to accomplish their national aspiration for statehood and independence. The Palestinian leadership accepted the international demand to abandon violent resistance and opt to peace talks, but the talks failed, and the occupation is continuously institutionalized by Israel, and the Palestinian leadership failed to provide its people with the state it promised.
The PA Is Stuck in the Oslo Process
The Palestinian Authority was created in 1994 as a temporary arrangement until the conclusion of the Oslo peace talks in May 1999, but it became de facto permanent because of the deadlock in the peace talks. Israel is distancing itself systematically from the Oslo Accords of 1993/1994 and is now saying openly that it will not allow the creation of a Palestinian state, claiming that all the Occupied Palestinian Territory is the “Land of Israel,” with united Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel!
Though this was the strategy and policy of the successive Likud governments over the last twenty years and will continue to be, the Palestinian Authority is stuck with the Oslo process, and became a hostage of the donor countries. It needs international financial aid to meet its obligation towards its own people and is required to preserve the “security coordination” with the Israeli security agencies to prove its respect and commitment to the political process, which does not exist anymore. It became the oppressor of its own people, responsible for preventing resistance against Israel. This situation caused a severe damage to its image in the eyes of its own people. The gap between the people and their leadership is widening. The leadership declares day and night that it is against violence and committed to negotiations, while Israel is not committed anymore to achieving a political compromise with the Palestinians and on the contrary is doing whatever possible to abort any opportunity for such a compromise. The people who lost faith in a political solution and face daily atrocities of the occupation and of the settlers’ violence, are more sympathetic with anyone who carry attacks against Israelis. The Palestinian youth who see no light of hope for
a better future are becoming more militant and dissatisfied with the old guard’s leadership. A gap is continually widening between the people and their leadership, expressed by incitement against the moderate leadership and criticism of its attitude towards Israel policies, and its oppression of militant activities against Israeli settlers.
Internal political developments inside Israel always have their impact on the internal Palestinian politics. The more the Israeli politics shift to the right and to the religious right and discloses its intentions against the Palestinians, the more the Palestinians opt to violence and extremism. Thus, settlers and army violence against Palestinians generates violence by Palestinians against Israelis.
Quietness could happen only when there was a hope for a compromise. This existed during the period peace talks between 1996 and 2000, but soon collapsed with the failure of the peace talks in 2000. Israeli harsh measures could achieve temporary results of quietness but not for a long term. We have been witnessing ups and downs of violence and counter violence waves for decades.
Israelis and Palestinian Stereotype Each Other
The deadlock in making peace since 2000, and the continued Israeli occupation developed stereotyping of the other on both sides.
For the Israelis, any Palestinian who commits any attack against Israelis is immediately labeled as a terrorist. Even a child of 12 years old who throws a stone on an Israeli vehicle is labeled by Israeli media a terrorist. Labeling someone as a terrorist means automatically legitimizing killing her or him even if the attack did not cause any casualty on the Israeli side. The terminology used for killing a Palestinian is “neutralized” him.
For the Palestinians, the Israeli is categorized as the “settler.” A settler is a legitimate target for attack. This Palestinian terminology is not only against settlers in the occupied territories but against Jews who may look like religious settlers. This indiscriminate approach is also dangerous for the prospects of seeking a compromise between the two peoples, and for those Israelis and Palestinians who are against the occupation and recognize each other’s right for self-determination, and advocate for cooperation and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Growth of the Nationalist and Religious Right
Examining the situation on the ground shows that there is no space left for the creation of a Palestinian state. Jewish settlements are spread everywhere in the occupied Palestinian Territory. The population of the settlers is now around seven hundred thousand settlers: half a million living in the West Bank and two hundred thousand in East Jerusalem. The settlers became an influential element in the Israeli internal politics. Fifty thousand settlers have the right to vote in the elections for the Knesset. Thirteen members of the newly elected Knesset are settlers living in the occupied territories. Ministers as well as high-ranking army officers and Supreme Court judges are from settlers’ community. This growth of the settlers’ community in the occupied territories and its influence in Israel politics echoes the growth of the nationalist right and ultra-religious people in the Israeli society in general. This growth succeeded to get a majority of sixty-five members of Knesset in the last elections on November 1st, 2022, a majority which will form the most extreme right-wing government in the history of Israel. The leaking news about the coalition talks between the future coalition parties concluding the platform of the new government show that Israel is on a dangerous path, heading towards a messianic government where the ‘Torah law’ is above all laws, and towards degrading the Supreme Court of Justice and restricting its role as a Constitutional Court which can monitor the constitutionality of the laws legislated by the Knesset, and escalating oppression and displacement against Palestinians inside Israel as well as in the occupied territories. This is a substantial danger and serious threat to democracy and its values and to relations with Palestinians. Such a trend should raise fears by secular Jews and by anyone who cares about the image of Israel as a modern civil country and co-existence between Jews and Arabs citizens of Israel. It is also a call for bloody violence inside the occupied territories which may spill over to inside Israel.
It is worth mentioning that Knesset Members from the Religious Zionist Party and Otzma Yehudit Party call openly for the legislation of laws to deprive Arabs from voting to the Knesset or becoming members of Knesset.
On other hand, the coalition agreement between the Likud and Otzma Yehudit already includes legalizing sixty-five outposts and turning them to settlements enjoying all facilities and budgets provided by the government and issuing laws to strengthen the settlement projects and discriminate against Arabs. This is a death certificate for the two-state solution.
The expected new Internal Security (police) Minister Itamar Ben Gvir is known as a strong advocate and activist calling for changing the status quo in the Aqsa Mosque and enabling permanent Jewish presence inside it. He also demands evacuating Arab families from Sheikh Jarrah and settling Jewish families in the evacuated Arab houses. These are just examples of his plans for dealing with the Arabs.
Such measures by the new government will cause an outbreak of violent confrontation with Palestinians and invite acts of solidarity with the Palestinians by Arab and Muslim countries especially regarding al-Aqsa Mosque.
Where Do We Go from Here?
The question is: Where are we going from here, and what should we do to confront racism and religious fanaticism?
The new Israeli government will put the Arab-Jewish relations on a crossroad and emphasize that the development of an apartheid regime in the occupied territories and inside Israel is on the tracks of reality and represents a challenge to both progressive Jews who care about democracy, human rights, and justice and to Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel as well as Palestinians in the occupied territories.
It should be clear to both that without joint action and full cooperation between them, they will not be able to meet the challenge.
Logical thinking assumes that the results of the recent elections and the forming of an extreme fanatic right wing government should switch a red light for all Israelis who care for their future living in a democratic Jewish state. This should make them join forces, abandon carelessness about elections, and start preparing themselves for the coming elections to make the opposite change and defeat extremism and religious fanaticism. If they do that, and with cooperation with Arab parties which should also unify their lines and work hard to raise and widen awareness and participation of Israeli Arabs in the elections, they may regain the government and save their country from becoming another religious halacha country in the region alongside Iran. And then they will also be able to revive the concept of the two-state solution and achieve it. This will save the Israeli democracy and Jewishness and at the same time resolve the conflict by creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel living in peace and harmony. This will not be an easy mission, but it is worth a serious try.
Needed – A Joint Jewish-Arab struggle
If the above-mentioned scenario fails to prove realistic and achievable, then the alternative option should be a joint Jewish-Arab struggle against the racist religious fanatic apartheid regime.
Jews who believe in democracy, human rights, and co-existence, together with Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, should unify themselves and express full welcoming of a joint struggle against apartheid, and for democracy, justice, and peace. The civil society organizations on both sides should be active in promoting awareness that if both sides do not cooperate, they both will lose their cause. The example of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa succeeded and defeated the racists only because it was a joint movement of White and Black people struggling together against apartheid. In our case, struggling against apartheid will not succeed unless it will be a Jewish-Arab struggle.
Besides a domestic struggle, both sides should be engaged in a well-organized international campaign to recruit political and economic pressure against Israel and achieve international solidarity with their joint struggle against racism and religious extremism exactly as was the case of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. This kind of cooperation should include the Palestinians in the occupied territories.
The presence of fanatic settlers inside the occupied territories and their expected accelerated violence against Palestinians will demand from the Palestinians in the occupied territories to reunify their factions under a unified leadership and engage in passive massive popular resistance that will get the sympathy and support of the international community. It should be clear that violence will give an excuse to the Israeli fanatics to use excessive force against Palestinians and therefore popular peaceful resistance should be their way.
With cooperation between Jews and Arabs who believe in democracy and peace, the rising of religious fanatics in Israel and extreme nationalists should be defeated, leading to the establishment of one state with equal rights for all its citizens regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Such a democratic state of equal rights for all its citizens in Mandatory Palestine from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean, can be a nucleus for further regional development and cooperation.