Breaking out of the stagnant Palestinian-Israeli status quo. As long as Israel is comfortable with the occupation it will opt to maintain it. But Palestinians can radically change their predicament with a paradigm shift in their resistance. Palestinians could make the Israeli government assume full responsibility for the administration of the occupied territories.
By Ghassan Michel RubeizGhassan Rubeiz
As long as Israel is comfortable with the occupation it will opt to maintain it. But Palestinians can radically change their predicament with a paradigm shift in their resistance. Palestinians could make the Israeli government assume full responsibility for the administration of the occupied territories.
Ending the occupation requires understanding its dynamics. Israel has persisted in refusing to withdraw from the occupied territories for three major reasons. The first is attitude. Many Israelis have developed a sense of entitlement to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. The Israeli government refers to the West Bank as “Judea and Samaria”, reinforcing religious attachment to Holy Land between the River and the Sea.
The second reason is political. International law, as stipulated by UN Resolutions 242 and 338, is clear on the illegitimacy of this occupation, but the Security Council has never been able to reverse Israel’s inadmissible territorial expansion, due to repeated US vetoes.
The third is emotional. Out of fear of the future, Israel perpetually delays action on the occupation. For Israel, the “present” has never been the right moment to make peace.
Palestinians, for their part, continue to offer Israel an easy pretext to hold on to the occupation by allowing recurring acts of terrorism against civilian Israelis to be condoned as acts of just retribution. Blaming “terrorist” Palestinians for “undermining” a peaceful resolution of the conflict has so far worked well as an excuse for extending the occupation. When a “freedom fighter” stabs an innocent Israeli intending to bring his own sense of “justice”, such fighter, unwittingly, is sabotaging the aspirations of millions of Palestinians who would prefer to share the land for peace.
Moreover, the spread of terror in the region over the past six years has given Israeli leaders an additional excuse for shelving the Palestinian question.
The latest version of political maneuvering to marginalize the Palestine problem comes as a plea for Israel to establish peace with Sunni Arab States before dealing with the central issue of Palestine. The possibility that the Sunnite Arabs are mulling the idea of making peace separately with Israel, as a result of their shared fear of Iran’s interventionist policies, was the subject of a recent New York Times editorial. The authors wishfully argue that “better relations among these neighbors could put the chaotic Middle East on a more positive course. They could also leave the Palestinians in the dust, a worrisome prospect.” Regretfully, this editorial does not factor in the deep sentiments of the Arabs over Palestine, regardless of being Sunnite or Shiites. Click here to read article.
In another opinion piece in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Rogel Alpher asserts that Israelis should expect to live with the occupation of the Palestinian Territories indefinitely: Anyone ever expecting Israel to end the occupation, either voluntarily or via international pressure, needs to think again. We are on course to become a binational state, and Jews should plan accordingly. Click to read article.
It is the view of this writer that Palestinians should also “plan accordingly”, to use Alpher’s words. Palestinians need to radically alter their strategy of resistance. As long as Palestinians beg the Israelis and the world community for freedom they will not get it. Palestinians could make Israel rethink the cost of its occupation by abandoning any form of violence in resistance. In the face of an overwhelming power the new strategy for Palestinians should be peaceful resistance.
By declaring unilateral and unconditional peace in the occupied areas Palestinians of the West Bank and East Jerusalem could pull the rug from under Israel’s feet. They could demand that Israel fully take over the rule of the Territories. Currently, the semblance of Palestinian self rule in the Territories, which is assumed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), has in effect been serving Israel’s interests more than it has been serving Palestinians. The PA provides a minimal level of security in the occupied areas, just enough to keep the lid of the occupation on, and to prevent the Palestinians from exploding, due to limitless restrictions. Limited self rule makes the occupation operational and cuts the cost for the occupier.
Palestinian leaders must focus on enabling their people to stay on the land, rather than strive to “liberate” it with force. If there is no viable and acceptable way for separating from Israel, Palestinians could ask for their rights to live as equal Israeli citizens, or at least as permanent residents, leaving the question of national sovereignty open for the future.
Once Palestinians declare an end to self rule under occupation and adopt nonviolent resistance, Israel would have to start taking peace seriously, for two main reasons: deep-rooted Jewish fear of permanent coexistence with Palestinians and the consequent ending of the blame-the-victim perspective.
When the two peoples start living peacefully, together, with different sets of laws applied to each, the system would look even more preposterous than it does now, even for the Jewish community itself. Jewish anxiety of living under apartheid would intensify both inside Israel and the Diaspora. Moreover, the world community will start to look at Palestinians as victims of colonialism, not any longer a “problem without a solution”. When faced with having to live with Palestinians on equal terms many Israelis will opt for separation or emigration. However, the challenge of permanent living with Palestinians would drive some Israelis to express interest in uniting with their neighbors within a bi-national state.
By ending a “war of resistance” by one side and a “war on terror” by the other, some 13 million Arabs and Jews living between the River and the Sea would face two stark choices: either union of two nations under one state or separation under two-states.
The two-state borders are defined by the 1967 borders, with land swapping for consolidated settlers. The refugee issue will have to be resolved also with a creative approach focused on compensation and empowerment rather than literal execution of “right of return” to the land of origin.
A paradigm shift for Palestinians should not be a tactic to gain political muscle. Self discipline through peaceful struggle would impact the Palestinian soul. In the process of making peace Palestinians will find a common platform for internal unity. In a climate of commitment to nonviolence democratic and charismatic leadership is likely to emerge.
Palestinians still hold the key to their liberation. A Palestinian initiative shifting the foundations of human relations of the two people between the River and the Sea would radically impact their politics.
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