No sooner had peace talks restarted under the warped patronage of the United States than Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu published bids for the construction of more than 1,000 new housing units in Palestinian East Jerusalem and existing illegal West Bank squats.
This further violation should have been the final straw. Coming on top of all the other unpunished illegal squatter building by Israel since 1967, it should have caused any sensible Palestinian to walk away from the ‘peace’ table, and never to have sat down in the first place. Of course, no sensible Palestinians are taking part in this latest peace pantomime.
Instead we have to suffer the antics of Abbas and Erekat, the most obliging negotiators on the planet. They have no popular mandate yet think nothing of holding talks - with no preconditions - with the thieving, blockading, lethal military occupation that’s trashing their country continues unchecked.
The New York Times described the situation rather well for a U.S. paper, saying that Netanyahu’s finance minister and coalition partner, Yair Lapid, rightly complained that the unlawful building program on Palestinian territory would “needlessly challenge the Americans” and “poke sticks in the wheels of peace talks”.
Announcing settlement bids now, said the paper, embarrasses Mr. Kerry, who has worked so very hard to persuade the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, to drop his earlier demand for a settlement freeze. It also unhelpfully embarrasses Mr. Abbas, whose good faith appears to have been abused and who may now find it harder to sell difficult-but-necessary compromises to his people.
It should also have rung a final alarm bell for John Kerry. Surely, no Secretary of State worth his salt should stand for being slapped in the face, again and again, like that.
The reason for entering politics is surely to improve the human condition, not self-aggrandisement.Stuart Littlewood
A PLO press release stated that the new Jewish squatter project, consisting of 63 settlement units, would be built on land confiscated from the people of Jabal Moukabber, Sur Baher and Eam Laisun.
“Some people in Israel continue to believe that the endgame for negotiations should not be peace but rather, further colonization. We call upon all parties that had vigorously advocated for the resumption of negotiations to do whatever is needed to block and to punish the latest decisions made by the Israeli government and the Occupation Municipality in Jerusalem.” said Dr. Erakat.
“We hope that the Israeli government understands that their impunity is evaporating and that it is in Israel’s interest to go for justice and peace rather settlements and Apartheid. Settlement construction shows a lack of seriousness towards the idea of a Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace and security. We will be contacting different members within the international community in order to make clear to those who are trying to sabotage our efforts that settlement construction has a price and that this price will continue to grow.”
OK, Dr. Erekat. So why are you playing ball?
Twisted from the start
The reason for entering politics is surely to improve the human condition, not self-aggrandisement. The person chosen for Kerry’s job, one might suppose, would bring to it the most honourable of intentions and be prepared to sacrifice his or her immediate political career for the greater good. The role calls for someone who accepts that the cause of peace is bigger than they are.
Where is such a person? Is there anyone of noble caliber among the American political elite these days?
At the commencement of these latest ‘peace’ talks there was a simple test. As is the custom, both sides needed to agree who would chair the proceedings. How is it that Erekat and Abbas accepted the appointment of an arch-Zionist like Indyk? And if Kerry’s intentions were pure and even-handed what possessed him to put Indyk forward?
If America wished to appear clean and irreproachable, it could have turned the whole sorry mess over to the U.N. or International Criminal Court where it belongs, at the same time giving the American public an honest explanation.
In the circumstances, the Palestinians are entitled to walk away from those sham talks with no blame and take their case to the proper authority - which is certainly not the U.S. State Department. If they did so, it could spell the beginning of the end for the Zionist infiltration that grips the U.S. and UK… that is, if such a move were supported by the worldwide civil society solidarity movement.
As it is, we hear repeatedly from Western politicians that the Palestinians must be prepared to make more compromises and concessions, i.e. surrender more territory and sovereignty, as if the vast tracts of land and valuable resources already stolen count for nothing.
As the PLO has pointed out, although the two-state solution is common discourse today “it must be remembered that this solution is based on the Palestinian historic compromise of 1988, whereby the PLO accepted a state on a mere 22% of historical Palestine, for the sake of peace.
During the past twenty-plus years of peace process, the Palestinians have entered all negotiations in good faith and have acted in accordance with agreements made. Palestine has also joined other countries in the region in establishing the Arab Peace Initiative, which extends the offer of normalized relations for Israel with 57 Arab and Islamic countries following Israel’s full withdrawal from all the territories occupied since1967, and a just solution to the Palestinian Refugee issue in accordance with UNGA Resolution 194.”
Meanwhile, Palestine’s London embassy operates its customary ’silent routine’, carrying no information whatever on its website about the progress of the talks. The PLO Negotiations Affairs Department, on the other hand, explains how there is a deliberate attempt by Israel to colonize more land and to thwart the emergence of a genuinely independent, sovereign, and contiguous Palestinian state, making a negotiated outcome “implausible, if not impossible.”
“From the beginning of July until August 13th Israel has promoted 3,090 settlement units... These Illegal settlement activities were coupled with the preparation of new infrastructures, such as new road network that benefits the connectivity of Israel[’s] Illegal settlements enterprise.”
“The legal status of East Jerusalem is the same as the rest of the Occupied State of Palestine. The fact that Israel has attempted to unilaterally change the status of Jerusalem has been rejected by the international community through UNSC Resolutions 476 and 478 among others. This is the view of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, the International Committee for the Red Cross, and virtually all states except Israel. These Settlements constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998).
“A failure to describe these settlements in their accurate political context deprives audiences of the opportunity to understand a principal source of the Palestinian - Israeli issue: Israel’s illegal confiscation and colonization of Palestinian land. They are built in violation of customary international law on land confiscated from Palestinian villagers who are prevented from accessing, cultivating or living on their ancestral lands.”
It would be entirely appropriate, seeing as this is the Holy Land, for Kerry to play Pontius Pilate, to ‘wash his hands’ of the Israel problem and hand it over to the proper authority. After all, he has no legitimate function, or locus, in the territory. He is simply an unwelcome meddler, whereas Pilate at least held the governorship.
Stuart Littlewood is a marketing specialist turned writer-photographer in the UK. He is a regular contributor to Al Arabiya English website and the author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation.