There are no short cuts to freedom, justice and dignity
Dr Daud Abdullah
Palestine was shaken by a number of diplomatic tremors this week. The aftershocks were felt as far away as Washington, forcing US Secretary of State John Kerry to postpone his next visit to the region indefinitely. The epicentre was the public declaration by Israel's deputy defence minister, Danny Danon, that his government is "staunchly opposed to a two-state solution and would block the creation of a Palestinian state if such a proposal ever came to a vote." In the real world, this remark would be enough to put an immediate end to the fraudulent peace process and its "two-state solution", which Danon concedes is an illusion.
None of the affected parties can honestly claim that they did not see this coming. They have had 20 years to realise that Israel has never intended to withdraw from the lands it has occupied since 1967, or recognise the Palestinian right to self-determination. Danon mockingly told the Times of Israel newspaper that any future negotiations with the Palestinians must be conducted with Egypt and Jordan.
In an obvious attempt to endorse the view of his coalition partner, Naftali Bennett, the Minister of Transport weighed in a few days later calling for a new solution other than the idea of two states. Significantly, his intervention came at a conference of the Israel Land Agency attended by 39 Knesset members from the Likud, Jewish Home, Shas and the United Torah Judaism parties. Reports from Israel confirm that the purpose of the meeting was to issue new laws that would strengthen the position of the settlements in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Jordan Valley, and pre-empt any measures which might undermine the status quo.
Calls by coalition member Tzipi Livni for Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to distance himself from his ministers' remarks rang patently hollow. As a former Likud member herself, Livni knows that Netanyahu's entire political career was premised on these views. She did not, however, have to wait very long for a response.
On Wednesday, Mr Netanyahu refused to endorse a joint statement which was originally scheduled to be read out with his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk, after their meeting in Warsaw. The statement said in part that "both governments agree on the urgent need for progress towards a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict…"
Undoubtedly, the main casualty from the tremors has been the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. Having invested all of their political capital in the American led "peace process" their despair and regret is now palpable. Speaking to a group of foreign diplomats last weekend, chief negotiator Dr Saeb Erekat decried that instead of having their state, the Palestinians, after two decades of negotiations, have ended up with house demolitions, expulsions and settlements on their land.
"Today I come to my city, Jericho, where Israel demolished five houses and displaced its inhabitants, sixty people," said Erekat. "A few days ago they demolished nine houses in Jerusalem and displaced 77 people; after two decades of negotiations Israel still demolishes homes and displaces their inhabitants and builds settlements in their place."
In what appeared to be a clear expression of contrition the veteran Erekat told his listeners that the Palestinian recognition of Israel was a mistake after all, "because at the time they should have demanded that Israel identify its borders so that we would recognise it within those borders". Israel remains the only UN member state which has never defined its borders.
Of course recognising an error is one thing, but correcting it is another, but there is nothing in the PA's diplomacy that suggests that a change of course is imminent. The Ramallah authority is still, very naively, pinning its hopes on the honesty of the US. Alas, the facts do not justify such faith.
In 1975, the US gave a solemn commitment to Israel, which was enshrined in a letter from President Gerald Ford to Prime Minister Yitshak Rabin. It subjected all future American diplomatic initiatives in the region to Israel's approval. Rashid Khalidi, a former advisor to the Palestinian delegation at the 1991 pre-Oslo negotiations in Washington cites the relevant part of that document in his book, Brokers of Deceit: "Should the US desire in the future to put forward proposals of its own, it will make every effort to coordinate with Israel its proposals with a view to refraining from putting forth proposals that Israel would consider unsatisfactory."
In today's context Israel's minimal demand is the annexation of sixty per cent of the West Bank and consignment of the Palestinians to the remaining forty. When asked if he thought Palestinians would accept this, Netanyahu wrote as early as 1994, "They would accept it if they knew Israel wouldn't give them an independent state".
If ever the Palestinian leadership believed for one moment that Israel was committed to a two-state solution, the disclosures of the past week have proven them wrong. This may yet be a blessing in disguise, for there is now a golden opportunity to reset the Palestinian national compass to 1947, the year of the seminal injustice that was the UN Partition Plan and Resolution 181. The main lesson of the last 20 years has to be that there are no short cuts to freedom, justice and dignity. You have to go back to the original sin in order to right the wrongs that it created.