Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Business Recorder editorial Nov 29, 2016

Carter’s reminder Former US president Jimmy Carter has penned an article in The New York Times on November 29 tracing the history of the peacemaking efforts in the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab conflict, centred on the Camp David Accords (CDA) of 1976 brokered by his administration. Timed to coincide with the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine, Carter argues that the CDA signed by then Israeli prime minister Menachim Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat were based on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 242 passed in the aftermath of the 1967 war. The foundational concepts of that resolution were the inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by war, the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every state in the area can live in security, and the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories. These concepts have been the basis for the US and the international community ever since. Outgoing President Obama reiterated these concepts in 2009 by calling for a complete freeze on the building of illegal settlements on Palestinian territory and in 2011 made clear that the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with two states, Israel and Palestine, having permanent borders between them and with neighbouring Egypt and Jordan. Thirty eight years after the CDA, Carter feels the commitment to peace is in danger of abrogation. Israel is building more and more settlements, displacing Palestinians and entrenching its occupation. Over 4.5 million Palestinians live in these occupied territories, most under Israeli military rule, which privileges the 600,000 Israeli settlers. This process, Carter argues, is hastening a one-state reality. Based on these ground realities and the Carter Center’s continuing efforts for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, he thinks President Obama should recognize Palestine as a state before leaving office, as 137 countries have already done. This would generate momentum and help persuade those countries that have not so far done so to follow suit. The UNSC should again get actively involved and pass a new resolution favouring a two-state solution. No doubt former president Carter’s motives while in office and ever since are sincere and well meaning. However, the ‘ground realities’ and trends he refers to are only the tip of the iceberg. Israel has been a rogue state since its very creation. In fact the creation itself was an act of utter injustice to the Palestinians, whose lands and lives were gobbled up by the new Zionist entity with the help of the US-led west. In 1956 Israel joined hands with the old colonial powers Britain and France to attack Egypt after Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal. In 1967 Israel launched surprise attacks on its Arab neighbours and captured Sinai (including Gaza), the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Syria’s Golan Heights have since been annexed, the West Bank virtually annexed by ever expanding settlements, and Sinai (minus Gaza) was only returned to Egypt after the 1973 war and the subsequent peace treaty signed between Israel and Egypt. Syria thus remained (along with Iraq) the only Arab neighbouring state with which Israel is still not at peace. Perhaps Saddam Hussein’s fate and the attempt to overthrow Bashar al-Assad are not unconnected to these ‘ground realities’. In 1982 Israel blatantly invaded Lebanon, ousted a besieged PLO leadership to exile in Tunisia, and despite the Oslo Accords of 1993 in which the Palestinians conceded Israel’s right to exist and accepted a two-state solution, has continued to pound the Palestinians into submission. In this unholy endeavour, Israel has enjoyed the tacit if not active support of successive US administrations. For all intents and purposes, the two-state solution has been killed by Israeli intransigence, the UNSC has put Palestine on the backburner, and the world has moved on despite the Palestinians having been admitted to the UN. Even if Obama, by now a lame duck, were to follow Carter’s advice, what are the bets on its passing muster with incoming president-elect Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress? Realism forces us to stop building castles in the air with concepts and principles that have been ground out of existence by the Israeli jackboot. For the Palestinians, these are dire times, with the PLO discussing Mahmoud Abbas’ successors. For them, the long trail of broken promises and extreme repression can only be turned if they can find the courage and means to hurt Israel in ways even its western supporters will not be able to ignore.

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