Stop the Carve-up of Palestine!
Lots of people have had their knockabout fun with the new talks to re-partition Palestine. Commentators and bloggers have been vying with each other to pronounce that no conceivable “peace agreement” will come out of it.
But these talks are not a joke, or a farce or a charade. They could turn out to be a very serious threat, and should be treated with some alarm. As Omar Barghouti has said, they have called Abbas in to surrender. Instead of sitting back and saying it’s a waste of time, we need to bring together a united coalition to stop that surrender happening, and in the process to forge a strategy and a vision for something better.
Up to now, all talks were about process or detail, with the “final status” safely left for a future round. This time, apparently, they’re planning to do it in reverse: agree on a quick stitch-up within a year, and then drag out the detail for up to ten more years. As they say, the devil is in the detail, and this plan will give Israel a further decade to complete its “facts on the ground”.
As at every turn before, it will be dressed up as a reasonable offer, and the Palestinians will be blamed for missing the opportunity of a peace settlement. Israel may be calculating that this could take the pressure off the BDS and solidarity movements, so as usual any outcome will be to their advantage.
That is why it is vital not just to say no, but to have a genuine and workable alternative proposal for peace and justice. We think that the Single State, One Democracy is that alternative, for all the reasons we have spelt out in detail.
The relationship of forces couldn’t be more unequal, in every respect. Israel as always will have a clear plan. Having taken every square inch of Palestine, it can afford to give a little back and dress it up as a major compromise. It will have powerful assistance from its Best Friends in the White House, who promise a hands-on role and will in turn be answerable to the Israel lobby.
Apparently, Obama intends to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority and to use his visit “to persuade both peoples to support painful compromises for peace”: you’d think there was still a whole loaf left to divide up instead of a few crumbs.
It’s clear who is expected to do the compromising: “the US will try to persuade the moderate Arab states to make gestures towards Israel and influence the Palestinians to compromise“.
The plans start out from the facts on the ground created by Israel, rather than international law, or the facts of history or the rulings of UN bodies.
And who is to make the decision? What provision is there for all the Palestinians to speak: either in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Israel or in the camps of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon?
The moribund PA will “represent” Palestine. Hamas, democratically elected in 2006, will be excluded: a great way to build up their “refusenik” pose. If elections were held, polls indicate Fatah would win by a wide margin — but elections would also probably end Abbas’s tenure, and mandate a new leadership over talks with Israel. So Washington is very happy to deal with an out-of-date leader.
1. The situation is urgent and dangerous. It should concentrate the minds of activists, thinkers, organisers and networkers on the big picture even at the cost of ongoing campaigns, or better still, as a central focus for those campaigns.
2. Many Palestinian Two-State supporters have been seduced by the vision of a quick end to the occupation nightmare. The 10-year implementation plan, with Israel in full control, removes that illusion. Even in its most right wing version proposed by Israel’s settlers, a Single State would deliver benefits much faster than that.
3. The emphasis on a settlement freeze is pure theatre, with any number of conjuring trick gestures possible to play to the gallery. As many as 100 settlement outposts have been placed there purely as pawns, to be offered up in negotiations by way of distraction as apparently generous concessions. Israel has already far exceeded the plans it made just one month after the 1967 “war”, and probably had ready well before the invasion of the West Bank and Gaza: a 1970 map shows dozens of planned settlements and towns, even with names. These are now hundreds, an expansion well beyond Israel’s wildest early dreams.
4. Instead of just focussing on the Settlement freeze (so-called), where Israel has plenty of room to wriggle, why aren’t the Palestinian negotiators demanding, as a gesture or precondition, or as a sign that Israel is genuinely seeking peace, that the wall (which Israel has built to pre-empt negotiations on a new border) be dismantled? Why no demands that the roadblocks and checkpoints be opened and that the apartheid roads will be de-segregated? Why no demands to open up Gaza, to stop house demolitions, to evict the squatters from houses they’ve stolen in East Jerusalem? Why no protestations about the flattening of a Bedouin village within Israel? Why no demands for release of some 7000 prisoners of the struggle?
5. There is now ONE YEAR to create a leadership and a movement capable of challenging the coming stitch-up and spearheading the struggle for a just solution. The one good thing that could come from these talks would be such a united leadership.
6. A One State alternative should figure as an option within this process. It answers the needs of Palestinians in mainland Israel, in Gaza, in the West Bank and in the diaspora, and can unite them in a common struggle and underpin refusal of a carve-up. But it is still a minority position, and should not be a divisive precondition.
7. As Jeff Halper, founder of ICAHD, has suggested it may be more useful to concentrate on the essential elements of any solution acceptable to all Palestinians. These would include
(a) national expression for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples;
(b) economic viability for all parties;
(c) conformity with standards of human rights, with international law, and with fundamental UN resolutions — in particular 194 (right of return), 242 (land for peace), and 338 (negotiated settlement);
(d) a just resolution of the refugee issue, including Israel’s acknowledgement of the refugees’ right of return and of its role in creating the refugee issue; and
(e) addressing the security concerns of all the parties of the region (“guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every state in the area” as speciﬁed in UN resolution 242).
One Year to Build a new Leadership
The one-year timetable must be the last throw of the two-state game. The race will then be on to win massive support for the Single State as the only realistic way to justice and peace, and the only alternative to a descent into further catastrophic bloodshed. We need to prepare now.
There is no united Palestinian leadership. Yes, there are parties that aspire to govern, either independently (Hamas) or as proxies for Israel (the PA and Fatah). But no-one is looking to either of them to stand up for Palestinian rights against Israel, or to speak for Palestine on the international arena, or to articulate the steps that will lead to freedom and justice.
Not only is it fragmented geographically into Gaza, West Bank, Israel, the Arab diaspora and the international diaspora. Not only is it politically fragmented between Fatah and Hamas, and between two-state and one-state advocates and between secular and Islamic tendencies. It is also fragmented between local activists, writers and intellectuals, single-issue campaigners, and politicians and would-be administrators. And no role has yet been defined for the international solidarity activists and writers.
Most graphically Jeff Halper, in Strategising Palestine, suggested learning from the Zionists, whose aims were spearheaded by the single-minded Jewish Agency which worked out strategies, and thought and planned ahead. And it’s been noted that the end of apartheid in South Africa could not have happened without the leadership of the ANC.
The current situation calls for a re-grouping of all the existing structures and individuals into a United Front based on a few basic principles, starting with a resounding NO to the current talks.
Now is also the time for a new generation to join the existing parties, revitalise them and transform them into a tool of struggle rather than a degraded vehicle of capitulation and self-interest. If those with a clear vision are prominent in this move, they will be in a position to articulate the essential goals of a new leadership.
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