By George S. Hishmeh – Washington, D.C.
Over 70 years ago, agitating European Zionist leaders were offered by Britain, who then ruled Palestine, about 20 percent of the Arab country to establish a state there, a partition they accepted in principle but then demanded more land. This offer was made behind Palestinians backs.
Ten years later, the United Nations approved the partition plan which gave Palestinian Jews 55 percent of the country, although they hardly owned five percent of the land, while the Palestinian Arabs would retain 45 percent. The Palestinians, backed by the Arab states, rejected the plan and resolved to win it back.
However, the Six Day War of 1967 ended with the Palestinians remaining in control of a little over 20 percent of their country – a turnaround that remains indigestible, if not emotionally devastating. And consequently, the Israelis have ever since moved into the occupied territories – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – more than 500,000 of them, building more than 100 colonies there.
Yet the whole world has stood silently and shamelessly for more than four decades without forcing Israel to pull back or pay a high price for its continued colonization. Still, in 1993, the Palestinians signed the Oslo Peace Accords with Israel. The Palestinians, in the words of a top negotiator, “made the very painful decision to recognize the state of Israel and its right to exist on over 78 percent of our historic homeland.” Since then, Nabeel Shaath, who has been involved in negotiations with Israel for 20 years, explained this week in The Christian Science Monitor, that “we have focused our efforts on gaining our independence through the establishment of a state on the remaining 22 percent.”
On the other hand, all the Israeli prime ministers, one by one, have since then maintained the charade, promising to pull out from the colonized territories and reach an agreement with the Palestinians “within a year” – just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did this time around. But none of their promises have come to fruition.
“Thanks to Oslo,” commented Akiva Eldar of Haaretz “the Palestinians are protecting, the settlers are looting, and the donors are contributing,” adding that “on occasion, the U.S. president hosts Netanyahu at the White House while Jewish patriots from New York get in line to embrace him.”
Although the Israelis have withdrawn from the Gaza Strip five years ago, the Israeli-besieged region has nowadays degenerated into an open-air prison, especially after Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, split from the Palestine Authority and took over the region, home for some 1.5 million mostly impoverished inhabitants. Israeli troops have repeatedly conducted several forays into the coastal strip following some border clashes and, in 2008, led an inconclusive invasion there that cost the lives of some 1400 Palestinians.
So what are the remaining options for the Palestinians, led by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestine Authority, whose willingness to negotiate with the Israel has run into major obstacles concocted by Israel’s government, dominated by expansionist and ultra-right-wing political parties. Counting on positive U.S. intervention remains one option, but considering President Barack Obama’s truckload of serious domestic challenges and the unyielding intervention of the pro-Israel lobby this should not remain as the only course for the Palestinians to take.
The logical conclusion would be for the Palestinians, supported by major Arab countries who have mutually beneficial ties with leading western powers, is to seek international intervention. The U.N. Security Council may not be as accommodating to the Palestinians as the U.N. General Assembly, since the big powers can exercise their veto there. This is a step, many suspect, the U.S. may feel compelled to undertake considering the influence of the pro-Israel lobby within Congress.
Besides, it is noteworthy to recall that it was the General Assembly which voted for the partition plan that led to the creation of Israel in 1948. And all these years Israel has never identified borders, a point that many believe explains Israel’s expansionist dreams as is evident in the West Bank nowadays.
This logical alternative would not keep the Palestinians captive to the ongoing give-and-take between the Obama administration and the right-wing government in Israel. Otherwise, the growing number of Palestinians are beginning to see merit in the view suggested a couple of years ago by Sari Nusseibeh, president of al-Quds University in Jerusalem, that the Palestinian Authority should dissolve itself and “return the keys to Israel.”
– George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. Contact him at: Hishmehg@aol.com.