Netanyahu’s vision of peace: Killing Palestinian statehood
Ramallah - Not one, but two peace initiatives are being circulated in hopes of finding a negotiated settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
One is 14 years old and the other was proposed by France in 2015 to get the world involved in multilateral negotiations to facilitate the resumption of talks between Palestinians and Israelis.
The first proposal, the Arab Peace Initiative, offered Israel “full diplomatic and normal relations” with 57 Arab and Muslim countries in exchange for a “comprehensive” Israeli peace agreement with the Palestinians. Iran was among countries that endorsed the initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave reserved approval to the Arab initiative, saying it consists of the pillars of peace but must be “updated” to reflect more current times, specifically after the “Arab spring” revolutions.
The French initiative, which Netanyahu rejected outright, aims at breaking the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock before the expected showdown at the UN General Assembly in September. It seeks to revive the talks based on the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, negotiated security arrangements for Israel and a Palestinian state. Talks on thorny issues, such as the right of return of Palestinian refugees and the fate of the traditionally Arab sector of east Jerusalem, would be put off to a later date.
The two initiatives aim at facilitating the creation of a state for the Palestinians to live side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) expressed complete support for the Arab Peace Initiative, also known as the Saudi plan, describing it as “the most important since 1948”. It also endorsed the French plan, which calls for an international peace conference.
The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, comprising the 28 foreign ministers of the EU members, also adopted a resolution backing the French peace effort and calling for an international peace conference before the end of the year.
Nevertheless, Israel took steps that left some analysts certain that Netanyahu is little interested in peace initiatives, whether European or Arab, and is using international efforts to buy time to create a reality that would render the two-state solution impossible.
Khaldoun Barghouti, a journalist and expert on Israeli political affairs, said Netanyahu is simply buying time and maintaining the same policies to reach a point where it is no longer possible to create a Palestinian state.
“Netanyahu is against a two-state solution and has made that clear on several occasions. He aims to take over Area C, which constitutes 60% of the West Bank and is under Israeli control, to become part of Israel, rendering the idea of a Palestinian state simply unviable,” Barghouti said.
Only days after the Paris peace summit, Israeli authorities announced plans to construct 82 units in the illegal settlement of Ramat Shlomo, north-east of Jerusalem, and the construction of an illegal settlement outpost of 15,000 units in the Qalandia Airport area, north of Jerusalem.
Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said this is “Israel’s response to the summit as it continues to boycott the will of the world with its insistence on the illegal colonial settlement expansion in occupied Palestine”.
Barghouti said it was evident from Netanyahu’s actions that he was not interested in peace or a two-state solution, which became even clearer after appointing a far-right politician and Jewish settler, Avigdor Lieberman, as Defence minister.
However, some see Netanyahu’s reserved approval of the Arab peace initiative as merely a public relations stunt to stifle international efforts, kill the French peace initiative and the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, which is increasingly receiving world support.
Barghouti says the Arab peace initiative, like many before, is doomed to failure because Israel will not agree to its terms and Arabs do not have the capacity to offer any more concessions.
“Israel will not agree to return to the 1967 lines and Arabs will not normalise with Israel before achieving a two-state solution,” he said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry Director- General Dore Gold told the Times of Israel that Netanyahu’s main goal is to normalise relations with the Arab and Islamic world before he solves the Palestinian issue.
“This is Netanyahu’s approach. Twenty, 30 years ago everyone said solve the Palestinian issue and you’ll have peace with the Arab world and, increasingly we are becoming convinced it’s the exact opposite. It’s a different order we have to create. And that’s what we’re going to do,” Gore said.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al- Jubeir rejected Netanyahu’s demand to have the Arab Peace Initiative “updated”.
“We and the rest of the world believe that the Arab Peace Initiative is the best option to resolve the conflict and we hope that this wisdom prevails in Israel too and that the Israelis would accept this initiative,” Jubeir said.