Palestine/Israel: Summary of the Current Situation and Ways Out

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 26 Oct 2015

Dr. Walid Salem, Center for Democracy and Community Development – TRANSCEND Media Service

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Jerusalem, 21 Oct 2015

After the collapse of the Kerry initiative last year and the deterioration that followed, leading to the current escalation, it is natural to ask what the today situation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is. Where are we in the peace process? What is the situation on the ground? What this wave of violence in Jerusalem means? What decisions will be taken by the Palestinians now? And what are the proposed ways out.

Oslo I

The Palestinian Authority still recognizes the Israeli Palestinian Declaration of Principles of 1993 (the so called “Oslo I”). Refusing it would in fact mean renouncing to the most important achievement of the negotiations, which is the mutual recognition. Mutual recognition is needed to go forward in the peace process, so it would be counterproductive for Palestinians to cancel it. Moreover, renouncing to “Oslo I” would leave Palestine alone in the international arena, because such a decision would surely be seen as a choice of going back to the path of violence by the Palestinians. Finally, Oslo I recognized the West Bank as one geographical unit, without dividing it to areas A, B and C, and this recognition is very important and has to be kept.

Oslo II

Oslo II is a different matter. Saying “Oslo II”, we mean all those agreements that followed Oslo I, such as Cairo’s (1994), Taba’s Interim Agreement (1995), Hebron protocol (1997), Wye River’s (1998), and Paris economic protocol (1994). Those agreements resulted in four main components:

1- Palestinian elections. This topic will be discussed later, as part of the bigger issue of the internal political situation in Palestine.

2- Dividing West Bank in area A, B (both together around 36% percent of West Bank), and C (around 64% of West Bank that is left under Israeli full control): different units with different jurisdictional systems. But according to Taba Interim Agreement of 28/9/1995, the idea was that this division was supposed to finish by the end of March 1997 through three Israeli deployments that should took place in 18 months since the signature of the Taba Agreement. These three deployments were supposed to lead to the Israeli full withdrawal from all West Bank transferring it to the full control of the Palestinian Authority except the building areas of the settlements and the military camps that did not exceed 1,2% of the West Bank territory by then.

March 1997 is already 18 years ago by now. The A, B, C division is kept till today, while it was a temporary measure to let Israel withdrawing from West Bank. A year and a half later from March 1997, and when it was clear that the withdrawing was not going to be implemented, President Arafat signed a new agreement with Netanyahu first Government: that agreement was called Wye River agreement, and it required Israel to withdraw from 13,1% of West Bank. Israel did not implement this new agreement either. Today, Palestinians are saying that they do not recognize anymore Oslo II and in particular the partition of West Bank, which has to be considered as one unit.

De facto, however, they still ask for Israeli permissions to build in area C, motivated on that by the international agencies who most of them are not ready to take the risk of going forward beyond the Israeli restrictions that are imposed on the Palestinian development in area C. Fayyad Government tried over its seven years from 2007 to 2013 to create Palestinian facts in the ground in East Jerusalem and Area C, but the absence of a massive international support to this process was one of the reasons for its failure.

Today without a massive developmental plan that goes beyond the Israeli restrictions imposed on the Palestinian development on area C under Israeli full control, the Palestinian non recognition of the A, B, and C division will become meaningless and without any practical implications, while the settlement expansion and the prohibition of the Palestinian development will go on and on in the ground.

3- Paris economic protocol, about economic cooperation. This protocol created a custom union between Israel, West Bank and Gaza strip. Palestinians want to modify it; they know they cannot cancel it (Israel controls the borders with Jordan, so Palestine has no real commercial alternative options but Israel so far).

4- Security cooperation. De facto, it is still going on despite the confusing statements concerning it.

Abu Mazen, as a strong believer on non violence and peaceful means, and who is heartedly against any type of violence, will continue to prevent acts of terror against Israel or Israeli citizens, but he will not continue to prevent any more -as he was doing before- young Palestinian demonstrators from reaching to the seam lines of the Palestinian cities to have stone clashes with the Israeli army forces, and this is what we are seeing these days. Abu Mazen these days is saying: why should I prevent young Palestinians to go to demonstrations against Israel, while the Israeli Army is doing incursions inside the Palestinian cities in a clear violation to the signed agreements?, and while Israel is not committed to move forward implementing its obligations according to the agreements. His message is this: if Israel fulfils its obligations we will fulfil ours, but we cannot continue the previous process of commitment one sided to our obligations free of charge as much as Israel is not full fulfilling its obligations.

Abu Mazen talked about “peaceful and legal” means to be used only by the State of Palestine. This means that he will avoid using means that will lead to confrontation with Israel such as sending the Palestinian security forces to areas B and C to enforce security there, but at the same time he will allow the young Palestinians to demonstrate, as it is considered to be a peaceful mean of resisting occupation. Also he will go on the struggle internationally, in the international organisations such as the UN to elevate Palestine to a member state, to seek international protection to the Palestinian people, and to submit more cases against the Israeli crimes to the International Criminal Court.

Another option that is discussed nowadays is the idea of declaring PLO as the Government of Palestine. The Palestinian Authority (PA) was born to administrate temporary the occupied territories. “Temporary” became a never-ending moment on the eyes of Palestinians, and going back to the PLO would be a strong message in the regard of not recognizing the perpetual nature of the “temporary” occupation. The problem here is that Hamas is needed to be part of this political process, but Fatah and Hamas have found hard times in finding an agreement on how to let Hamas in the Palestinian National Council. In particular, Fatah wants the government to be able to exercise its powers in Gaza, and Hamas wants the PLO to pay salaries of the Hamas appointed employees in the PA, also to some who are members in Al-Qassam brigades though, so the PA cannot pay them. Also and more importantly, Hamas seeks holding a meeting to the agreed upon PLO provisional leadership in order to agree on the new PLO program and the new composition of the Palestinian National Council, while Fatah is seeking to convince Hamas to participate through its PLC members in a new session to the Palestinian National Council, that will elect a new executive committee to the PLO that will become the Government of Palestine. It is not known yet what will be the final position of Hamas towards this Fatah proposal, given that this proposal brings Hamas as a minority in the PLC coming session, also it will postpone the composition of a new PLC that Hamas wants to a later stage.

Upon that, it is not clear yet if the PLC session that was called to be held last September (then it was postponed to December) will be held with or without Hamas this year, or it will be postponed till Fatah and Hamas agree on its program and composition.

Today, the problem of Israel is Jerusalem and the Arab Israeli citizens. It is very alarming for Israel, because several attackers have Israeli ID or citizenship, and the protests saw a significant participation of the Arab population within Israel.

As regards Jerusalem, the attackers of last days are part of the post “Oslo generation”, they are 15-20 year old people. They should have been the first generation of the peace: they were born after Oslo. In reality, they witnessed in their childhood a war on Lebanon and three wars on Gaza; the only Israelis they know are soldiers or settlers; they saw the Wall raising; they have witnessed years of violence.

Moreover, Jerusalemites are stateless. They have an Israeli laissez-passer and a temporary Jordan passport that states that they are Palestinians. But according to Israel, they are “Jordanian citizens temporary residing in Israel”. They are stateless in their own city, where also the only way for them to build a house is to do it clandestinely and without a permit in the absence of zoning plans for their communities by the Israeli authorities. Amira Hass wrote an article in Haaretz few days ago that expresses the other aspects of humiliation and depression to the Palestinian Jerusalemites over the last 48 years of occupation. It is recommended to be read by every one who wants to know what is going on the city.

At the end of November (on 29th) the conference of Fatah will be held if it will not be postponed again. It will be a decisive moment to understand who will be Fatah new leadership, and who from Fatah will be put to the new Executive Committee of the PLO and so who might run for President when Abu Mazen resigns.

Also by the coming few months it will be known if Palestinian elections will be only to the PLO and the State of Palestine institutions, or it will include elections to PA. The latter as clarified might be deleted, or brought down to more minimal tasks, and the Executive Committee of the PLO will become the Government of the State of Palestine.

Besides internationalization, and using legal means to end occupation, still there are the non violent means to end it. How then to go on the struggle against the occupation in this uncertain scenario then?

We still believe the most effective way is a peaceful resistance. Not just demonstration and clashes, but political-economic-cultural-social actions. Palestinians should read Gene Sharp and learn the non violent way to resist to the occupation.

Such a struggle will take a lot of resources and energies, and it will need a strong support from internationals and Arabs in order to achieve independence and liberty. A non violent campaign is the opposite of violent improvised and spontaneous actions: it is a structured and organized struggle, which takes example from the Indian experience with Ghandi and the Martin Luther King experience in the USA.

Civil non violent resistance needs the participation of the society as a whole, and this way it is not only well considered by the world, but also more effective in defeating the occupation. Such a struggle can be explained dividing it in three main components, that if combined could lead to independence and freedom:

The first component is Peaceful resistance on the ground: no demonstrations, but effective acts like blocking the roads to settlers, mass prayers at checkpoints, establishing new Palestinian villages on confiscated land, using technology to distrust electricity providence to the settlements. In other words, we need to move resistance from Palestinians cities to settlements. In this struggle, Palestinians are not alone: a help is needed from the Israeli opposing groups to the occupation

The second component is Peaceful resistance as development: reconstruction of Gaza; establishing new Palestinian facts on the ground, especially in East-Jerusalem and area C; bypassing Israeli restriction; stop asking for Israeli permission; calling for international community support; withdrawing Palestinian investment from Israeli economy (around 6 billion dollars); asking internationals to stop investing in Israel and settlements; asking Arabs to boycott companies that cooperate with Israel; boycotting settlement products; stop paying taxes; raising in front international courts the issue of the Israeli robbery of natural Palestinian resources (9.7 billion dollars per year, according to Arij institution).

The third component is Diplomatic resistance in the international institutions, like the International Criminal Court, asking for international protection for the Palestinian people.

These actions might pave the way for another kind of peace process that will really lead to two states that live besides each other in peace and security. We will discuss the parameters of such new peace process in another piece soon.

This is the situation, and the options Palestinians have.

Before a new escalation of violence burns out last hopes for a just peace, every man and woman of good will should stand up, raise their voices, and act unswervingly and peacefully.

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Dr. Walid Salem is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. He was born in East Jerusalem in 1957 and teaches democracy and human rights at AlQuds University. He is a writer of thirty books and training manuals, and tens of research papers on Democracy, civil society, citizenship, refugees, and Jerusalem. He is also a consultant, evaluator, and trainer for several public and private bodies. Salem trained more than thirty thousand Palestinians on these issues since 1990, and, since 1993, he is the Director of The Centre for Democracy and Community Development, East Jerusalem. He is the Coordinator of Middle East Citizen Assembly as regional network of experts and activists on citizenship issues that include participants from 19 countries from the region since 2004. He has lectured at several international conferences and seminars about democracy, Jerusalem, refugees, and development in Palestine.

Founded in 1997, The Center for Democracy and Community Development is a non-profit Palestinian NGO based in Jerusalem amid at: disseminating the concepts and experiences of community –based participatory democracy; promoting the practices and theories of just peace in the Palestinian community North Africa, and the countries of West Asia ; encouraging the participation of marginalized groups in the decision – making processes ; working with children , youth, women, and community groups to improve society ; developing exchange programs , research project ; and policy initiatives for the purpose of community building , training , empowerment , and rehabilitation; and coordinating with all local, regional and global institutions that conduct related work.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Oct 2015.

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