Netanyahu once said they’re “a waste of time.” Previous Israeli officials called occupation and status quo conditions “permanent.”
“There is no such thing as a Palestinian people. It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist….How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to.”
No wonder Edward Said once called the occupation an “atrocity” and the peace process “a disheartening bloody impasse…..to reduce the Palestinian actuality to nil, to efface Palestinians as a people with legitimate rights, to render them alien in their own land.”
“If Hamas joins the Palestinian government, we will not hold negotiations with the Palestinian Authority….The peace process can only advance while maintaining security arrangements, which is becoming more difficult in light of the current situation in the region.”
In April, Hamas and Fatah announced reconciliation and plans for transitional government ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections within a year to produce unity. Currently, they’re set for May 2012.
Netanyahu reacted angrily saying, “choose between peace with Israel or peace with Hamas.” Reconciliation shows “weakness,” he added. “There cannot be peace” if both sides unite. “What happened….in Cairo is a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism.”
Despite reservations on both sides, signing ceremony comments signaled hope. Abbas suggested turning a page, saying:
“Four black years have affected the interests of Palestinians. Now we meet to assert a unified will. Israel is using the Palestinian reconciliation as an excuse to evade (peace. It) must choose between peace and settlement.”
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said:
“Hamas was ready to pay any price for internal Palestinian reconciliation. The only battle of the Palestinians is against Israel. Our aim is to establish a free and completely sovereign Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza strip, whose capital is Jerusalem, without any settlers and without giving up a single inch of land and without giving up on the right of return.”
They’ll form a committee ahead of next May’s presidential, parliamentary and Palestinian National Council (PLC) elections. Once held, they’ll join the PLO as sole legitimate Palestinian representative.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded supportively, saying “Moscow welcomes the serious talks between the Palestinian factions that aim to end Palestinian division.”
According to the Turkish Anatolian news agency, so did Ankara. It also praised Egypt’s sponsoring role.
On December 24, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero announced full support, saying:
“This is an important element for the unity of the future State of Palestine, and in that sense, this reconciliation is in Israel’s future interests.”
He added that reconciliation depends on Israel ending Gaza‘s siege, as well as both sides denouncing violence and respecting past agreements.
During Bethlehem‘s Christmas midnight mass, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal called Palestinian self-determination the main thrust for achieving peace, adding:
“We ask for peace for the Palestinian people and for the Israeli people. We ask for peace, stability and security for the entire Middle East so that our children and their children may live their childhood in innocence, in a healthy environment where they may play together without fear or complex.”
Israel and Washington, of course, remain significant obstacles very much unresolved.
Unity Discussions Scheduled to Continue
In late January, unity discussions will continue to select transitional government members until elections. In February, Palestine’s parliament will resume operations.
At issue is Israel’s response. Elections in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem depend on cooperation. In 2005, Israel manipulated the process for Abbas.
Leading opposition figure Marwan Barghouti was imprisoned on bogus murder charges. In addition, Mustafa Barghouti’s candidacy was sabotaged for “demand(ing) total and complete reform, (ending all) form(s) of corruption, (and) mismanagement, and (working to) consolidate the rule of law.”
As a result, Israel arrested him while campaigning, expelled him from East Jerusalem, excluded him from Nablus and Gaza, harassed and intimidated him repeatedly, and effectively rigged the process for Abbas.
In 2012, Israel may either prevent Palestinian elections with Hamas candidates or sabotage them to assure Israeli-friendly officials only gain power.
Another obstacle involves registering Palestinians worldwide to participate and letting them vote in PLO mission offices. Doing so depends on cooperation from countries where they live.
The PNC will have 350 delegates, 150 from the Territories and 200 diaspora ones. PNC Chairman Salim Zanoun has his hands full. He heads a committee charged with making this possible. Doing so’s not easy. Nor is it for millions of occupied Palestinians or diaspora ones prevented from returning home.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Palestinians worldwide number 11.22 million as of year end 2011. About 4.23 million live in Palestine (including 1.6 million in Gaza), another 1.37 million in Israel, 4.99 million in Arab countries, and around 636,000 in other countries.
PCBS also said 44% of those in Palestine are refugees – 42% in the West Bank and 58% in Gaza. Numerous others live in Arab countries, notably Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
Ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman‘s extremism is also troubling. Repeatedly he said Israel won’t return to 1967 borders. Settlement expansions will continue, and doing so’s no obstacle to peace. In fact, they violate international law and obstruct any possibility of resolution.
Targeting Hamas at Israel’s Behest
Baseless accusations are Israel’s stock in trade. In January 1995, at its behest, the State Department duplicitously declared Hamas a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Its emergence began after 1967. In the late 1970s, Israel offered financial aid to counterbalance PLO influence. During the first Intifada (1987 – 1993), it gained prominence. Israel remained supportive.
At issue was manipulating both sides to prevent peace. Like America, Israel needs enemies to justify conflict and violence. Hamas was chosen strategically to advance Palestinian divisions.
In Arabic, Hamas means courage and bravery. Since established, it’s resisted oppression and occupation. It prefers negotiation and international consensus, not violence.
However, its charter says it’ll fight for its rights if Israel prevents peaceful reconciliation. It rejects Zionist intentions to destroy Palestinian society, its values and “wipe out Islam.”
It calls itself “a humane movement, which cares for human rights and is committed to the tolerance inherent in Islam as regards attitudes towards other religions. It is only hostile to those who are hostile towards it….(Under Islam) it is possible for the members of the three religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism to coexist in safety and security” as long as other religions “desist from struggling against Islam over sovereignty in this region.”
It wants peace, equity and justice for all Palestinians. It prefers negotiating on the basis of “hudnah” or temporary truce. It’s founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, said Hamas would end its liberating struggle “if the Zionists ended their occupation of Palestinian territories and stopped killing Palestinian women, children and innocent civilians.”
It current leaders are willing to recognize Israel in return for self-determination in peace inside pre-1967 borders – 22% of historic Palestine. Moreover, numerous times it agreed to unilateral ceasefires in spite of repeated Israeli violations.
Nonetheless, it responses defensively after continued provocations. Washington and Israel call it “terrorism.” Under international law, it’s legitimate self-defense.
Besides being Palestine’s legitimate government, Hamas provides vital social services, including medical clinics, education, free meals for children, help for orphans, financial and technical assistance for homeless families, aid to refugees, special youth and sports clubs, and more as their resources allow.
It also maintains an elite military wing for self-defense, policing and security, the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades.
It wants equitable peace and reconciliation. So do Arabs and Jews. Israel and its Washington paymaster/partner choose violence. That Gordian Knot remains to be cut.
* Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected]. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon.