Peres, Kerry, Abbas

A Shift in the Discourse about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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Gershon Baskin thinks that the Palestinians are no different from the Israelis in that they too are willing to fight and die for a territorial expression of their identity. There is only one solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – two states for two peoples. As a Jew, a Zionist and a proud Israeli he wants to have prosperous and happy neighbours living in a state of their own, next to Israel, living side-by-side in peace.

“The reason we’re so devoted to finding a solution is simple: Because the benefits of success and the dangers of failure are enormous for the United States, for the world, for the region and, most importantly of all, for the Israeli and Palestinian people.” Senator John Kerry

“The US continues to seek exclusive power for this on-going crisis. Palestine is central to the entire Arab people, but continues to be treated by the US as a separate problem, rendering all the resolutions of the United Nations irrelevant and inapplicable, and by Israel, parasitical and objectionable.” Clovis Maksoud

“If Israel wishes to be regarded as a western-style democracy, it must decide to give up Arab land conquered through war. Should it choose to stick to the status quo and deny basic human rights to four million Palestinians, the US should not add to the some 40 or so vetoes it has already exercised in the UN Security Council to protect Israel from sanctions. Israel’s filibustering tactics at peace talks must not continue to be rewarded”. Hugh Reilly

Secretary of State John Kerry intends to present the framework agreement setting out the principles for resolution of the core issues between Israel and the Palestinians within a few weeks. Some would argue that there is no need for a framework agreement: Israel must acknowledge that it is an occupying power subject to acting in accordance with the 4th Geneva conventions. Israel leaving the occupied territories should be the basis of a just peace.

As Gershon Baskin of IPCRI wrote recently, the Palestinians are no different from the Israelis in that they too are willing to fight and die for a territorial expression of their identity. There is only one solution Gershon went on to say to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – two states for two peoples. As a Jew, a Zionist and a proud Israeli he wants to have prosperous and happy neighbours living in a state of their own, next to Israel, living side-by-side in peace.

A major shift in the discourse about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is well under way. Israel is watching traditional allies in the West dry up due to widening criticism of the country’s behaviour toward the Palestinians. Helped by the social media and an internationalising boycott movement that is gaining ground, the conflict once been draped in purely security-related terms, is becoming a rights-based discourse on all those under Israeli control from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. For example, over 2000 BBC viewers and listeners have contacted the BBC to urge it not to award G4S with a security contract worth £80 million. G4S services Israeli prisons to which Palestinian prisoners are illegally transferred in serious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and also, in the case of child prisoners, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. There is credible evidence that Palestinian prisoners – including children – are routinely subjected to violence and torture at G4S serviced prisons in Israel and Palestine.

Since talks started last July, Israel has unveiled plans to build some 5,349 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – land the Palestinians want for their future state. The European Union’s Ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Anderson, said if the settlement business continues to expand, Israel will be facing increasing isolation. Produce grown in illegal Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley is becoming increasingly difficult to sell to European market; export-driven income has dropped by more than 14%, largely due to supermarket chains in Europe refusing to stock the produce. Britain was singled out as a particularly problematic market for illegal settlement goods. By the same token, the EU has warned the aid-dependent Palestinians it might reduce the 1 billion Euros it hands them each year – crucial budget support for the Palestinian Authority in self-rule areas, if they snub Kerry’s initiative.

In his recent book, The Crisis of Zionism, American journalist Peter Beinart argues that more and more American Jews no longer support Israel the way they once did because they have grown disenchanted with the conflict and occupation, and Israel’s liberal intellectuals are also taking action too. On the other hand, a campaign called Yesha reflects the power of the settler lobby in Israel which is bigger and better organised than at any time in the country’s past.

As the tension ratchets over the ongoing Kerry initiated negotiations, we are watching a polarization of positions within Israel, Palestine and internationally. The gloves are off. Dr. Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations in New York, said that the international community must act collectively to hold Israel accountable for its violations and crimes and salvage the prospects for the realization of peace and justice in this year. He said, “The international community, foremost the Security Council, has clear responsibilities and must no longer tolerate Israel’s blatant contempt for international law.” The Palestinians say they are ready to shift their battle for an independent state on land captured in the 1967 Middle East war to the International Criminal Court if the negotiations prove fruitless.

Palestinians will not accept any deal short of having East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine and they refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Israel cannot make peace with the Palestinians so long as it fears that a free Palestine next door would be a base for terrorism or attacks on Israel. So back to the security argument. Israel reaps more than $600 million in revenue from agriculture in the Jordan valley. The Palestinians believe Israel wants annex the entire valley — about 25 percent of the West Bank — and never surrender it. But Israel has peace accords with Jordan and Egypt. The greatest way to ensure security surely would be further peace agreements, especially with the Palestinians.

Peacemaking needs tremendous courage. It requires mutual concessions and unpopular decisions. It must be crafted by leaders and supported by the people. It is a test of leadership. The post-conflict era is generally characterized by prolonged instability in the transition from warfare to cooperation. The real fruits of peace can take years. We remain hopeful Kerry will defy the pessimists and secure a deal in the coming weeks to allow, at the very least, detailed talks to continue beyond the original nine-month deadline, which expires at the end of April.

Kate Thick

Kate Thick is the founder Equity and Peace , a news & media campaign for peace & equality in the Middle East.Kate feels that teaching children to hate is stealing their future. Kate has worked in advocacy for many years after a career in the not-for-profit sector in conflict regions around the world. Kate now supports her advocacy and campaigning through her acupuncture clinic in Northumberland.

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