At the same time that I was asked to write a piece on what needs to be done as an exit strategy to emerge from the current stalemate, many are still diagnosing the situation. One should not downplay the importance of diagnosis ahead of treatment. What needs to be done might seem complex to many; however, I would argue that it is important not to opt for repetitive strategies which have failed. The step-by-step approach has been tried repeatedly with no success.
Negotiations are a tool, not an end. All parties must come to this realization. The Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) should not be a question of how to get the principal parties back to the negotiating table but rather to forge a solution based on the already agreed international consensus vis-à-vis the MEPP. The relevant UN resolutions and international law are crystal clear; the two-state solution is the position of the international community and the concession that the PLO had made for the sake of peace for the region.
There is absolutely no point to negotiating what is already agreed upon, i.e. on a starting point to end the Israeli occupation! What is needed is the demarcation of the borders of the long-recognized State of Israel!
This article will not argue against creative solutions; however, even if normalization agreements can take bilateral relations between the Arab states and Israel to the moon and bring Silicon Valley to the Middle East, they shall never bring peace to the region as long as Palestinians are not included in the interest-based scenario that surfaced after the Trump administration imposed facts on the grounds.
Annexation Violates Multiple UN Resolutions
Jerusalem is a final-status issue and should be negotiated and agreed upon by the two parties alone, in accordance with the Declaration of Principles of 1995. Unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the Jewish capital of Israel is illegal. Trump’s act was not reversed by the Biden administration, but it should be noted that it is a breach of the interim agreement. The decision violates international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, specifically Articles 49 and 146, and is considered a war crime under the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction. Annexation violates the UN Charter, specifically Article 2 which prohibits the acquisition of land by force; it is contrary to the 1973 UN Convention on apartheid; it is contrary to peace agreements and especially Paragraph 7 of Article 31 of the 1995 Oslo Accords. Trump’s decision violates multiple UNSC resolutions that guarantee the Palestinian rights in the 1967 lands and East Jerusalem: 242, 253, 267, 298, 476, 478, and 2334. Security Council member states are expected to uphold Article 25 of the UN Charter which obliges them to comply with all Security Council decisions. It is worth noting that the Palestinians have more than 800 UN General Assembly resolutions and more than 100 UNSC resolutions, the last of which is 2334.
ICC Is the Address for Israel’s Crimes
The peace process started with the idea that tangible improvements would be achieved during the interim period, which would be of relatively short duration, and that the process would yield to international resolutions. In reality, for 30 years, the peace process resulted only in more violence and deterioration because of the ongoing settler colonial project. Facts since Oslo was signed show that 29 years of the Palestinian Authority (PA) have deepened the dependency of Palestinians on Israel. More than 130,000 Palestinian workers cross the checkpoints at 4 a.m. every morning to go to work in Israel or do construction work in the settlements in order to earn a living for their families.
This doesn’t contradict the fact that settlements are illegal. This position is anchored in UNSC Resolution 2334 of December 2016, and so it is high time for UNSC member states to abide by their ethical and legal obligations.
UNSC Resolution 2334 clearly states that settlements impede the possibility of a two-state solution. Since the peace process started, the number of settlers has tripled to 750,000 in more than 432 settlements and colonial outposts established on Palestinian West Bank land. In May 2018, Military Decree 1797 was issued allowing the demolition of any Palestinian structure in Area C within 96 hours! For 74 years, Israeli crimes under the occupation have continued. The Palestinians are suffering a second Nakba in the form of forced displacement orders in Khan al-Ahmar, Sheikh Jarrah, in Beita, in Massafer Yatta; the confiscation of lands for colonial expansion purposes; and extrajudicial killings targeting every Palestinian. Shireen Abu Akleh’s murder is a solid legal case that shows Israeli crimes. The ICC is Palestine’s last resort to hold Israel accountable for all its crimes against humanity.
Sense of Superiority Leads to Racist Policies
Israel persecutes prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations. After it applied a terror designation to six1 NGOs, several countries went on record that compelling evidence had not been forthcoming and resumed their funding. The offices of these organizations have been raided and shuttered and their workers interrogated. Israel is targeting those organizations simply because they document its crimes. A response limited to expressions of condemnation is too easily dismissed. This is impunity on steroids; it encourages more of the same or worse.
The boycott of settlements products has become a moral obligation for all nations. Annexation is ongoing de facto, as settlements constitute the base of the colonial project. The Palestinians are subject to greater restrictions on their movements; Israeli settler colonies are growing; the West Bank is increasingly fragmented by the construction of bypass roads and the proliferation of Israeli checkpoints; and the Gaza Strip continues to be under siege.
Israel and the United States Engage in Coercive Diplomacy
Constructing a separation wall, sealing off Palestinian communities, building settler colonies, destroying the Palestinians’ quality of life, and even killing Palestinians are all clearly meant to hinder the possibility of creating a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli state. Israel has always appeared in the mass media and on the international stage as the victim, claiming that its own violent actions were carried out for security reasons, but this is far from the truth. The Machiavellian style of negotiations practiced by the Israelis has ultimately been detrimental to the peace process and contributed to its collapse.
As noted, the entire hasty peace process has been a zero-sum game, in which wins by one side are losses by the other, and vice versa. Since the beginning of talks, the strategy of the U.S. Administration and other mediators has been to keep the negotiations going rather than to find a solution that would end the conflict. Ultimately, the result of agreements signed by the PLO and Israel or of Israeli unilateral actions has been the division of the Palestinian territory and the division of authority within them. This has seriously complicated the PA’s task and hindered Palestine’s development. Unfortunately, the incessant approach of coercive diplomacy – still used today by Israeli and American politicians as proven by Israeli demands that negotiations can restart only if the issues of settler colonies, Jerusalem, and refugees are not on the table – has killed any possibility of upholding the rights of both sides.
Gaza Blockade Is Collective Punishment
Israel did withdraw from Gaza and redeploy 9,000 Israeli settlers; however, Gaza remains under total control of the Israeli occupation authorities. The goal behind the disengagement from Gaza was not to grant Gaza freedom. As articulated by Ariel Sharon’s top aide Dov Weisglass, “the disengagement is actually formaldehyde” meant to ensure that “there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.” Hamas celebrated it as a victory of the resistance while at the same time it understood the Israeli motives behind the disengagement. Today, Israel is using Hamas as a fig leaf, and the rockets of the resistance are labelled terror. The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was done unilaterally, without coordination with the PLO or the PA, and it led to the institutional and political split and division that has been in existence for 16 years now. Gaza has faced ongoing major military raids and incursions since 2007. Israel has used lethal force to pacify Hamas and reduce the spirit of resistance in Gaza, and I am afraid that we witnessed the successful results during the last attack.
Hamas relies on rocket fire as a negotiating tactic to pressure Israel to ease access of goods and people by loosening the blockade; on the other hand, Israel employs military might to deter Hamas. These tactics of Hamas and Israel enabled short-term victories for both at the expense of a long-term resolution. The Hamas Charter proclaimed “Jihad for the liberation of Palestine is obligatory,” but today Hamas is pioneering the art of diplomacy, negotiations!
Political Inclusivity Is Key
With all the respect to aid, projects, and money, the Marshall Plan approach is doomed to fail if not wrapped in a political context. Efforts to deal with the Palestinian cause from a humanitarian perspective provide cover for the continued Israeli occupation in terms of the blockade. There must be an economic commitment to a resourced UNRWA capable of delivering services — not only as a security necessity but also as a political commitment to the Palestinian refugees, who continue to be denied a solution. International and private companies are profiting from the need for humanitarian assistance in Gaza, while Israel is sustaining a cost-free occupation with Jewish supremacy over the entire land. The situation in Gaza requires immediate Palestinian intervention. Gaza is a source of Palestinian natural and human resources; it is at the core of a boost to the Palestinian economy. The illegal blockade of Gaza and the unlawful occupation represent forms of structural violence and collective punishment that we cannot ignore. Siege, blockades, and closures left the Palestinians facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Above all, loss of hope prevails. The people are suffering in silence, and we are seeing it without an ability to do much about it. The international community is ethically and legally obligated to guaranteeing the funding for the solar energy project, securing electricity and water supplies, in addition to granting citizens protection and support and pursuing the international investigation of Israel’s crimes and violations against the Palestinians. There can be no effective or prolonged approach in isolation; political inclusivity is key. By containing Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Israel created a fig leaf that legitimates its aggression toward Gaza, where Hamas has become the scarecrow. In the face of the internal setbacks, Palestinian political renewal, internal reconciliation, and the overcoming of divisions, as well as an international need to engage all relevant actors without applying unrealistic and selective preconditions, are a prerequisite to any solution.
Shrinking the Conflict
Some are under the impression that a Middle East Peace Process exists and that the Palestinians are enjoying a state structure. It is important to share reality with the world audience. It is time everybody realizes that after three decades of up and down negotiations, the Palestinians don’t have a state, don’t enjoy sovereignty, and are still suffering under an occupation that controls every detail of their lives. The Palestinians recognized Israel’s right to exist in 1988 and later again in 1993 with the beginning of the peace process. The Israelis never reciprocated. Moreover, no Israeli official ever verbally recognized the right of the Palestinian people to their own sovereign state. And then there is the 1980 law about a united Jerusalem, which annexed the eastern part of the city occupied in 1967.
Instead of jumping to conclusions or blaming the failure on the Palestinians as a déjà vu tactic, let us deal with the fact that the Israeli prime minister is against making peace with the Palestinians. Today, Israel doesn’t want the two-state solution, doesn’t want a one-state solution, and doesn’t want to see Palestinians as equal human beings. In the 21st century, Israel has adopted the approach of shrinking the conflict and a mentality of micropolitics, providing the minimum necessary for survival.
Considering the Interests of All Parties
Multilateralism is not being applied effectively in the Palestinian case in comparison with the Ukrainian case. It would be wise to capitalize on the Ukraine experience. Of all nations, the Palestinian people are the most suitable to empathize with the Ukrainians, who are facing state-organized violence. With regard to an exit strategy, we should remember how early this year the international community used sanctions and adherence to international law and UNSC resolutions as an immediate and effective measure in Ukraine.
Thirty years since Oslo, one might wonder: Wouldn’t it be wise for the international community, which is still advocating the two-state solution, to recognize the Palestinian state to prepare the parties to meet as equals in negotiations? Above all, one should consider that negotiations are a tool toward a final agreement and not an end in themselves. The demand for investigations, accountability, and protection, let alone the urgent need to lift the siege and end the occupation, are received as ambitious asks. Advocacy for a peaceful settlement must capitalize on the interest-based school of thought where the interests of all parties are met. Gaza can be a source of creative thinking about solutions. To break the impasse, the international community must define the borders of the State of Israel and recognize the Palestinian state. This would translate into ending the Israeli occupation and would unfold prosperous peaceful regional solutions with the Palestinians included.
• Fact sheet: Regarding the Case of Sheikh Jarrah – The Occupied Jerusalem, Law for Palestine, UK, May 2021 file:///Users/mac/Downloads/Fact-sheet-regarding-the-case-of-Sheikh-Jarrahreferences-need-revisiting-Law-for-Palestine%20(3).pdf
• Human Rights Watch Report 27/4/2021 https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-andcrimes-apartheid-and-persecution
• Farsakh Leila, Rethinking Statehood in Palestine, California Press, 2021
• “The Deal of the Century,” April 2020. Paper published in a book with the Palestine Israel Journal PIJ, Book on the Deal of the Century April Issue 2020 available online at https://www.pij.org/articles/2011/the-deal-of-the-century-from-a-palestinianperspective
• Sheikh Jarrah: The Violation of International Law, Contextualizing Sheikh Jarrah. 21/5/2021 https://www.palestine-studies.org/en/node/1651316
• America Is Offering Money But That Is Not Enough, The Media Line, 6/6/2021 https://themedialine.org/news/opinion/america-is-offering-money-but-that-is-notenough/
• Arab Israeli Conflict, Is there a Possibility for a Two States Solution? Arab Thinking Forum, 9th June 2021 https://arabtf.uk/images/1626012352.pdf
• Why Is Israel Dictating America’s Mideast Policy? Iriqat, Dalal, Haaretz, 28/10/202 https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-why-is-israel-dictating-america-smideast-policy-1.10332959
• The One Thing Biden Needs to Know About the Palestinians, Iriqat Dalal, 11 July 2022, Haaretz
• Coercive Diplomacy: Camp David 2000, From Clinton to Trump, January 2022, Dirasat, Human and Social Sciences, University of Jordan, Vol 49, Issue 1, Pp.
625-638, ISSN: 2663-6190 https://journals.ju.edu.jo/DirasatHum/article/viewFile/111101/12659?target=_blank
• Diplomacy in the Perspective of Peace Building : From Coercion to Dictation (Israel & Palestine), Reconciliation and Refugees, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Ch 8, Pp. 127-147, ISBN -10 : 3525568568. October 11, 2021 https://www.aaup.edu/sites/default/files/Publications/VRV_Tacchini.pdf
1 6 Civil society organizations were labelled as terrorist: Alhaq, Addameer, Bisan, Union of Palestinian women’s committees, Union for agriculture workers committee.
October 19, 2021 apartheid state of Israel issued “military orders” declaring key Palestinian human rights and civil society groups “terrorist organizations”
الحركة العالمية للدفاع عن الأطفال/فلسطين - 1 #DCI
2- Al-Haq Organization مؤسسة الحق
3- Addameer Prisoner Support & Human Rights Association
4- Bisan Center for Research & Development مركز بيسان للبحوث والانماء
اتحاد لجان العمل الزراعي - 5 (UAWC)
6- Union of Palestinian Women's Committees اتحاد لجان المرأة الفلسطينية