By Yasir Ali Mirza
The celebrated Palestinian-American intellectual, Edward W. Said, set out long ago in his seminal book The Question of Palestine that Zionist colonialists, since setting foot on the shores of Palestine in 1880s, have been continuing a colonization project to dehumanize the local populace.
He said, “Even the West Bank and Gaza — fairly obvious candidates to the rest of the world—seemed a “security” risk. Although it was usually hinted that a Palestinian state there would be a guerrilla base for attacking Israel, the really obstinate fact being covered up was that Zionism had always denied the existence of a competing national right in Palestine. A Palestinian state was a grave political risk, and so was Palestinian nationalism or simply Palestinians.” Hence, the recent annexation plan of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Government and the declaration of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank settlements should be viewed from the standpoint of the radical Zionist consciousness and come as no surprise.
For all intents and purposes Israel is creeping closer towards its goal of creating an “Eretz Israel” (Greater Israel) by, slowly and surely, exterminating the Palestinian Arabs in the occupied territory. The new move by the right-wing government to arrogate the Palestinian territories and metamorphosing it into the Jewish ambit is the latest attempt to give credence to the argument. The idea of Judaization of the Palestinian land is not a new phenomenon, but it lies in the collective consciousness of the Zionist-Jewish first generation leadership. Joseph Weitz, who happened to be the director of Jewish National Land Fund, which was entrusted with the responsibility to buy large tracts of land, has expressed a similar kind of rationalization in his writings which were later published as a book entitled My Diary and letters to the Children in 1965. He advocated the mass expulsion of Palestinian Arabs with impunity, which in his point of view, is the only way out to achieve “salvation.” Since that juncture in time unilaterally usurping the Arabs’ land has become the cornerstone of the Jewish state which has been built on deep scars of racism and religious discrimination.
Why is the plan of annexation necessary?
Prime Benjamin Netanyahu’s fresh annexation ploy is part of the Trump Administration’s “peace plan” called Deal of the Century. It is not only flouting international law but also the Oslo Accord which had guaranteed a “two-state solution” to the Arab-Israel conflict. So far, this historic treaty is considered to be a historic milestone between Palestine and Israel. The 181-page dossier titled: Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of Palestinian and Israeli People, which was unveiled on 28 January, 2020 at the White House in Washington DC with much fanfare, is essentially a brainchild of US President Donald Trump’s advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, a property developer having zero experience in diplomacy. It comes as no surprise that not a single Palestinian faction or group were invited to any negotiations before announcing the plan to the public.
This move came close on the heels of serious corruption charges slapped against the hawkish Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. He embraced it as a blessing in disguise. To keep him from indictment, protected by constitutional immunity while in office, he had given the go-ahead to impose Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, 132 settlements and other areas totaling 30% of the West Bank. Shielding the rest of the settlements from any possible attacks coming from Palestinian resistance movements has also been given by the Israelis as one of the reasons for this move. As ever before, it has cited its clichéd and pitiable excuses of national security as a pretext to militarize the strategic locations in the occupied territories.
The deception of the Oslo Accord
The recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), followed by the Oslo Accords and its dissimulation of “two-state solution” of the conflict, resulted in the “peace” overtures initiated in the early 1970s. For the first time the Arab League recognized the “outlawed” PLO as “the sole legitimate representatives of Palestinian people in any Palestinian territory that is liberated” in its 1974 Rabat Summit. This had major implications in regional geopolitics. Eventually, Egyptian President, Anwar al-Sadat, made separate compromises with the Israelis at Camp David in 1978 and left Palestine alone in the broader Arab-Israel conflict. Suddenly, and conveniently, transformed into a bilateral conflict and no longer an issue of the Arab world.
As the years passed by, the illusion of the Palestinian dream quickly began to crumble since the Israelis were not serious in their attempts to implement the deal. Eventually the PLO started losing its clout. It was 1987, the Al-Aqsa Intifada and emergence of Islamist organisations such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) which brought the PLO center stage in international diplomacy. In the late 1980s, the US and Israeli leadership roped in the Fatah-led PLO into brainstorming secret negotiations separate from the Madrid Peace Conference which eventually yielded favorable results. Yasser Arafat agreed to recognize Israel’s right to exist in lieu of a Palestinian state, a promise which has yet to be fulfilled. Showing its freakish diplomatic maneuvering, Israel again advertently ditched Arafat by not taking a firm decision on Palestinians’ right to return or refugee status, Palestinian sovereign state, issue of Jerusalem etc. Issues which were left ambiguously open ended in 1993 were once again rearing their heads in front of the Palestinians.
The future hangs in a balance
Although the annexation deadline of July 1 has already passed no action has yet been initiated by the Israeli Government. The volatile political situation does not allow Netanyahu to take firm action as his arch rival, and now national unity dispensation partner Benny Gantz, who is also Israel’s Defense Minister, is prioritizing the country’s effort to effectively fight the Coronavirus pandemic. On the contrary, Bibi, as Netanyahu is commonly known, is in a hurry to begin the annexation process before the US Presidential elections in November this year, because there is more likelihood of the plan being axed if Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden comes to power. He has already shown his concern and categorically expressed his reservations about the plan.
Nonetheless, the annexation plan has triggered a wave of protests in the occupied territories. Any attempt to change the status quo in the legal framework would further worsen the conflict and the region would be engulfed in an abysmal situation. It will possibly lead to a full blown conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. If Israel manages to impose its sovereignty over the annexed lands, the Palestinians have warned that they will, in turn, unilaterally declare their independent statehood, which is a legitimate right under the Oslo Accords. Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, has immediately rejected the decision. Condemning the move, Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh has said, “This is an issue in which we cannot be silent on. Annexation is an existential threat for our future.” These statements show that the Palestinian people will not remain idle even in the worst of situations.
Meek international & regional response
As far as the international response is concerned, it has failed to stop Israel’s expansionist ambitions. The United Nations, the European Union or, for that matter, even the submissive Arab leaders have only given lip service to the legitimate Palestinian cause. The United States has never been an impartial negotiator. During the height of the Coronavirus crisis in May, when the world was fighting the pandemic, Mike Pompeo visited Israel and discussed the proposed annexation plans. Being one of the parties in the conflict, only Jordan has reacted very sharply. King Abdullah II has already announced that Jordan will pull out of the 1994 agreement with Israel. The Middle East Monitor reported that the majority of the Arab nations, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, have informed Israel that they will stay aloof from the annexation of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. This shows their duplicity towards the perpetual plight of the Palestinian people.
Economic and diplomatic interests become immaterial if Israel continues its immoral and unethical ways incessantly committing crimes and the international community must uphold the values of justice and democratic principles. India is a consistent and sincere supporter of the Palestinian cause since the time of Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi; however, it has shifted closer to Israel in recent years. Being a non-permanent member of the UNSC beginning from January next year, India can play the role of a peacenik to avoid any hostilities between the two asymmetric warring factions.
Israel’s move has also had major geopolitical implications in the region. Against the backdrop of enmity against Iran, the Gulf Arab states would strengthen their rapprochement with Israel at the cost of the Palestinian cause. The regional arch rivals of Iran may align with Israel in order to counterbalance its “threat.” Turkey and Israel have common interests and common enemies, namely, gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea and Hezbollah. The powerful Lebanese Shi’ite Movement, and ardent Iranian ally in the region, is fighting Israelis along the borders and now with Turkish forces in Syria’s Idlib province. Turkey has had diplomatic relations with Israel since its inception and, despite all his rhetoric, President Erdogan will not take risks which could hamper its burgeoning economic and geopolitical interests.
Palestinians will not succumb
The Palestinian people are reeling under a harsh military occupation that hinders their mobility across checkpoints. The blockade has turned Gaza and the West Bank into the largest open-air prison and they face humiliation and physical abuse on a daily basis by Israeli security forces. Even their mobility within their jurisdiction is subject to the IDF’s discretion. If Netanyahu is carrying out the incomplete mission to achieve “salvation” then Palestinian Arabs— Muslims and Christians, are ready to resist its sinister design. One thing that is crystal clear is that despite being dispossessed and humiliated, Palestinians would not succumb to land grabbing tactics and leave their homeland. No matter how much Israel employs its military machine to make occupying machinations possible.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of Iblagh News.