RANJAN SOLOMON | 18 JANUARY, 2017
NEW DELHI: Palestinian supporters and votaries for a just peace hoped that September 15 may just tip the scales further in favour of the Palestinian claim to justice. Those hopes were a mere mirage.
In spite of the Palestinian Authority’s endorsement of the conference by France attended by 70 countries, Palestinian factions were opposed to the very premise of the international summit. Their expectations of diplomatic breakthroughs were down to minimum. And this skepticism is rooted in real politic.
The international community has done little to bring relief to the Palestinian condition even in the fiftieth year of Israel’s illegal occupation. The only constant is the war is the worsening of the Palestinian predicament. Kayid al-Ghoul, a senior leader in the Gaza Strip for the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) told a reliable news outlet that the premise of the conference, which was expected to recommend the resumption of peace negotiations toward a two-state solution, meant “bypassing the right of return and self determination" for Palestinians.
A senior Islamic Jihad official in Gaza described the conference plans as merely another attempt to resume a peace process “that Israel has already killed and buried, while the international community had failed to admit that Israel is the main source" of the crisis.
It was clear too that Israel would torpedo any possible positive outcome by its veiled threats of more demolitions of Palestinian homes and land confiscations in the occupied territory. This would be much like Israel’s reaction to condemning illegal settlements by approving new settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) also warned of a possibility that the conference may only serve to create "low standards" regarding Palestinian rights. Israel’s outrage over the mere fact the conference is evidence of this. Israel’s cabinet had described the conference, even before it began, as “useless.”
What matters now is that an increasing number of Palestinians view the two-state prospect as devoid of any probability of success. This becomes even clearer when one views mounting extremism among Israel's right-wing government and public, and a surge in illegal Israeli settlement construction with tacit and blatant approval by the incoming US administration. Palestinians increasingly favour a bi-national state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.
Those who want justice for the Palestinians and a peace that rests on this premise wonder why the conference did not dedicate itself to putting political substance to the recent United Nations Security Council Resolution, 2334. That resolution was unambiguous in its condemnation of Israeli settlement activity. It had demanded that member states differentiate between dealing with Israel and the occupied territories. It had also demanded full recognition of Palestinian statehood.
The Paris meeting turned out to be a damp squib merely reiterating outdated rhetoric about the two-state solution. The international community is playing ‘wordsmith’ at the cost of Palestinian dignity and rights through its statements and speechifying. It is intimidated by Israeli threats and American belligerence. The US presence in France was inconsequential with a mere five days before Obama moves into political oblivion. Donald Trump will soon assume centre stage. The future promises worse than any time before for Palestinians given the trends that are showing from Trump’s outlooks.
The conference ducked the core question of creating the grounds for Palestinian recognition by a large enough number of countries and did precious little to offer mechanisms for ending the illegal occupation. It simply evaded the demand for the Palestinian refugees’ right of return.
The summit coincides with an extraordinary move in Israel to endorse a bill that would authorize Israel to deport family members of Palestinian assailants from 1948 areas. In the morning after the Paris conference concluded, Israel displayed contempt for the Palestinian condition. Israeli soldiers indiscriminately uprooted hundreds of olive trees only to pave a new road for an illegal colony in the occupied West Bank.
On a daily basis, Israel attacks targets the Palestinian people on their lands, to construct and expand colonies disregarding the fact that they are deemed illegal by the International Law and the Fourth Geneva Convention. The judiciary is as bizarre as the political scenario. The Israeli Supreme Court recently allowed the illegal confiscation of 104 Dunams (25.6 Acres) of Palestinian land, after rejecting appeals filed by the Palestinian owners of these orchards. In other words even the judicial system props up the occupation.
One need go no further to explain why two in three Palestinians say that the two-state mold is no longer doable.
It’s time for the world to swap words with tangible actions that open the avenues of a just and sustainable settlement. As Motasem A Dalloul writing in The Middle East Monitor puts it: “Platitudes and rhetoric do not change the situation on the ground, nor do they give us Palestinians much cause to be optimistic”.
It is time for Israel to feel the pinch for its political conceit and obdurate machinations. If this is not the time for the international community to isolate this racist, apartheid state, which is? It is well worth applying the prophetic words of Martin Luther King to this asymmetrical conflict: “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice”.
(The writer is a commentator and analyst on the Question of Palestine)