How Palestinians and Israelis view peace
All of us have followed the latest round of negotiations in the U.S. All of us are aspiring for a peace agreement that ends the conflict in the region. All of us affirm the issue of ending the conflict, but we have never asked how and what is the mechanism. As far as we get to the details, obstacles appear. There is a saying that states, "Satan is in the details"
There have only been a few cases when an occupier desired to give up land or peace; in which they know they are getting weaker or they are losing the battles. Obviously, it's not the case with Israel. Israel is still strong, as is demonstrated by its bloody forces. The Palestinian side has not become stronger. It can also be said that with the lack of unity, it has only become weaker. It was weakness that resulted in the Palestinian leadership being dragged into negotiating over that which is left of Palestine. Further complicating the issue is the lack of clarity in the Palestinian leadership’s lack of clarity in its position. Looking at President's Abbas positions and his team, there is great deviation from the main issues and rights of the Palestinian people. Yet, the leadership claims it has never given up Palestinian rights now or in the future.
This is not the case. Since the arrival of Obama, Palestinians and the International Community have continued to witness the failure of Madrid Peace Talks that began in 1990. Obama is no different than Bush, as Bush was no different than past presidents. Obama and his predecessors continue with another failed American policy, and the region continues to be plagued by an American foreign policy that only serves the interest of its one so-called true ally Israel.
Obama promised Palestinians an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state. Many thought that he would be the change the world, region and Palestinians were looking for, especially when he called upon Israel to halt the building of its illegal settlements. The language was then changed from calling for a halt to a freeze. The final call was for a delay so that negotiations could restart. Finally, the Obama administration applied pressure on Palestinians for them to enter into direct talks with Israelis. All the while Israel continued with its secret building settlements! Obama, unfortunately, is no different.
Whether Obama succumbed to pressure from the Israeli lobby, or because of the upcoming mid-term elections, or some combination thereof, a lack of leadership is evident in the case of the American. America is not entirely to blame for the failure of the current round of so-called peace talks, as the Palestinian leadership or the lack thereof is also to blame. The current Palestinian leadership gave a very cheap gift to Israel and Obama.
The gift was delivered by Abbas speech, with leader of AIPAC and Jewish community in the U.S. Without applying pressure or even blinking an eye, Abbas showed his readiness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He stated this indirectly when said Israel is free to name itself whatever it wants, even the empire of the Jewish state of Israel. Such recognition should have never been given. Free positions should not be given, as it will encourage them more and more towards huge concessions from the Palestinians. Israel has got enough concessions from Palestinians since 1948. But in all fairness to Abbas, he merely is representative of and reflects a failed, immoral and bankrupt policy of the past.
Rather than lamenting on the failed policy of the past, a reflection on what Palestinians do want is necessary. Rather than dialogue between failed leaders claiming to represent the people in the international community, maybe direct and public dialogue between Palestinians and international community is necessary for real peace. If the international community, represented by the people, can come together to break the Siege on Gaza and call for holding Israel accountable for its crimes against humanity, then maybe together a real peace can be achieved.
The following are issues of primary importance that need to be included, talked about and solved immediately.
-The Right of Return needs to be implemented. This right was set forth in UN Resolution 194 and guaranteed by many International accords. It gives Palestinian refugees the right plus compensation. Palestinians also seek a formal apology from Israel for the loss and damage experienced as a result of the ethnic cleansing and ongoing one-sided massacres in Gaza and West Bank. Palestinians should be allowed back to their homes and towns. If you ask any refugee, they will clearly state, " We want to go back".
The Israeli position to this is outright refusal. Israel views the right of return as a demographic threat and has only accepted that around 20.000 Palestinian refugees can return to the occupied territories. America backs this position and offered support by hosting more than 100.000 refugees in their land. They also offered $50 Billion for Palestinians if any agreement was made. They also want to settle the current Palestinian refugees living in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere through large amounts of financial and development support.
-Settlements should be dissolved. For a two state solution to work based on 1967 borders, all settlements should be left by the Israeli side. They are built in an occupied land according to UN resolutions and are illegal. They hinder the contiguity and viability of the Palestinian state. It will be unreasonable within the future Palestinian state to move from Nablus to Bethlehem by passing through a number of checkpoints. It's as if you are travelling to the USA from the Middle East, or travelling from Manchester to London through checkpoints manned by soldiers.
Israelis don't want to give up Palestinian land. They always state, “Peace in Return for Security, but not Land.” They want to keep settlements, which is part of their dogma. They view it as the land of the ancients, "Judia and Samira" which was given to Abraham and Moses a long time ago! Leaving this land will be very difficult due to them being occupied by both Jewish settlements and some Jewish terrorist groups. Leaving settlements will not be made by this or any future Israeli government. The government will collapse if even full freeze will be made.
-Jerusalem is the core of the issues. Palestinians view it as our capital. From the religious perspective, it is a sacred place where Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. We also believe its our lands as Canaanites, "Our ancestors who lived in Palestine even before the Jews." Jerusalem was always the capital of Palestine. What is left from this city now is the old city and a few other neighborhood. The whole city was divided by Israel into an eastern and western part.
Israelis do not want to share the city or give it to the Palestinians. Israel wants full control of the city, while only granting Palestinians partial rights to pray. It wants the city as a capital for the Jewish state of Israel. Israelis want the demolition of the Dome of the Rock down to build mount temple.
Israel has been engaged in a demographic war against Palestinians since 1967. They are ethnically cleansing Palestinians and replacing them by migrant Jews. Thousands of Palestinian houses where confiscated and given to Israel settlers. Many synagogues were opened. An Apartheid Wall was built to occupy part of the city and to exclude a few quarters. Many tunnels were dug to bring down the Islamic sites in the city. Americans indirectly support the Israeli stance. A few years ago Hillary Clinton announced many times that she agrees to move the American Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. This gives direct recognition and approval of Israeli intentions by the Americans.
-Borders and security mean sovereignty and contiguity for our promised future state. We are seeking full control of our borders with an army to protect us like all other free nations. The borders could be within a one or two state solution but with Palestinians being given their full rights. This also means direct supervision of our borders and crossing points.
Israel does not agree. It does not accept Palestinians having an army or controlling their borders. Israel want control over the borders and crossings so that it can continue to subjugate Palestinians living in a so-called state. Israel claims its control and supervision of the borders and crossings is necessary for security reasons. However, there are only security threats to Israel because it continues denying a Palestinian state and its policies of occupation, repression and subjugation of the Palestinian people.
-Palestinian prisoners detained, and often tortured, in Israeli jails are estimated around 8 to 10 thousand, many of whom were jailed during the First and Second Intifada and have spent more than 25 years in detention. Israel has not released them. Palestinians seek the full release of all the political prisoners; beginning first with the release of all the children, women and sick.
Israel does not want their release. It views them as criminals who threaten the security of Israel and its future. Despite promises and assurances made following Oslo, Israel failed to release many Palestinian prisoners.
-The water issue is a key in to the conflict. The Middle East suffers from shortages in water that might lead to some future wars on the regional level. What is happening now between Egypt and some African countries is a direct indicator. Palestinians seek to have their share of the water as part of any solution.
The Israeli side of course does not agree. Israel does not want Palestinians to have control over their own water supply because it will be a way to continue to oppress and subjugate any Palestinian state. The dispute taking place between Israel and Lebanon continues because of Israeli theft and control of water resources on Lebanese territory. There are similar issues with the Golan Heights and the Jordan River. Israel controls water wells and resources in the West Bank through the settlements, hence it not wanting to dismantle settlements or halt settlement policy. Israel even created barriers to prevent water from flowing into the Gaza Strip.
All of these issues must be addressed at once and not put off for future rounds of talks, as they are interdependent. Their interdependence and failure to address them simultaneously continues to ensure that peace will not be possible and is currently out of reach.
Palestinians will not accept any peace that will not give us our rights. Abbas will not be able to sign a deal without consulting his people. If he attempts to do as Arafat did by signing a peace without the approval of the people, he will be assassinated or deposed. At the same time, the Israeli government will never accept the Palestinian conditions. Peace, unfortunately, continues to remain out of reach.
Sameh habeeb is a Palestinian journalist from Gaza. He is founder of Palestine Telegraph Electronic Newspaper: http://www.paltelegraph.com. He worked for a number of mainstream media outlets in Gaza where reported on siege and last war 2008-2009.