Somalilandsun: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has stated that Israel is ready to move ahead with “peace for peace” rather than “land for peace” (which was the original intent of the Middle East peace process). Even when US President Donald Trump’s administration offered Israel the annexation of over a third of the occupied West Bank in its peace plan, ensuring Israel’s perpetual control over the Palestinians and their land, the government coalition couldn’t agree on the offer and did not achieve consensus on the plan.
It didn’t matter. Earlier this month, a debate in the Israeli Knesset (parliament) to approve the agreement normalizing diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates was held at the same time that Israel approved almost 5,000 illegal settlement units in under 48 hours. The text on which politicians voted contained no reference to stopping the annexation. In fact, Netanyahu and several members of the government coalition made explicit references to the expansion of settlements and to the non-acceptance of an independent Palestinian state, adding that all of Jerusalem, including its annexed part and holy sites, would remain fully under Israeli sovereignty. Rather than a two-state solution, their plan involves a “Greater Israel.” This is why Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that refuses to demarcate its borders.
Israel is carrying out this enterprise by confiscating Palestinian land, isolating East Jerusalem, fragmenting the West Bank, and besieging Gaza. It can do so because it does not fear any consequences. Some of the condemnations of previous settlement projects came from leaders who have loudly opposed any measures to hold Israel accountable for the occupation, whether through the International Criminal Court or by banning settlement products. Interestingly, the latest settlement expansion may serve as a wake-up call for those who have been embracing Israeli officials, believing that “charm diplomacy” could bring about a more conducive environment for peace.
But the facts are simple: Israel will not end its illegal occupation out of goodwill. On the contrary, it is systematically violating Article 2 of the Association Agreement with the EU, yet it still enjoys the benefits of that agreement. Now, it is normalizing agreements with other countries while approving more settlements and demolishing more Palestinian homes. A successful road map for peace can avoid neither accountability nor the bold political decisions needed to ensure Palestinians’ inalienable rights.
In this context, the strong European condemnation of the October 15 approval of settlement building – including from France, Spain, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the European Union – shows that despite the Trump administration’s efforts, the rest of the international community still considers the settlements illegal. An important aspect of the European statements is that they have confirmed what the “internationally agreed parameters” of a peace agreement are, including an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967. The real question, however, is when these condemnations will be turned into concrete measures.
Taking action means not rewarding Israel with new agreements, as well as reviewing existing deals in order to ensure that the occupation doesn’t benefit from them. Banning settlement products and acting against companies complicit in the apartheid regime imposed in Palestine are more than Palestinian demands; they are legal responsibilities and basic requirements to save the prospect of peace in the region.
At the same time, recognizing the State of Palestine and the 1967 border is more urgent than ever. Let’s be clear: Applauding the Emirati recognition of Israel, but still conditioning the recognition of Palestine on the outcome of negotiations, lacks all logic.
There are many examples to show that our approach is correct. The South African apartheid system, for example, would never have disappeared without a strong international commitment to isolate the country’s white minority government. Today, a free and democratic South Africa is on the front line of solidarity with Palestine.
Past failures to bring peace to Palestine and the rest of our region should not prevent countries from exercising their responsibility to uphold and advance human rights as the basis of a rules-based world order. This is the idea behind Palestine’s call for an international peace conference in the first quarter of 2021. Just as alliances of countries are working on issues of global importance, such as climate change, we will continue advocating for an alliance of countries to take concrete measures for a just and lasting peace in Palestine and the rest of our region. It is here that the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law, and the right to self-determination will be either strengthened or weakened.
Israel’s refusal to accept the 1967 border and an independent State of Palestine is a rejection of the simple principle of Palestinian rights. No normalization agreement between Israel and any Arab country will change the fact that Palestinians will not vanish. The existence of over 13 million Palestinians worldwide is a reality that the Israeli occupation cannot hide. Whether under the occupation’s direct control or in exile, Palestinians’ dreams of freedom have remained constant. Our mere existence represents a message of hope, peace, justice, and freedom, which remains our strongest weapon.
The author Majdi Khaldi is a senior diplomatic adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2020.