By Reza Bagheri
17 September 2013
The so-called peace talks between Palestine and Israel resumed in July, with the stated goal of ending the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on the so-called two-state solution, after a three-year hiatus.
The key issues on the table to be resolved are borders, the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the status of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. More specifically, Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state in the territories of the West Bank, East al-Quds (Jerusalem), and the Gaza Strip and are demanding that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories. However, Tel Aviv refuses to return to the 1967 borders and is unwilling to discuss the issue of al-Quds. Only days before the start of the talks, Israel announced plans for more than 2,000 new settler units in East al-Quds and the West Bank, which incensed the Palestinians.
Since the Oslo Accords were signed 20 years ago, several rounds of talks have collapsed, mainly due to the Israelis’ intransigence and unreasonable demands and their desire to maintain control of the occupied territories of Palestine. These previous talks were actually used to silence the Palestinian resistance and to promote Israel’s interests. That is the reason for the great skepticism about the recently resumed talks. These talks are going nowhere, and they have even harmed the Palestinian cause since they have allowed Israel to keep expanding its illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. In the negotiation process, the United States and Israel are trying to cover up and justify the Israelis’ crimes and violations of international law and help them implement their hidden agenda. A deeper look at some recent incidents and the actions of Israel and the United States would help to determine the real goal of the so-called peace talks.
The first incident was the continuation of the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied territories of Palestine, with the announcement of the plan for the construction of new settler units coming just days ahead of the start of talks. Such actions and statements clearly send the message that the Israelis have no serious intention to establish a ‘just peace’ with the Palestinians. In this case, the so-called peace talks are part of a short-term policy meant to buy more time for the Israelis to pursue their goals, with the expansion of settlements at the top of their agenda, rather than thinking about withdrawing from the occupied territories of Palestine.
However, this time, the conservative Qatari foreign minister, who usually supports U.S. policies in the region, complained to the Unites States and Israel about their duplicitous policies. On the one hand, they started the so-called process of peace talks and launched a campaign in the Arab world to seek support for it, but on the other hand, Israel continues the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Commenting on the issue, Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah said, “Each time a round of negotiations is supposed to start, it’s preceded by a declaration of continued settlements or the announcement of the establishment of new settlements and this is a source of concern for us and directly affects the negotiations.”
The so-called peace talks not only give Israel time to implement its agenda but also seem to be part of a strategy to make the ‘victims support the aggressor’ or to at least silence the victims. This was evident in U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s call for the Arab world to support the ‘peace talks’ -- meaning to remain silent while Israel continues its illegal expansion of settlements. Kerry said that it was vital that all sides, including the Arab world, support the parties as they try to make peace. It seems that in Kerry’s mind, ‘peace’ means Israel’s illegal expansion with no objections from the Palestinian nation or the international community.
The second incident was Kerry’s effort to convince the European Union to postpone the implementation of its decision to ban EU financial assistance to Israeli organizations in the occupied Palestinian territories. This move was part of the United States’ strategy of silencing the victim and supporting the aggressor. EU countries agreed to take this measure mainly due to their frustration over the continued expansion of Jewish settlements in territories captured by Israeli forces in the Six-Day War of 1967. The EU’s guidelines would make Israeli organizations active in the occupied territories ineligible for EU grants, prizes, or loans, beginning next year. Some Palestinians viewed the action as a concrete step for stopping the construction of illegal settlements in occupied Palestine. And the U.S. was expected to follow suit, or at least to support the decision to impose concrete pressure on Israel to force it to abide by international law. However, Kerry did just the opposite when he started negotiations with the Europeans to try to convince them to delay implementation of the guidelines.
This is another example of the double standards the United States always applies to neutralize anti-Israel measures in the international arena. This time they used the newly resumed negotiations as a pretext to pressure the EU to delay its ban on financial assistance to Israeli organizations. On September 7, Kerry publicly reiterated his private call on the European Union to postpone the planned ban, saying the delay would help the ‘talks’ process. In another statement, the rightist Israeli government, which was angered by the EU move, accused the Europeans of undermining the ‘peace talks’.
It seems that in the Israelis’ point of view, the continuation of the expansion of settlements -- which is a violation of international law and has frustrated not only EU countries but also most other nations -- does not harm the so-called peace talks. This is another example of Israel’s intransigence. On the other hand, totally legal and necessary responses, such as the EU measure to ban financial assistance to Israeli organizations, which are meant to compel Israel to moderate its stance and drop its unreasonable demands, would harm the so-called ‘peace talks’ process, in the view of Israel and the United States.
However, the brazen manipulation of the ‘peace talks’ process by Israel and the United States may help those Palestinians and Arab governments that had hoped that the ‘talks’ would lead to a ‘just peace’ to understand the real nature of the so-called peace talks. For the U.S. and Israel, the ‘peace talks’ process is just a pretext to accomplish two goals, namely in the short term, to cover up and justify the Israelis’ crimes and violations of international law, and in the long term, to help Israel maintain its interests.
Until two years ago, the U.S. and Israel were making serious efforts to dissuade Mahmoud Abbas, the acting president of the Palestinian Authority, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization from taking their petition for the full recognition of Palestine as an independent state to the United Nations. But Abbas finally handed in an application at the 66th session of the UN General Assembly in 2011, and almost all the countries in the world agreed with the call for statehood, with only a few exceptions, the major opponents being Israel, the United States, and Canada. These three implacable foes claim that the Palestinians are seeking to unilaterally declare statehood and say the only way for Palestine to become an independent state is through direct negotiations with Israel.
But it seems the so-called peace talks, or the negotiations, are only going around in circles in order to give Israel more time to complete its expansionist plan. These negotiations, with starts and stops, have been going on for the past 20 years, ever since the Oslo Accords, but have never borne any fruit for the Palestinians. In fact, the talks harmed the cause of the Palestinians, since they allowed Israel to proceed with its illegal expansion with less resistance.
All this makes it clear that the continuation of negotiations with Israel will only benefit Israel and the United States and will produce no concrete results for the Palestinians. Abbas and the liberal Palestinians who recognized Israel were not able to get a state for themselves, even after 20 years. And the United States, Canada, and Israel are still totally opposed to the idea of recognizing Palestine as an independent state. Thus, it seems it’s time for the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world to learn their lesson so they can stop repeating their mistakes.