As 2014 draws to an end, it will be remembered as the year when Palestinians regained the initiative in the Palestine / Israel injustice, through a wave of Parliamentary recognitions and a change in strategy at the UN. Israel’s year will be remembered as one in which its extremist settler Government, led by the arrogant Netanyahu committed war crimes in Gaza, lost much of its support and headed to isolation.
The year started with Secretary Kerry’s continuing nine-month attempt to conclude a peace deal between a weak Palestinian Authority and a belligerent, extremist Israeli Government. The talks had no basis in International Law or previous agreements and were doomed to failure. Israel continued to announce the expansion of settlements in response to agreed upon Palestinian prisoner releases. It also refused to discuss the key issues, except for its security.
The talks ended when Israel reneged on the release of the final batch of prisoners and accused the PA of forming a Government with Hamas. In fact the PA had formed a government of national agreement, made up of ‘technocrats’, agreed upon with Hamas but with no political affiliation. Israel could not bear to see Palestinians united as this would annul its claim that President Abbas could not deliver on a peace agreement.
The failure of the talks is Israel’s fault. Far from Abbas not being able to deliver on a peace deal, it was Netanyahu who would not have been able to deliver on a two-state solution, firstly because he does not want it and secondly because he would not be willing to remove one squatter from the West Bank.
Failing to advance a peace deal was expected but Israel’s thuggery and terrorism reached unprecedented heights in the summer of 2014. It started with an oppressive operation in the West Bank following the abduction of four settlers near Hebron. Thousands of troops raided and desecrated homes and arrested hundreds, including some released in the Shalit deal who had committed no crime. A number of innocent Palestinian civilians were killed and tens were injured. The homes of the suspects were demolished.
At the same time, Israel turned its attention to Gaza, claiming Hamas had ordered the Hebron abductions. It carried out a series of attacks to which Hamas and other groups responded with rocket fire. When the bodies of the three settlers were found, the attack on Gaza turned into an all out war. This was initially restricted to aerial bombardment, which Israel claimed was carefully targeted at Hamas rocket launch sites and infrastructure. But the casualties were mostly civilians and included initially tens of children which turned to hundreds. The Palestinian resistance groups launched hundreds of rockets, which although a nuisance to Israelis caused little damage and only four civilian casualties.
The level of terror heaped on the trapped population of Gaza was quite unprecedented. I argued at the time that if Gaza had sirens, they would have sounded continuously during Israel’s attacks. Even if Gaza had sirens, where would people have gone to for safety, as nowhere was safe?
Suddenly Israel raised the issue of the ‘terror tunnels’ that required a ground invasion to destroy them. It claimed they were to be used to attack civilians. But the fact is that they were only ever used to attack the military. Nevertheless a violent ground invasion was instigated which heaped more death and destruction on the beleaguered strip.
As the war was drawing to a close and a ceasefire was close to being agreed, Israel started targeting civilian tower blocks, maximising the number of homeless its American supplied bombs would create. UN schools were hit, including thee housing those made refugees again and children playing on the beach paid with their lives for having a bit of fun. Israel was exposed for the violent rogue state Palestinians knew it to be, but ordinary people around the world hit the streets in their millions to protest its thuggery and to show their solidarity with Palestine.
Hundreds of thousands lobbied their parliamentary representatives to put pressure on their Governments to change policy from supporting Israel’s right to self defence to sanctioning it for its actions. While this saw limited success in the U.S. and Europe, it was a major change in public opinion in favour of the Palestinians.
Enter the Palestinian Authority with a strategy to build on its 2012 upgrade of Palestine to a non-member state and its action to join UNISCO and fourteen other conventions including the Geneva Conventions. Those were excellent steps but fell short of maximising the gains by joining every organisation and convention the new status allowed for, especially the International Criminal Court (ICC). So many crimes had been committed by Israel in Gaza which could be taken to the ICC but the PA had to sign the Rome Statutes first. To this day the PA has not done so, despite repeated promises to do so imminently. Even the recent death of Minister Abu Ein as a result of an attack by IDF thugs failed to trigger this move, but it will come.
The other part of the PA’s strategy has been to seek recognition of Palestine as a state by all world states. It started the Autumn with134 states that had recognised Palestine but they did not include either the U.S. or major western nations such as the UK, France or Germany.
Sweden surprised everyone when a new Government announced it would recognise Palestine and did so quickly, incurring the wrath of Israel but standing firm. Britain was next, with the Mother of all parliaments recognising Palestine and asking the Government to do so. Spain, Portugal, Ireland, France and Luxembourg followed suit and th EU Parliament recently agreed to recognise Palestine ‘in principle’. More Parliaments are expected to follow suit but real pressure will be applied on Israel when Governments begin to recognise Palestine as a state under occupation.
The PA ended the year with its sensible United Nations Security Council Resolution, setting a date for the end of the occupation in 2017. After 47 years of occupation and failed talks, this was a reasonable and long overdue move. Israel has gone hysterical and its various leaders have collected many air miles in the quest to scupper this resolution before its birth. The latest reason is that it would embolden the right wing and return Netanyahu to power. This is of course nonsense. The reality is that Israeli leaders are united in wanting to keep the occupation, Jerusalem and the settlement enterprise.
France has been working on an alternative resolution which would not set a date for an end to the occupation but would set a time limit for talks. We have had futile talks for 21 years and the number of settlers has reached 750,000 from a starting position of 100,000.
Whatever happens at the UN, 2014 will be remembered for Israeli terror and thuggery and for Palestinian diplomacy. While the Palestinians are in a most difficult position, their ‘diplomatic terror’ as the Moldovan bouncer and Foreign Minister of Israel Avigdor Lieberman calls it, is winning them friends as Israel loses them.
The year ended with a failed attempt by Palestine to secure a UN Security Council resolution which would set a time limit on negotiations and an end to the 47-year long occupation. Eight members voted in favour, the U.S. and Australia voted against and there were five other abstentions. The abstentions included the UK. Once again, the UK failed to support Palestine, choosing instead to allow continuation of the Israeli occupation with no time limit. It seems the ghost of Balfour continues to haunt the Brutish Foreign Office. At every opportunity to support Palestine, Britain chooses to act to support the Zionist enterprise. This wins it no friends in the Middle East and it wonders why it is that some of its citizens have a problem with its foreign policy.
The Palestinian Authority has threatened to join a number of International conventions and treaties, should the UN resolution fail. This includes joining the Rome Statutes and the International Criminal Court. It has threatened this repeatedly but Abbas’s pen hasn’t quite made contact with paper to initiate this. Will 2015 be the year of accountability? Will Israel finally grace the ICC? I certainly hope so fir the thousands of Palestinians that this violent enterprise has snuffed out. Their only crime is that Palestine was a land with a People.