Lebanon Pulse

Long-awaited unity should embolden Palestinians

Article Summary
The reconciliation between the Gaza and West Bank leaderships should embolden Palestinians to assert their legitimate rights and demand negotiations as a state under occupation.

It seems that US Secretary of State John Kerry has gained some insight into Israel’s “negotiating” methods and its demanding approach to the “peace process.” He has now apparently glimpsed that the consequences of Israel's attitude toward the Palestinians carries the seeds of an apartheid-like outcome.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to elicit acknowledgment from the Palestinians that Israel is a Jewish state stifles any feasibility of an acceptable outcome, not only for the Palestinians and the Arabs, but for the international community as well. Netanyahu’s attitude toward the Palestinians concerning the agreement between the Gaza and West Bank leaderships to form a joint government is also intended to undermine any expectation of an outcome stemming from the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, which obviously strengthens the unity of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories.

It is well established that Israel denies that it is an occupying power. It has behaved and acted consistently, since the Oslo Accords and even before, as a claimant to the lands it captured and thus never applied the articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibit an occupier from altering the demographic or geographic character of the occupied territory. This has been Israel’s pattern since June 1967, and more emphatically so since the Oslo agreements were signed in 1993. It alternatively treats the Gaza Strip as an “enemy entity” (belligerent sui generis), thus undermining any prospect of discussion, let alone consequential negotiations. It is now imposing its own conditions by trying to pre-empt any genuine reconciliation between the West Bank and Gaza authorities.

The question arises as to whether the United States has discovered many realities obscured by the peace processes since Oslo. Jimmy Carter discovered the haughtiness of Israel’s dictates after leaving the presidency, and now it appears that Kerry might have discerned the same technique, which is pursued not as an occupier, but a conqueror. 

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It is imperative that unification of the West Bank and Gaza authorities becomes a reality pursuant to any serious resumption of actual negotiations, as opposed to discussions, as has been the case thus far. In fact, unifying the Palestinian Authority and Hamas administrations into one governing entity brings with it a potentially empowering negotiating position and perhaps the possibility of deterring the creeping annexation being carried out in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank. It would behoove President Mahmoud Abbas to bring the legal situation into clearer focus, as Israel has been defying international law. There will be no true negotiations unless and until Israel acknowledges that it is indeed an occupying power.

With the unity of Gaza and the West Bank (and East Jerusalem), the prospects of an outcome that is relatively just becomes much more feasible. It should embolden the Palestinians to articulate the obvious justice tied to their rights and therefore the legitimacy of their claims. In the last few weeks, Israel’s intransigent aggression has become clearer to all, along with the institutional discrimination of Arab Israeli citizens, further highlighted in the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

This new achievement by the Palestinian leadership must be accompanied by bringing to the forefront the reality of the UN General Assembly resolution passed in November 2012, resolving that Palestine is a state under occupation. This resolution should become the foundation of any pursuit of a resumption of negotiations, bringing a halt to the redundant, useless and endless discussions ongoing since Oslo.

Kerry might defer to what the international community has already discovered while hoping that the US Congress will not continue to mirror Israel’s narratives on this crucial issue. One additional worry, however, is that the US congressional elections in November might become a factor inhibiting the Obama administration from taking the steps needed to achieve the long-anticipated two-state solution.

The Arab states and those who have consistently supported Palestinian national rights should now be emboldened to continue to assert what they have consistently done, but unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority seems to have marginalized their dedicated moral political and legal support as manifested in the resolution aforementioned, namely, that today “Palestine is a state under occupation.” The unity of the leaderships of Gaza and the West Bank should not be tied to the so-called realism that has consistently frustrated the Palestinian rights of self-determination. This unity should instead be the architect of an emboldened negotiating team.

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Found in: west bank, united nations, palestinian authority, palestine, john kerry, israel, hamas, gaza

Clovis Maksoud is a former ambassador and permanent observer of the League of Arab States at the United Nations and its chief representative in the United States for more than 10 years.

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