Can we imagine peace for Palestine?

Richard Falk. (photo: Wikipedia)
Now is a time for stocktaking with respect to this conflict that has gone on for more than a century, and assessing what would be the best way forward.

By Richard Falk | Transcend Media Service | Feb 25, 2019

Two conclusions emerge from this analysis: first, a continued reliance on the two-state diplomacy within a framework that relies on the United States as an intermediary or peace broker is now irrelevant and discredited. It is at this point only a distraction. Secondly, despite Israel’s recent gains in acceptance within the Middle East and its one-sided support in Washington, the Palestinian national movement persists, and under certain conditions, will mount a threat to Israel’s future.

While waiting without positive expectations for the Trump ‘deal of the century’ the Palestinian ordeal unfolds day by day. Many Israelis would like us to believe that the Palestinian struggle to achieve self-determination has been defeated, and that it is time to admit that Israel is the victor and Palestine the loser. Recent events paint a different picture. Every Friday since the end of March 2018 the Great March of Return has confronted Israel at the Gaza fence. Israel has responded with lethal force killing more than 250 Palestinians and injuring over 18,000, using grossly excessive force to deal with almost completely nonviolent demonstrations. The world allows these weekly atrocities to go without any concerted adverse reaction and the UN is awkwardly silent.

It would seem that there is a feeling in international circles that nothing much can be done to bring about a peaceful and just solution at this stage. Such a conclusion partially explains the various recent moves in the Arab world toward an acceptance of Israel as a legitimate state, which has included diplomatic normalization. Beyond these developments, Israel has joined with Saudi Arabia and the United States in a war mongering escalation of an unwarranted confrontation with Iran. In addition, Israel and Egypt are collaborating on security issues at the border and in the Sinai, as well as in developing off shore oil and gas projects.

A fundamental point is how peace might be made in a manner that realizes the fundamental right of the Palestinian people to achieve self-determination in a territorial space that was for centuries their own homeland. The prevailing assumption had been that a solution would be achieved by geopolitically framed negotiations between Israel and governmental representatives of the Palestinian people. The framing was entrusted to the United States, which itself insinuated a fatal flaw into the diplomatic process if the goal was to achieve a peaceful compromise that was fair to both sides. How could this happen if the stronger party had the unconditional backing of the geopolitical intermediary and the weaker party was not even clearly the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people?

Additionally, this already flawed framework was further abused by subordinating the so-called peace process to Zionist expansionist goals, expressed by annexing Jerusalem, denying refugee rights of return, and expanding unlawful settlements in occupied Palestine. Such a geopolitical framework, associated with the Oslo Framework of Principles, as adopted in 1993, has by now been widely discredited but not before Israel had used the past 25 years to achieve their expansionist goals, making the establishment of an independent Palestinian state a political impossibility, and putting the Palestinians in a far weaker position than when the Oslo approach was adopted.

Against this background, the perverse failure of the top down approach to a sustainable outcome has led to a public attitude of defeatism when it comes to achieving a peaceful compromise. The residual top down option is the coercive imposition of ‘peace’ by declaring an Israeli victory and a Palestinian defeat. In other words, if diplomacy fails, the winner/loser calculus of war is all that is left over.

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