Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Netanyahu’s Settlement Plan is Hobson’s Choice

By Saeed Qureshi

The peace and settlement process between Israel and Palestinians is back to square one. It is like proverbial Hobson’s choice which does not brook any choice for the other party. The Israeli hardliner Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now in United States has been very specific this time to lay down his conditions for the creation of a Palestinian state that would be acceptable to Israel after a further process of negotiations.

He did not right away give his unequivocal assent for the establishment of a home land for the Palestinians uprooted way back in 1948. He gingerly gave a kind of lip service approval to the creation of a state for the Palestinians provided his four conditions were met in advance.

Prime Minister Netanyahu outlined the Israeli perception of peace with the Palestinian and his vision of a Palestinians state before the United States joint session of Congress in a 50 minute long address punctuated intermittently by the loud applause and rousing ovation by the Israel friendly Congress.

As a matter of fact he did not unfurl or offer any new proposals or ground breaking plans that would bring a watershed thaw in the decade’s old stalemated dispute between the Israel and the people of Palestine. It is fundamentally a replay of what Israel’s stance has been all along.

Of these four conditions the first is that the Palestinian Authority under Mahmood Abbas should abrogate its agreement with Hamas. Israel does not want Hamas to be a party in the negotiations that are purported to take place sometime in the future between the two inveterate rivals to deliberate upon the two states road map.
That would be utterly impossible for Mahmood Abbas to agree because Hamas are by race as genuine Palestinians as the other Palestinians are.

The demand of isolating Hamas are patently aimed at dividing the two factions and break their unity that was made possible after much of efforts and quid pro quo and that lent strength to the Palestinian cause.

The second condition of Netanyahu is to make Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is an issue of contention that would not be accepted by the Palestinians under any circumstances. The East Jerusalem is to be located in the Palestinian state which cannot be bargained or abandoned by the Muslims or Christians for the sake of accepting a state without Jerusalem. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in six days war of 1967. East Jerusalem includes several holy places for all the three Abrahamic religions.

The complete control of Jerusalem by Israel will not be accepted also by the other Islamic states particualry in the Arab lands because this place is as holy for Muslims as it is for Jews and the Christians. Until 1948 Palestinians lived in the entire Palestine including Jerusalem. In 1948 and in later wars, their lands were usurped including the holy places. Now that occupation is being solemnized in the new plan as envisaged by the Israeli prime minister.

The third condition that is untenable and will not be agreed upon by the beleaguered Palestinian people is that Israel will not vacate the lands that it forcibly occupied in 1967 war. These territories consist of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and much of the Golan Heights and, until 1982, the Sinai Peninsula. Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982, as part of the 1979 Treaty.

If Israel plans to legitimatize its occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands that it took by aggression in 1967 war then it would set off a wicked tradition of occupying others’ lands by military means and then refuse to vacate them.

This violation also flies in the face of the United Nations charter that negates forcible land grabbing of the weaker countries or nations by powerful countries. Netanyahu's call to hold on to swaths of West Bank land including East Jerusalem, where Palestinians want their capital is neither legal nor moral.

The fourth condition is that the Palestinians that have been uprooted and became Diaspora or confined to the occupied lands will not be allowed to become citizens of the new sate of Israel. This is an indefensible demand that does not merit any consideration.

It is tantamount to the blatant denial of the rights of the Palestinian to live in any part of the land where they wish to be located. This condition spells out the demographic change that Israel has been straining to inject in any settlement plan. Now the cat is out of the bag and he has made his mind open on this most diabolic condition.

Israel is concerned about the forthcoming development by which the United Nations General Assembly would grant the legal status to the Palestinian state. All these eye-wash initiatives are aimed at forestalling that upcoming eventuality.

The Israeli lobby in the United States has worked overtime to make the Israeli prime minister’s visit as a thumping success as witnessed by the generous ovation given to him during his speech delivered with great emphasis on every word and phrase that he uttered.

But for all indications this stalemate would continue until Israel is prepared to agree by catering for the Palestinian proposals and treat them as equal partners. In the present situation it appears as if Israel was talking in such a way as if it was dealing with an inferior partner and throwing crumbs would be enough to pacify it.

It appears as if Israel is under the erroneous impression that with surrender of some land she was placing Palestinian under an overwhelming gratitude. She might also take it for granted that by simply agreeing to parting with some land and the settlements therein she could override and sidetrack other substantive thorny issues related to a consensus solution of the lingering dispute.

Unless Israel makes her stance more agreeable and pragmatic, a lasting and durable co-existence of the two nations in two separate independent states cannot be achieved. While the state of Israel already exists, the one for the Palestinian people is yet to be established and that is the core issue.

With Israel’s intransigence, the objective of creating two states in the light of the UN Resolution 181 (adopted on 29 November 1947),one Jewish and one Arab, would remain elusive, entailing more sufferings for the Palestinians.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
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