In November 2015, this scribe wrote in the Daily Times, Lahore that Israel's continued expansion of settlements in occupied territories, the building of security wall in the middle of Palestinian area, frequent closure of the border crossing, withholding revenues of the Palestinian authority, assassination of Hamas leaders gradually but firmly ostracised a Palestinian state next to Israel's border. Since the Two-state solution was dead, this scribe posed the question what would be the next political prescription for the troubled Middle East?
The Two-state formula was first flouted by the King of Saudi Arabia in 2002. He proposed that Israel should withdraw from the territory occupied in 1967 and a Palestinian state would be established on the territory encompassing the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. In return, Arab countries would accord recognition to Israel and establish diplomatic and economic relations with the Jewish state. George Bush, the then president of the United States lent support to it. Israel seemed favourable to the proposal.
The Oslo Accord and the subsequent peace deals arbitrated through President Bill Clinton had a blue print of a Palestinian state in the occupied territory. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was therefore favourably disposed to the Saudi proposal, but suspected Israel would sabotage the plan. The massive expansion of settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem made Arafat sceptical of Israel's good faith. Subsequent events only confirmed Arafat's scepticism.
The present crisis in Gaza is not new. It has happened in the past and there is no reason to presume that this would be the last. The fundamental reason of periodic violence in Gaza and in other parts of the occupied territories is the very denial of the existence of the Palestinians. In the words of late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir "there was no such thing as a Palestinian and that the Palestinians did not exist." She later admitted "this was the silliest damn thing she ever said". Nevertheless, her statement represented Zionism's official view on the matter-- a view that was accepted and repeated parrot-like by Israel's supporters everywhere.
The Israeli leaderships, since the very beginning, wanted a country for the Jews implying the laws, customs, rituals, habitations, education, health system-- indeed everything that matters in a society would be tailored to the Jews; other communities would have to live with it, something very similar to the present day India under the BJP. This is why the Arabs who constitute 20 per cent of Israel's population have been downgraded to second class citizens. In the case of the Palestinians - they are not welcome, they would be expelled. If this is not possible, they would be annihilated. This is the objective of the military operations in Gaza.
This is also the underlying reason for initially preventing the Security Council from adopting a cease-fire resolution. The United States opposed the Security Council meeting last week. It has opposed three resolutions since the Security Council met. Now it favours cease-fire at the time acceptable to Israel. Israel wants more time enabling its army to kill more Palestinians, destroy more homes and infrastructure before halting the airstrikes. In other words, Palestinians must be brought under subjugation so that they would atrophy the capacity to protest. President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu know well that this was tried many times in the past but after each bloody conflict Hamas has emerged stronger than before.
We have seen each time there was an armed confrontation in Palestine, the American president and the Secretary of States immediately condoned the brutal military actions of Israeli Defence Forces and said, "Israel has the right to defend itself." We know Israel is a helpless country because it has no friends. It has been made helpless and isolated by unconditional support provided by the United States. The American leaderships never mentioned that Palestinians have the right to live, their lives matter and they should not be killed like sitting ducks.
Biden Administration officials have been calling Israeli leader Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas to cease violence, but they would not talk to the Hamas leaders because Hamas, to them, is a terrorist organisation. The crux of the matter is Abbas was elected president in 2006 for five years but he has extended his term by many years. He doesn't represent the Palestinians any longer. He has been made ineffective by Washington by weighing heavily in favour of Tele Aviv. Trump administration exceeded all limits of neutrality by recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital and accepting Israel's sovereignty over the West Bank. These actions were in aberration of all agreements accepted by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Trump put the last nail on the two-state solution.
Hamas has been declared as a terrorist organisation. It's not clear on what criterion Hamas received this characterisation. The allegation that Hamas has been targeting the civilians is not corroborated by facts on the ground. In this eleven days armed conflict, Israel has killed over 232 civilians including 65 children. Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets but killed no more than 12 Israeli civilians. In the previous conflicts the civilian casualties impacted by IDF far exceeded that of the Hamas. By judging the number of civilian casualty, who should be branded as terrorist -- Hamas or Israeli government?
While the carnage was unleashed, and hundreds were being killed and wounded, the Biden administration approved the sale of $735 million "precision-guided weapons" to Israel, purported to exacerbate this horrific violence. This is in addition to $3.8 billion military and economic assistance poured into Israel per annum. When Mahmud Abbas protested Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and refused to meet the US official, Trump defunded the UNRWA which was providing humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable population in Palestine. The American government for decades has been providing huge military and economic assistance to Israel and extended unconditional diplomatic support in favour of Israel in international forums. Consequently, Israel has transformed into a ruthless country with no respect for peace, justice and human rights. By weighing heavily in favour of Israel, the United States have lost the moral ground to be a peace broker in the Middle East. It's now a part of the problem in Israel-Palestinian conflict, it's not a part of the solution.
Successive American presidents collaborated with Israeli leaderships in carrying out fascist policy denying basic human rights to the Palestinian population. Obama opposed Palestinian entry into the United Nations. But the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution welcoming Palestine as a member of the United Nations. The United Nations have been made ineffective as many of its resolutions on Arab-Israeli conflicts were vetoed by the United States at the Security Council.
A group of 28 Senators have urged Biden to take effective steps to restrain Israel from more airstrikes, impose cease fire and save the lives of people in Gaza. Biden, under mounting pressure from the party members, conveyed a message to Netanyahu that if "he carries the conflict much further, he risks losing significant backing in Washington." But Netanyahu remained defiant and vowed to destroy more Hamas targets. Senator Robert Menendez condemned Israel for not accepting cease fire and said, "I am deeply troubled by reports of Israeli military actions that resulted in the death of innocent civilians in Gaza as well as Israeli targeting of buildings housing international media outlets."
Now a cease fire has been agreed by both parties and it is holding. But the underlying factors that triggered the violence has not been addressed. The closure of the Al Aqsa mosque and forceful eviction of the Palestinians from East Jerusalem provoked violence not only in Gaza and Jerusalem but in many cities in Israel and in the West Bank. The cease-fire resolution has not dealt with this issue because any reference to the root cause of the problem will not be acceptable to Israel and to the United States. Hence, they arranged a truce for the time being.
The authoritarian rulers in the Middle East fell prey to Trump's fiasco. UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco rushed to normalise relations with Israel. They were driven by the lure of economic opportunities expected to unfold through normalising relations. But they lost sight of the fact that their people are not impervious to the sufferings of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation.
Normalising relation is quintessential to peace, but it cannot be a lopsided exercise. Authoritarian rulers can seek friendly relation with Israel but not at the expense of civil liberties of their own people. Conversely, Israel can hardly expect a dividend from establishing diplomatic relations with countries in the region keeping 5 million Palestinians under occupation.
Senator Bernie Sanders, the conscience of the American people, wrote in the New York Times last Sunday pointing the deeper reality of life for millions of Palestinians living under blockade and occupation. He pointed to the havoc unleashed in recent weeks by rampaging mobs of Jewish extremists in Jerusalem, as well as the Israeli attempts to forcibly evict the Palestinians residents in East Jerusalem. Sanders reminded the White House, "We must recognise that Palestinian rights matter, Palestinian lives matter."
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib reportedly favoured "one-state solution" that would combine Israel and occupied territories into one democratic country rather than a Jewish country. In his November 2015 article this scribe had suggested the same.
Abdur Rahman Chowdhury is a
former official of the United Nations.