Singing the Praise of Fruitless Peace Talks

By Stuart Littlewood – London

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrats’ new ‘shadow’ foreign secretary here in Britain, reports on his first trip to Palestine/Israel in, a strange choice of platform for a self-styled ‘liberal’.

His biggest impression, he says, was optimism for the peace process: "I developed a strong sense that both sides trusted each other."

But as far as I’m aware he didn’t meet the Palestine side – only the Fatah faction, whose cosiness with Israel is the stuff of scandal.

Last week, in a display of mutual admiration between US president Bush and Fatah’s president Abbas, Bush reportedly said: "People must recognise that we have made a good deal of progress" and Middle East peace talks are now "irreversible". Abbas, whose days are also numbered, praised the outgoing US president saying: "There is no doubt that we will continue these efforts and the peace negotiations, but everything will be based on the foundation, and that foundation was laid by you during your time in office."

But when Abbas’s team was asked if Bush would press Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza, it seemed the US president would not commit to negotiating an end to the siege. So we can see how devoted they actually are to the cause of peace.

Meanwhile the Quartet – America, the EU, Russia and the United Nations – says there’s no turning back from US-led talks between Israel and the Palestinians, despite their spectacular lack of progress.

So everyone in high places is singing from the same hymn-sheet in praise of a fruitless peace process.

They know perfectly well, of course, that the Israelis have for decades played for time, stringing the world along and whining that they have “no partner for peace” while continuing to seize and colonize all the land and water resources needed to fulfill the Zionist dream of a Greater Israel from the Jordan to the Mediterranean… or, some say, the Euphrates to the Nile. To that end the regime has endlessly violated UN resolutions, international law and the norms of human decency.

Respected Israeli expert Jeff Halper has warned that Israel intends to make its illegal occupation permanent, hence the frenzied rush to establish irreversible facts on the ground like the monstrous settlements and their supporting infrastructure, to press ahead with further demolition of Arab homes and more ethnic cleansing, and to fracture the remnants of Palestine so that they cannot possibly be drawn together to form a viable, independent state.

Anyone who bothers to read the manifestos of the Likud and Kadima parties understands that it is Israel which is no partner for peace, never was and probably never will be.

So, World leaders, what’s your game? Why should Palestinians have to talk to their tormentors? The path to peace is clearly marked in countless rulings by the United Nations and by the International Court of Justice. These are waiting to be implemented and enforced. Here are some examples…

• Resolution 181 (the Partition Plan of 1947 accepted by the Jews) declares Jerusalem, including Bethlehem and Beit Sahour, a corpus separatum – to be run under an international UN administration. This was reiterated in Resolution 303 a year later. We’re still waiting.
• Resolution 194: resolves that refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage. That was 60 years ago.
• Resolution 237: Israel to allow return of the ‘new’ 1967 Palestinian refugees.
• Resolution 242: emphasizes the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by war and calls on Israel to withdraw its forces from land occupied in 1967.
• Resolution 252: declares ‘invalid’ Israel’s attempts to unify Jerusalem as the Jewish capital.
• Resolution 271: condemns Israel’s failure to obey UN resolutions on Jerusalem.
• Resolution 298: deplores Israel’s changing of the status of Jerusalem.
• Resolution 446: determines that Israeli settlements are a ‘serious obstruction’ to peace and calls on Israel to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
• Resolution 452: calls on Israel to cease building settlements in occupied territories.
• Resolution 465: deplores Israel’s settlements and asks all member states not to assist Israel’s settlements program.
• Resolution 469: strongly deplores Israel’s failure to observe the Council’s order not to deport Palestinians.
• Resolution 471: expresses deep concern’ at Israel’s failure to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
• Resolution 476: reiterates that Israel’s claims to Jerusalem are null and void.
• Resolution 478: censures Israel in the strongest terms for its claim to Jerusalem in its Basic Law.
• Resolution 605: strongly deplores Israel’s policies and practices denying the human rights of Palestinians.
• Resolution 608: deeply regrets that Israel has defied the United Nations and deported Palestinian civilians.
• Resolution 641: deplores Israel’s continuing deportation of Palestinians.
• Resolution 673: deplores Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the United Nations.
• Resolution 681: deplores Israel’s resumption of the deportation of Palestinians.
• Resolution 694: deplores Israel’s deportation of Palestinians and calls on it to ensure their safe and immediate return.
• Resolution 726: strongly condemns Israel’s deportation of Palestinians.
• Resolution 799: ditto

The Fourth Geneva Convention is supposed to protect civilians under military occupation…. no violence to life or person, no cruelty or torture; no taking of hostages; no outrages upon personal dignity; no collective punishment, no sentencing or executions unless ordered by a properly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees demanded by civilised peoples.

In 2004 the International Court of Justice – that “principal judicial organ of the United Nations” – ruled that the Separation Wall is illegal and must be dismantled, and Israel must compensate Palestinians for damage. Furthermore, said the ICJ, all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the Wall and to ensure Israel complies with international humanitarian law.

Israel is still building it.

The quarrel is clearly between the international community and Israel. So please, World leaders, spare us all this tosh about peace negotiations. There can be no peace while one party has his jackboot on the other’s throat. The major powers must first ensure all relevant UN resolutions are respected and international law enforced, not swept under the carpet. The time for Palestinians to sit down and talk is when Israel’s forces are pulled back, as required, behind the 1967 border.

What if Israel won’t comply? Easy: suspend trade and technical co-operation.

Mr Davey said when asked about his trip: "My one regret was not being allowed to visit Gaza, something I hope to put right as soon as my diary allows." Not allowed to? By whom? Did the Israeli authorities stop him, just as they stopped a surgeon friend from entering Gaza a month ago with a team of medics, stopped the Pope’s nuncio and stopped the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Professor Richard Falk, who is due to report on the situation to the UN Human Rights Council in March?

Mr Davey didn’t explain. But expressing his intention to visit Gaza does him credit. He certainly won’t get a balanced view until he sees for himself and meets Hamas. I wish him well. We are in desperate need of champions for justice, a rare breed in international politics these days.

-Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit He contributed this article to

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