Palestine not for sale
by Waiel Awwad on 07 Aug 2013 15 Comments

When I interviewed Palestinian leader, late Yasser Arafat, in 1997, it was at a very odd time, 1:30 am, at Rashtrapati Bhawan, during his visit to India. I asked him, ‘Mr. Arafat, what do you expect from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?’ Arafat kept silent and looked at me for a while; I could see the anger in his eyes. I repeated the question twice, till he answered with one word: NOTHING and opened his palms wide.


Two years ago, I raised the same question with President Mahmoud Abbas when I interviewed him in Delhi, while Netanyahu was serving his second term as Prime Minister of Israel. I asked, ‘What do you expect from Mr. Netanyahu on the peace process?’ He said: We “talk for the sake of talk”.


I argued with him and told him how I asked late Arafat the same question and his reply. I told him Arafat was a leader to reckon with and had good support among Palestinians, that he could cause another uprising if he is hurt and there is no progress on the peace process, and yet he was worried about the severity would have caused on his people at the hands of Netanyahu. I said, ‘Mr. Mahmoud at your current position with a divided Palestinian house and inability to mobilize the street, yet you are going for negotiation?’ His answer was, ‘we have no other option but to talk’.


I did not tell Mr. Abu Mazen that if you declared your resignation in a public speech protesting about the deadlock and no progress on the peace track because of the unwillingness of successive Israeli governments to find a just solution to the Palestinian plight, then I am sure Mr. Mahmoud Abbas would have been remembered as a hero and a patriotic leader to the Palestinian cause.


The sudden announcement of resuming peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians comes at a time when the Palestine issue was gaining international recognition and the international community realizing the injustice done to them, and that without a just and comprehensive peace which will guarantee an independent sovereign Palestinian State, there will be no peace in the Middle East between the Arabs and Israel.


Mr. Mahmoud Abbas found hopes of moving the peace process forward and even Mr. Netanyahu claimed that it is in Israel’s strategic interest to strike the deal within nine months for a conflict a century old!


It was European Union pressure on Israel, because of its policy of building settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, and the intention of the European Union to extend aid to the Gaza strip, that prompted the Israeli government to push for dialogue. The fear of confrontation in the UN General Assembly in September also made Tel Aviv activate its Jewish Lobby in the US to pressurise President Obama to bring both sides for negotiations without any pre-condition.


Israeli lobbyist, Martin Indyk, former US ambassador to Israel and special envoy of US for Israel and Palestinian negotiations, put pressure on the White House along with Samantha Power, Suzan Rice and John Kerry himself to make Obama succumb to Israel’s demand to back the demand of the fourth major power in the world and only nuclear power in the Middle East, to bring the weak Palestinian authority to the negotiating table. This was so they can block EU projects in Gaza Strip and pre-empt any move by the international community to internationalize the Israel-Palestine conflict once again as Israel succeeded in making it a bilateral issue. Now they will continue to treat Israel with kid gloves.


In fact, on the eve of her appointment as US permanent representative to the UN, Samantha Power proved once again her loyalty to Israel and vowed in the US Congress to support Israel in the UN and boost its agenda by sabotaging any attempts by Palestinians on human rights and self-determination.


The Israel-Arab conflict is a century old and Israel continues to occupy territories from all neighboring countries: Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and annihilating Palestine by confiscating lands, destroying Palestinians houses, withdrawing Identity cards from Jerusalem Arab residents to continue its policy of converting the city into a Judaic one by building more settlements, Apartheid wall, and forcing a status quo situation. This daily harassment, detention and denying the Palestinians their basic human rights was meant to add more misery and force them to leave. Then the question really is: what for you are negotiating? What is it that you want to achieve from the peace talks?


The Palestinians, despite being in disarray, depressed and oppressed, are resisting and still surviving under occupation. But they will never give up their rights and no one can claim that he is negotiating for a lasting peace on their behalf when the other side is not offering them even permission to build up a bathroom in their house in Jerusalem.


August 2 was Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day, which united many countries on a single cause. Many capitals witnessed demonstrations, rallies and pro-Palestinian speeches where sympathetic leaders echoed the general global sympathy with the Palestinian cause and vowed to support them, protect Jerusalem in particular and Palestine in general. Some leaders said that no one has the right to surrender Palestine territory to anyone and insisted that the main cause of turbulence in the Arab world is Israel and its policy of destabilizing the region to ensure its hegemony and expand by occupying more territories at the cost of anarchy, on the pretext of protecting itself.


The US has achieved a diplomatic breakthrough by bringing both unequal parties to the negotiating table; now Israel will ensure that US will not be party to the bilateral negotiation with the PLA team.


According to sources, Netanyahu broke a secret deal with his right wing coalition partners by allowing the building of 3500-4500 settlements in the occupied territories in exchange for allowing Netanyahu to release Palestinians from jail (mostly those who had completed their terms).


When US led the world to liberate Kuwait, the Madrid peace conference was announced and the Arab countries went to negotiate with Israel, hoping to reach to a peaceful solution with the Americans as honest broker. Former Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir, stated that they are going for the sake of negotiation and let it last for 20 or 30 years more. Talk for the sake of talk because Israel will never evacuate “occupied Arab lands” since Israel does not consider it as occupied territories but its “divine legitimate land”.


The US had a written confirmation (Israeli Asset) from assassinated late President Yitzhak Rabin of willingness to withdraw from occupied Syrian Golan prior to June 4, 1967. Hence Damascus went to the Madrid Conference. The Oslo Accord was signed after secret negotiations with the Palestinian leaders; many resigned in protest or pulled out because it was not the Accord they thought they were fighting for.


Ailing late King of Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel to ensure recognition by Israel to his kingdom and not as an alternative to Palestine for the Palestinians. The US administration ignored the Israeli Asset and claimed that the US President changed and so the commitment is dead.


Israel ended occupation of South Lebanon and withdrew partially from there. The Palestinians continued to struggle for their independent state and nothing achieved. Israel continued its policy in the region and is forcing recognition to its intention of a “Jewish State”. What next?


According to Oded Yinon’s Strategy for Israel in the 19th century, the plan till date is working as per Israel’s objective of dominance in the region and further dividing the Arab world into ethnic and religious lines.


On the Palestine front, if you watch this painful video you will know the actual plan of Israel for annexation of lands, denying Palestinians their basic rights, where a woman was denied to enter her home on the pretext she does not have a valid document of ownership; then the Israeli soldiers took the mother into custody and left the children crying



In due course, Israel will blame the Palestinians for the failure of peace talks and then work on dissolving the PLA.


Hamas on the other hand is facing isolation after interfering in Syria and Egypt and faces threat its own authority in Gaza, with inhabitants planning a rebellious movement (Tamarod) against its misrule in the Strip. This will divide Palestinians more and ensure no reconciliation between different groups, even as Israel is thinking of re-occupying Gaza.


Even military leaders said Israel should think of occupying Sinai Peninsula if the situation in Egypt deteriorates. Many American think tanks are trying to promote the idea of Jordan as the alternative home for Palestinians.


The recent EU decision to declare the military wing of Hezbollah Lebanese political party as a terrorist outfit gives a pretext to Israel to another adventure against Lebanon.


On Iran, according to a senior analyst, Israel is cautiously trying to buy time and thinking of a post-Obama White House where the Republicans will take over and will favor an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear installations. Till then, the military option against Iran will be kept on hold and small players surrounding her and supporters of Iran, including Syria, will be dealt with.


Peace is elusive in the Middle East and can prevail only when Israel ends the occupation and accepts living in harmony with neighbors if peace is its strategic option and two states is the solution. For Palestinians it is in their interest to keep the world on their sides, expose the true intention behind the talks, and seek the support of the international community to achieve their aspirations to live in peace in their legitimate land.


Israel must understand that peace cannot be bought but achieved, and that the road to it is well known and that Palestine is not for Sale.


The author is a senior journalist  

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