New Israeli conditions stall peace process

Israel's status as an occupying power in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and its imposition of new conditions for peace, are further entangling negotiations with the Palestinians.

al-monitor Tony Blair, Catherine Ashton, John Kerry, Tzipi Livni, Saeb Erekat, Ban Ki-moon and Sergey Lavrov attend a meeting of the Middle East Quartet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, New York, Sept. 27, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Brendan McDermid.

Topics covered

security, peace talks, palestine, occupied territories, john kerry, israel, benjamin netanyahu

Feb 3, 2014

Too many new issues — or are they problems? — arose simultaneously in the last few days pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian question.

To begin with, during the Munich Security Conference, a meeting was held by the Quartet (the European Union, United Nations, United States and Russia) to discuss developments in the Israeli-Palestinian issue and especially the “framework” that is being designed by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

It is time to ask what has been the role of the Quartet and why UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should be a part of it. The secretary-general is the ultimate custodian of all UN resolutions relevant to the Palestinian right of self-determination spelled out in hundreds of resolutions in the UN General Assembly and some in the Security Council, as well as in the specialized agencies of the UN system. In my opinion, being in the Quartet is a constraining element of his authority on this issue. His role on this important and vital issue cannot be confined to the Quartet. His mandate is far wider and perceived as more objective and his assessments and interpretation of these resolutions should be more binding.

In this respect, the role of Tony Blair as the special envoy of the Quartet is at best nebulous and appears to be an adjunct to the United States’ exclusive management of the “negotiations” taking place. This is becoming even more evident by the unilateral and intense engagement of Kerry and the perceived limited and almost invisible role of the so-called Quartet.

A further question arises concerning the role of the US special envoy, Martin Indyk, in the  “negotiations” that, when initiated, were supposed to conclude sometime after nine months and were only now focusing on the “framework agreement” as a priority to be presented to both sides by the United States.

As an American proverb states: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” What is taking place through these varied meetings tends to obscure that negotiations cannot produce a result unless and until Israel admits and recognizes that it is, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, an occupying power bound by the articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.

The EU’s foreign affairs head, Catherine Ashton, made clear Saturday that this is “a moment when difficult and bold decisions need to be made.” How true!

No credible and acceptable agreement can take place as long as Israel violates all articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention and refuses to accept that its status in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is one of an occupier.

What the proliferation of settlements demonstrates, as Indyk indicated to a Jewish group on Jan. 30, is that roughly three-quarters of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank would be included in a redrawing of the Israeli borders envisaged under US-backed peace negotiations, according to The Washington Post on Jan. 31.

One wonders how the semantics of Oslo Agreement 20 years ago, repeated at the summit meeting in Camp David between PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Bill Clinton in 2000, allow Israel to unravel its plans of settlements, its territorial annexationist policies, its ongoing and deliberate refrain from acknowledging that it is an occupying power. In addition, it treats the Gaza Strip as a sui generis belligerent entity.

Now Israel is adding other conditions in the “negotiating” process of compensating for Jews displaced from some Arab state — which in itself can be rebutted by the historical facts — and the emphasis that Israel is not only a Jewish state, but “a nation for the Jewish people,” which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to slip in, to render the Arab citizens in Israel as if they didn’t belong to the land of their forefathers. This enhances the institutional discrimination that the Arab citizens of Israel have been experiencing throughout the years.

Before any resumption of “negotiations,” Palestinians have to convene urgently their various institutions, think thanks, thinkers, activists and statesmen sidelined by the present leadership for an immediate conference, with a frank debate and clear analysis of options because what is taking place at this juncture will lead, if continued, to Palestinian national and human rights being unaddressed and unfulfilled.

This is not intended to be “a dramatic” statement. It is a call to have frank deliberations among the Palestinians and, if necessary, among the Arabs before it is too late!

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