Conventional discourse surrounding the Arab-Israel conflict, if one may even refer to it as a „conflict“, talks about a resolution based on the premise of two states as though it were just within our reach. As though any resolution–no matter the final shape or status of such a state–is better than no state or resolution at all. The Arab Peace Initiative is no different…
First of all, we should call it as it is: not a „conflict“, but Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, accompanied with the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of refugees and the denial of their and their descendants‘ right to return to their native homes, the continued incarceration of over 10,000 political prisoners, and ongoing violent colonization of Palestinian land.
To paraphrase former US Ambassador Edward Peck, there is no „conflict“ to speak of here–there is an illegal occupation. And in line with this, a „peace process“ implies a state of war, which itself implies two symmetric parties at odds with one another, in need of reconciliation. Rather, there is an illegal occupation, and its resolution is simple: demand it be ended. As Frederick Douglass reminded us, „power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.“
The Arab states need to radically re-think the kind of „peace agreement“ they endorse and will enter into in light of the tectonic changes in the Arab world, the crumbling of Pax Americana and the „repressive but stable“ Arab regime, and new revelations about the collusive dealings of these regimes by way of Wikileaks and the Palestine Papers.
It is no longer sufficient to simply endorse an initiative modeled on those fruitless and failed processes of the past and present and expect this will be enough. Because even if the Arab regimes think it is, the Arab people will not.
They should not make the mistake of entering into an agreement with Israel without securing an end to the Israeli occupation first and Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state–something of which the Oslo accords make not a single mention, and that is not endorsed in the governing Likud Party’s charter, which „flatly rejects“ its establishment. They should also not be bartering away other people’s enshrined rights–such as the Palestinian right of return. And they should certainly not be offering concessions without getting any in return.
If we are to take anything away from the Palestine Papers released by al-Jazeera, it is these lessons. Palestinian negotiators were all too willing to provide concessions to Israel–concessions they had no right to offer in the first place. In return for their capitulation, they received only Israeli intransigence, a further hardening of the Israeli position, increase in land theft and colonization and consistent sabotage of the process.
The lesson to be learned is that Israel was never interested in a just and lasting peace with the Palestinians, only one that would serve to further strengthen Israeli control over the land without the people, forever forestalling viable Palestinian statehood. It was former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s advisor, Dov Weisglass, who referred to the disengagement as a process intended to achieve just that: „The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that’s necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.“
The Arab Peace Initiative only further enforces the myth that there has been an active and ongoing peace process to start with–that Oslo and all its tributaries are ultimately leading to a just and lasting peace of equals, viable and contiguous Palestinian statehood and sovereignty, freedom, equality, and statehood.
It is time for the Arab states to think outside the two-state land-for-peace box and wake up to this reality. It is now time to begin to seriously consider endorsing a solution of one country with equal rights for all: a one-state solution. Given the realities on the ground in the West Bank–where Israel’s annexation barrier and illegal settlements and seam lines swallow nearly half of Palestinian land, Israel is determined to maintain a Jewish majority in Jerusalem and elsewhere throughout the land, no matter the cost (see: ethnic cleansing), and it intends to postpone viable Palestinian statehood indefinitely–this is the only solution that can achieve a just, feasible, and lasting peace.-Published 3/3/2011 © bitterlemons-api.org
Laila el-Haddad is author of „Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between“. She is also a contributing author to „The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict“.