Middle East Monitor / September 12, 2020
Our lives have more closely resembled a sci-fi movie than reality these past few months. News of the coronavirus spreading across the globe, countries struggling to respond, news of deaths and recoveries, cures and vaccines, international economies facing new modules that have never been tested before, and therefore facing outcomes that cannot be rationally predicted, have all been at the top of current events in 2020. This has created a chaotic and fluid situation where mass confusion is running the show. While the whole world is faced with these unprecedented challenges, Palestine stands alone in dealing with yet another challenge – one that has been there for centuries. Palestine still endures an oppressive, brutal and violent occupation that does not care about a deadly disease invading the universe. This occupation is determined to instil its own horrors on the Palestinians as it proceeds with a deliberate plan aiming to destroy any possibility for the creation of an independent, viable and sovereign State of Palestine.
According to Israel the ‘deal’ must go on
Life before the pandemic seems like a faint memory, but strangely enough, only a few months ago on 28 January, US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu emerged as two partners celebrating a high-level merger of some sort before the press, and in a room filled with prominent, wealthy and predominantly Jewish guests. You could see the triumph, satisfaction and victory in everybody’s eyes. But what you couldn’t make out from that picture, and the question that was on a lot of minds while watching the event unveil, was – to which side do any of those guests belong? It seemed more like an arranged marriage than an announcement of a peace deal, especially with the actual second party to this deal missing all the fun. A deal is defined as: “An agreement entered into by two or more parties for their mutual benefit.” So right off the bat, this long-awaited, so-called “deal of the century” that claims it will end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, would lose its allure. Although, in all fairness, the deal does meet some of the definition stated above, the only problem is that Palestine is not one of these “two or more parties” celebrating and benefiting from it. Instead, this deal was actually entered into by Israel and the US.
As you browse through the 181-page document, you will not find the word “occupation” mentioned anywhere, not even once, despite it being a plan that aims to end the conflict. The deal assumes that everything Israel did since before its creation, and until now, is justified. It has never been an aggressor, an occupier or an oppressor of any kind. Israel had to do what it had to do, in order to “survive”. Not only that, but Palestinians also need to realise that in the slim chance that Israel eventually agrees to allow for the creation of that shell of a Palestinian state, it will be controlled in every aspect imaginable by the Israeli army. They will still be able to raid cities, break into homes, take prisoners, demolish buildings and collectively punish a nation. The only difference would be the signature at the end of the document signed by the Palestinians, agreeing to their fate and surrendering to Israel’s will. What will emerge is a rebranded acceptable occupation that cannot be fought or held accountable; a very convenient and practical resolution that does not involve giving up any of the occupied land – a camouflaged one-state solution with two systems.
It’s not me, it’s you
The hypocrisy of the century forces Palestinians to accept annexation, the occupation, the reality of living in cantons connected by bridges and tunnels, the reality that Israel will keep Palestinian prisoners and could imprison many more, the fact that Israel will control the land, water, sky, and anything else that lies in between, and more. In return, they might be eligible for a state, but there is a catch. Palestinians must also agree that their current prosecutor will also be their future judge.
Your security is my command
The word “occupation” was not hinted at even once in the Peace and Prosperity Plan. On the other hand, the term “security” was mentioned more than a hundred times – Israel’s security of course, not Palestinian and Israeli. According to the deal, Palestinians need to prove they can meet Israel’s security demands. These security demands that until now gave Israel its rhetoric, an excuse for the killing, destruction, violation of international law and human rights, and not to mention its repetitive war crimes. Violence is not the answer and should never be tolerated nor condoned. What Israel and the US choose to deliberately ignore, is that occupation, oppression and injustice are the causes of that circle of violence and the lack of security in the region. Making the occupied responsible for the occupier’s security, instead of ending that occupation, will only push things towards the abyss. Denying the right of a nation to use tools especially developed by the international community to protect itself against such aggressions, and using all powers to prevent these organisations from performing their duties towards that nation, are the real sources of terror and instability – not the other way around.
Is anybody home?
The notion that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land” was far from true when the first Jewish immigrant arrived in Palestine, and is still untrue today. More than 700,000 people were expelled from their homes in 1948. Today, they amount to 6,000,000 people whom this plan is trying to eradicate. On the other hand, the deal states that Israel deserves compensation for the expense of absorbing the Jewish refugees. So Israel should be paid for bringing its people “home” in order to create its state, and at the same time would not only assume no responsibility for the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people (who were actually living on that land) in the process for it to achieve that – but it would also deny their right of return? Is this rational, fair or even humane? This is the Irony of the century. A just solution would have been to implement United Nations (UN) Resolution 194, a resolution that Israel fully agreed to, to become a member of the UN – and then ignored before the ink had even dried.
The economic mirage
Putting those points aside, and considering only the economic aspect of the deal, the Palestinians will still be on the losing end, even if they acquire all of the questionable, conditional $50 billion, right after signing (which is not the case). Why? Because according to a report published by the UN entitled Economic Costs of the Israeli Occupation for the Palestinian people: Fiscal aspects, the Israeli occupation cost Palestine $47.7 billion, and that’s just between the 2000-2017 period. What is evident, is that Israel already owes Palestinians more than the $50 billion they, and the US, are parading before everyone’s eyes, as if money can substitute freedom, sovereignty and self-determination for the Palestinians.
Just because this strategy worked with some mercenary characters, dubious organisations or even some banana republics, does not mean that everyone is ready to sell their values for the right price. The Palestinian cause is priceless to its people, its leadership and to millions of others all over the world, and no amount of money nor threats can change that. This notion is baffling to Israel, the US and their old and new allies. If Israel would only end its occupation instead, and allow Palestinians the freedom to reconstruct their own economy, it would be a much faster and cheaper solution to a self-sufficient, sustainable Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel – if that is what Israel and the US were aiming for.
This land is my land, and that land is mine as well
The US does not own Palestine, and as such, it is in no position to gift Palestinian land to anyone. The deal decided that it’s in the “future Palestine’s” best interests to accept that Israel will permanently occupy East Jerusalem, to welcome the annexation of 30 per cent of the West Bank, and submit with appreciation to the transfer of all illegal settlements to the State of Israel. Being the power that it is, the US can try to dictate what it wants and try to twist arms to get its agenda going. It could bribe and intimidate countries that are supposed to be the supporters of the Palestinian cause. It could also protect Israel’s colonial occupation and apartheid, and Israel could benefit from this unconditional support and feel free to destroy any prospects of a humane solution to the conflict. However, neither Israel nor the US, or any other country, will ever be able to make the Palestinian people, or their rights to a free, independent Palestinian state fade. A true testament to that, is how the Palestinian cause prevails time and time again, in the face of continuous attempts to eliminate it, while only growing stronger.
So, why would the Palestinians pass on such an opportunity to accept a deal that is “overly good to them”, according to Trump?
The real test now, is how united and decisive the international community and the international institutions are against such actions. What message will we be sending to those who think that the “might is right” philosophy of power, will legitimise and legalise the egregious violation of international law and human rights. You can find hundreds of those violations in the proposed Peace and Prosperity Plan. Do we want a “the end justifies the means” mentality to prevail?
Do we want to set a precedence that will only lead the world down a very slippery slope? Do we want to let the utter deliberate disregard for international law and UN resolutions and the denial of basic rights of nations to have no repercussions? Not intervening before it’s too late will result in apartheid made permanent by “the only democracy” that exists in the Middle East, while the rest of the world watches. If the international community is interested in finding a solution that would create a just and long-lasting peace, then it should immediately assume its responsibilities, force Israel to end its occupation and recognise the State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital – an easy solution that is by the book.
Mona Abuamara is a Palestinian diplomat