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Dr Musa A Keilani: More than just ifs and buts
December 26, 2012
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

Things are moving towards a head-on collision between Israel and the Palestinians and it has to happen sooner than later.

Emboldened by the upgraded status for Palestine at the United Nations and frustrated over the deadlock in peace negotiations, Palestinian officials are planning tough steps against Israel if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is re-elected, including ending security co-operation.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) headed by President Mahmoud Abbas announced that if Netanyahu wins the coming Israeli elections — which is an almost-certain possibility — it will actively try to isolate Israel in the international community.

The year “2013 will see a new Palestinian political track. There will be new rules in our relationship with Israel and the world,” said Hussam Zumlot, an aide to Abbas.

Predictably, Israel’s foreign ministry hit back on Friday saying Abbas “is seeking to incite a confrontation with Israel no matter what.”

“The ‘new rules’ the Palestinians are talking about are no different than the old rules that have always brought upon conflict, hatred, violence and their defeat,” said a foreign ministry spokesman. “The Palestinians’ tragedy is that instead of dedicating efforts to building themselves, they are focusing on trying to harm Israel. Instead of building their future they are immersed in attempts to ruin ours. This strategy has led to nothing but failure after failure for them. They continue digging in their heels out of some delusional, suicidal power drunkenness.”

It is ironic to see the Israeli government charge the Palestinians with doing the same things that Israel has been carrying out for decades. It has never ceased its efforts to harm the Palestinians and deny their legitimate territorial and political rights. It has no consideration for the fact that the Palestinians have to have something for themselves to build themselves and it is Israel that is denying them that something.

And, to crown everything, Israel is the party which is digging in its heels based on the assumed posture as the victim of regional and international victimisation and conspiracies while riding high on a “delusional, suicidal power drunkenness,” based mainly on the unreserved political, military, economic and diplomatic support it receives from the sole superpower in the world.

No doubt Israel is rattled now.

The Palestinians have realised the futility of pursuing diplomacy with Israel, which they are aware will only lead them by the nose but go nowhere near the objective of negotiations — an independent Palestinian state with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital.

And that is why the Palestinians, who have for long been under Western and allied pressure, have decided to take things into their hands.

They have announced that they would intensify their steps against Israel, including staging mass demonstrations in the West Bank, encouraging the international community to impose sanctions, and ending the security co-operation that has helped prevent many militant attacks in recent years.

On the international front, Israel fears that the Palestinians will pursue International Criminal Court (ICC) action against Israeli officials based on the Hague’s ruling that displacing population off occupied territory is a war crime. Such charges are not likely to get anywhere in real terms of prosecution of Israeli officials, but the acceptance of a case by the ICC prosecutor is in itself a major boost to the Palestinians.

As Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, put it, “We have to prepare ourselves for a long and tough battle. We will use all the political tools available.”

The bulk of the international community is behind the Palestinians as was evidenced in the overwhelming endorsement of the upgraded status for Palestine in the UN General Assembly.

That support was manifested in a statement issued by European Union (EU) Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton last week condemning Israel’s decision to go forward with plans to build thousands of housing units for Jewish settlers in the occupied territories.

Ashton reiterated the EU’s disapproval of settlement construction and pledged to take action against such measures. But the pledge was rather vague.

“The EU has never been clearer than it was on 10 December in voicing its strong opposition to settlement expansion,” she said. “The EU particularly opposes the implementation of plans which seriously undermine the prospects of a negotiated resolution of the conflict by jeopardising the possibility of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.

“In the light of its core objective of achieving the two-state solution, the EU will closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and act accordingly.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also has warned that the latest Israeli building plans would make the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, “almost inconceivable.”

The Palestinians have taken full advantage of the increase in international support for their case. The only option available to them is through negotiations with Israel, but under the present geopolitical situation, the Jewish state would never give them anything, not even one square metre of land.

As such, the Palestinians have to use every tool in their hands to isolate Israel and bring stronger international pressure against the Jewish state. It would seem to be the toughest task in the world today, but nothing should be deemed impossible in the quest for liberation and independent statehood.
The author, a former Jordanian ambassador, is the
chief editor of  Al Urdun weekly in Amman

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