As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tries to move toward a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the process has been hampered by unilateral moves and new demands from the Israeli side. The result is that international law, a global consensus and Palestinian rights are being increasingly usurped by what is indistinguishable from Israeli interests and ambitions.
The first problem with Kerry’s emerging framework is that it does not propose a solution. Kerry proposes new terms of reference, new interim periods and the opportunity for both sides to “express their reservations.” An extension of negotiations means an extension of the status quo, but the status quo is not static. It is deteriorating on a daily basis, with each new illegal Israeli settlement on occupied Palestinian land and with each new demolition of Palestinian homes and livelihoods.
Since negotiations resumed last July, Israel has initiated the construction of 10,000 new illegal housing units and increased its settlement expansion rate by 132 percent. It has also made hundreds of Palestinians homeless by destroying entire communities, from East Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley.
If leaked details of Kerry’s framework are true, new demands from the Israelis have the potential to scuttle Palestinian rights rather than accommodate them. References to respecting Palestinian “aspirations” for a capital in Jerusalem, for instance, combined with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to relinquish sovereignty over the holy city, suggest that Palestinians are being set up to plant a flag in a remote neighborhood on the outskirts, contrary to all international conventions that recognize East Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territory.
Then there is the new insistence that Palestinians formally recognize Israel “as a Jewish state.” The Palestine Liberation Organization recognized the state of Israel more than 21 years ago, and the Palestinian Authority has recognized and cooperated with the state of Israel for many years. Israel, however, has never recognized a Palestinian state and is now pushing the goal lines further down the field with this unprecedented demand.
No such demand was made to Egypt or Jordan when they signed their peace agreements with Israel. No such demand was made to other countries that have recognized Israel. Moreover, one in five Israelis is not Jewish, and every modern democratic state should be a state for all its citizens, regardless of their ethnicity or creed.
This unacceptable proposition would foreclose the internationally recognized right of return of the Palestinian refugees. The demand, in other words, is nothing but a maneuver to obstruct any movement forward by presenting the Palestinian side with an impossible choice.
In addition, the Israeli position indicates that 90 percent of the settlers on the West Bank would remain in place, along with the Palestinian land they have illegally confiscated.
These settlements include some of the most fertile land in the West Bank and up to 80 percent of the water resources. Such losses can’t be recuperated through “mutual land swaps.” Retaining the settlement blocs legitimizes what is illegitimate and fractures the Palestinian state.
There is also talk of maintaining an Israeli security presence on the borders, Israeli control of all passages into and out of the Palestinian state and Israeli control of Palestinian airspace and the electromagnetic spectrum.
If this is the framework, then we are not talking about a Palestinian state. We are talking about disjointed Palestinian Bantustans.
With all due respect for his determination and the thousands of miles he has traveled, Kerry is allowing the prospects for peace to collapse. These convoluted and manipulative frameworks will not do.
The solution is simple and uncontroversial. Consistent with world opinion, international law, United Nations resolutions and statements of the International Court of Justice, Israel should withdraw from the territories it occupied in June 1967. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip, constituting just 22 percent of historic Palestine, should form the Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital. On this basis, a sovereign Palestinian state would barely be viable – but it would be viable nonetheless.
While diplomats wrangle, maneuver and delay, Palestinians and concerned citizens around the world have mobilized at the grassroots level, presenting the international community and the PLO leadership with a concrete and practical model for advancing a sustainable and just peace. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement has leveraged increasing pressure from below on governments and corporations to demand that Israel live up to its international obligations and respect Palestinian rights.
Most recently, in the heart of the occupied Jordan Valley and in response to leaked reports that Israel intends to maintain its army presence in the West Bank for years or decades to come, volunteers from across the territory have launched a new campaign called “Salt of the Earth,” a nonviolent direct action aimed at reclaiming and revitalizing our lost lands.
On Feb. 1, we moved into the ancient village of Ain Hijleh, which was depopulated in 1967 with the onset of the occupation. In the face of Israeli harassment and blockades, we began restoring the buildings and the land so that Palestinians can once again enjoy the valley and the Dead Sea. Our creative action counters Israel’s illegal settlement policies with a constructive Palestinian presence on the ground.
These global and local models of popular nonviolent resistance unveil the facade of the emerging Kerry framework. If international pressure is not brought to bear on Israel at this juncture, the system of discrimination and apartheid will be reinforced and imposed on future generations.
Mustafa Barghouti is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the legislature of the Palestinian Authority. In 2002, he co-founded the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party and movement that advocates for
Palestinian human rights. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. This commentary originally appeared at The Mark News (www.themarknews.com).