Israel’s attack on democracy for non-Jews form the river to the sea

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 26/9/2016

Member of the Knesset Haneen Zoabi

If Israel is not lauding its army, the Israeli Defence Force, as the self-proclaimed “most moral army in the world”, it is claiming to be the “only democracy in the Middle East”. The IDF’s oppressive treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and its regular attacks on Gaza, the most recent of which resulted in the murder of over 2,000 Palestinians, destroy the first claim.

An analysis of the second claim finds it is another false claim, unless of course its claim is changed to “the only democracy for Jews in the Middle East”. The contrast between the democratic rights of Jewish citizens of Israel on either side of the Green Line and Palestinians on either side of the same line could not be starker.

In the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, Palestinians cannot vote in Israeli elections, while Jewish Israelis living illegally on Palestinian lands can. A number of Israeli politicians including Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman live in illegal settlements. Israel’s recently installed Consul General in New York, Dani Dayan, was leader of the settlement movement. It is worth noting that Brazil refused to accept his appointment as Israeli ambassador, while the US had no qualms about his appointment in New York.

In East Jerusalem, Palestinians are in political limbo, barred from voting in Israeli elections but also barred from voting in Palestinian elections. As a matter of fact, one of the legal challenges to the planned municipal elections slated for 8 October was the exclusion of East Jerusalem Palestinians due to an Israeli decision. The Palestinian Supreme Court decided to postpone the elections and has postponed a decision to 3 October.

In other areas of the West Bank, Palestinians are entitled to vote in presidential, legislative council and municipal elections. The last presidential elections, which brought Mahmoud Abbas to power, were held in 2005 and the last parliamentary elections were held in 2006. Hamas won that election eventually resulting in Israel and the international community boycotting the Hamas government. Presidential elections are long overdue and the Palestinian Parliament has not operated effectively since the Fatah-Hamas split.

Palestinian MPs who have tried to carry out the duties for which they were elected have not been able to do so without Israeli interference, including their freedom to move in the West Bank and certainly to represent their constituents in Jerusalem. Israel has also broken international norms attached to parliamentarians by arresting a number, mainly affiliated to Hamas, including the Speaker of Parliament Aziz Dwaik. It most recently arrested and held PFLP Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar. She was released in June after serving 14 months of a 15 month prison sentence. This attack on Palestinian democracy brings into question Israel’s democratic credentials.

On the face of it, democracy applies to all Israeli citizens in equal measure. At least, that is what Israeli leaders and supporters of Israel claim. They tell us regularly that Palestinian (Arab) citizens not only vote in elections but a number of Israeli Members of the Knesset (MKs) or Parliament are Palestinian. There are currently 17 Palestinian citizens of Israel serving in the 20th Knesset. Ahmad Tibi, leader of Arab Movement for Change, serves as one of 10 deputy speakers of the Knesset, representing the Arab MK block.

If you scratch the surface you begin to see the discrimination and intimidation that Palestinian MKs suffer, especially if they speak up for the people they represent and make any attempts to expose Israel’s discriminatory policies against its 1.8 million Palestinian citizens. Whether this is in terms of education, health, housing, or civil rights including marriage and unification with Palestinians from the West Bank, they incur the wrath of Jewish members of the Knesset. Their opposition to 60 discriminatory laws and to the plan to ethnically cleanse the Bedouins from their villages, many of which Israel does not recognise, is seen as an indication of their disloyalty rather than legitimate representation of their constituents. Balad MK Haneen Zoabi, the first Muslim woman to be elected to the Knesset on an Arab list, has faced a particularly nasty campaign especially since her participation in the Gaza Flotilla, which Israel attacked on international waters resulting in the death of 10 humanitarian passengers. She was arrested and briefly held. Zoabi called the Israeli action “criminal”.

Zoabi’s party, the National Democratic Assembly (Balad), has been a specific target of Israel since 2003. In 2007, its then leader Azmi Bishara was charged with supporting terrorism, treason and various other charges. He denied the charges and decided not to return to face these charges, remaining in exile since.

The party’s Chairman and former General-Secretary, Awad Abdel Fattah, is currently in custody following his arrest at home at 3am on 18 September. At one point, up to 40 members of Balad were in custody and, while most have now been released, a small number, including Awad continue to be detained. His detention was extended again yesterday. In a statement, Balad said: “From the little Israeli police have since revealed, it seems the Balad-Al Tajamo members were arrested for suspected money laundering on behalf of the party and for other fraud-related charges. The Israeli court has extended the remand of most of those arrested for a second time – leaving them in jail now for over a week – while some have been released to house arrest under strictly-limiting conditions. The details of the allegations remain secret and are still being withheld from both the public and from the arrestees themselves”. Balad went on to “vehemently reject the charges against the Balad-Al Tajamo activists, and condemn the manner in which the night time arrests were conducted.”

Balad claims that “these arrests reek of political persecution of the very worst kind, and come close in the wake of Israel’s unilateral move to outlaw the country’s Islamic Movement-Northern Branch. It is also directly linked to recent racist legislation approved by Israeli lawmakers, such as the Expulsion Law, designed to target the Palestinian Arab community from within.” MK Basel Ghattas penned an article in Arabic rejecting the claims and confirming his belief that Israel wants to destroy the party. The Israeli police is accused (in Arabic) of setting up special units to specifically target Balad members

I spoke to Abdel Fattah’s wife, Fathiyya Hussein, who confirmed to me that the family has faced intimidation by the Israeli authorities for some time. She herself and her two sons were arrested in 2014 and detained, even though one of her sons was a minor. She was held for three days but her eldest son Muhannad was held and beaten resulting in broken ribs before being released to house detention for eight months. He received a suspended sentence and a fine. Muhannad was accused of an illegal protest against the Prower plan. She also confirmed that the intimidation has touched other members of the party including its three MKs. When I asked why her husband was particularly targeted she said “because of his position as chairman and chief signatory on any transactions.”

It is rare to hear of such intimidation of other political parties in Israel and certainly none of either established or newly formed mainly Jewish Israeli parties. The exceptional attack on Balad sends an unambiguous signal to Israel’s Palestinian citizens. While they are allowed to enjoy some aspects of the norms of a democratic process, they must remember, like their occupied Palestinian counterparts on the other side of the Green Line, it is Israeli Jews that enjoy a five star democracy wherever they reside between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean.

The two-state solution is dead; long live the two-state solution

First published by the Middle East Monitor


The Middle East Quartet has released its long-awaited report and to no one’s surprise it is claiming that the two-state solution is “in danger”. It alleges that this “danger” comes from Palestinian terrorism and incitement, and Israeli settlement building and takeover of the West Bank’s area C. The report reiterates that “a negotiated two-state outcome is the only way to achieve an enduring peace that meets Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, ends the occupation that began in 1967, and resolves all permanent status issues.” It expresses particular concern about:

  • Continuing violence, terrorist attacks against civilians and incitement to violence which are exacerbating mistrust and are fundamentally incompatible with a peaceful resolution;
  • The continuing policy of settlement construction and expansion, designation of land for exclusive Israeli use, and denial of Palestinian development is steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution; and
  • The illicit arms build-up and militant activity, continuing absence of Palestinian unity, and dire humanitarian situation in Gaza feed instability and ultimately impede efforts to achieve a negotiated solution.

We are told repeatedly that the two-state solution is “the only game in town” for solving the decades-long Palestinian injustice, both by the “international community” and the Palestinian Authority. However, what such a solution means to Israel is very different to what is understood by Palestinians. For the Palestinian leadership, a two-state solution means an independent Palestinian state on the pre-Six Day War 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital and minor land swaps. Israel does not accept this definition. Even when the two-state solution term is uttered by Israeli officials they are usually referring to two states for two people with an non-militarised Palestinian state recognising Israel as the “homeland of the Jewish people”. Any solution would also have to take Israel’s ever-expanding security demands into account and Israel would keep the “settlement blocs”, the definition of which is fluid.

This demonstrates that the two-state solution is far from being a concept the details of which are agreed upon, and that there are still many i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed if it is to become a reality; that it is far from just requiring some flexibility and some concessions from each side for it to be realised.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won the last general election on a platform which was clear: “There will be no Palestinian state on my watch.” While he attempted to retract this after his electoral victory, he still does not accept a Palestinian state “on the 1967 line”. More recently, as talk of the French initiative grew louder and reference to the Arab Peace Initiative was included, Netanyahu flatly rejected it, saying, “If they bring the proposal from 2002 and define it as ‘take it or leave it’ – we’ll choose to leave it.” He argued that “its negative elements include the demand that Israel retreat to the 1967 borders in the West Bank with territorial adjustments, and leave the Golan Heights, as well as the return of the Palestinian refugees.” The offer to normalise relations with all Arab and Muslim countries if Israel implements international law is unacceptable to the Israeli leader.

The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, remains wedded to the two-state solution. You would have thought that Chief Palestinian Negotiator and PLO General Secretary Saeb Erekat — who has been involved in talks with the Israelis for over twenty years — would do the honourable thing and tell the world that the two-state solution is dead and then pursue a different political solution. He only has to look out of his Ramallah or Jericho office windows to see the illegal Israeli settlements that tower over Palestinian towns and villages, and the settler-only roads and other security measures that make a Palestinian state a pipe-dream.

His reasoning for refusing to make such an announcement is that he believes that the Israelis will not accept a one-state solution. However, as I have outlined above, nor do they accept a two-state solution. Erekat concludes that what Israel really wants is a single state with two systems and, therefore, Apartheid by any other name. I agree with his conclusion.

The Palestinians, though, must state clearly what they want; Israel does that all the time. The Palestinians want to remain in historic Palestine and those made refugees to return to their land. They want to be able to settle anywhere in their historic homeland and not to visit Jaffa only when Israel grants them a permit to be photographed and to reminisce. They want equality and to live in dignity. I also believe that they want to have their reasons for hating their occupier to end; at heart, the Palestinians are a peaceful people.

The Quartet’s report outlines some of its reasons why the two-state solution is still the only way to resolve the conflict. It recognises that facts on the ground in the form of Israel’s settlement expansion are making it difficult to realise. However, it does not define the tipping point when a report that it produces will acknowledge that the two-state solution is dead. In so doing it allows the status quo to continue, which only suits Israel. Israeli ministers and champions of the settlement project have learnt from the impunity that their state has enjoyed that the way to conquer historic Palestine in its entirety is through more settlement building and more oppression. The former reduces the possibility of a Palestinian state emerging and the latter will drive the Palestinians out of the remaining areas in which they are corralled.

The international community must define that tipping point. I suggest that if the number of illegal Jewish-Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem reaches one million then the die will be cast and the two-state solution will be dead and buried. Once that point is established in the collective mindset, everyone involved will either work to rescue the two-state solution before it is reached or, when the million mark is passed, the only game in town will be a different political solution. If that happens then it must be one that delivers justice to the Palestinian people, especially the refugees. I fear, though, that over the next few years we will continue to be sold the mirage that the two-state solution is the only deal on the table, and Israel will be allowed to continue to work towards what it really wants, which is historic Palestine emptied of its indigenous population.

Israeli society and its leaders are hastening its complete isolation

Israeli society and its leaders are hastening its complete isolation

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 30 May 2016

The news that the Israeli cabinet has confirmed the appointment of extremist settler and former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as Defence Minister is troubling to Palestinians and their supporters. The leader of Yisrael Beiteinu is known for his hatred of Palestinians. In 2015, he said that “Israeli Arabs” who are disloyal to the State of Israel should have “their heads chopped off.” More recently, he initiated a bill that would allow the death penalty for “convicted terrorists”, but only if they were Palestinians. He is also a man who is happy to “lose” Israeli citizens if they are not Jewish, saying: “We won’t be moving people, we will be moving the borders. It’s not a transfer.” He made his comment when asked about land swaps with the Palestinians.

Lieberman is but one example of the extremist leadership that now runs Israel; even its own Environment Minister Avi Gabbay described it as such when announcing his resignation recently. Other extremist members of the Israeli government include Naftali Bennett, leader of Jewish Home, who once said proudly that he had “killed lots of Arabs in his life and there’s no problem with that.” The intolerant Israeli education minister recently banned a novel from the school curriculum because it dared to imagine that a Jew and an Arab could fall in love. Another member of Bennett’s party is the extremist, so called Justice Minister, Ayalet Shaked. She infamously called the entire Palestinian people the enemy and justified their destruction, “including their elderly and their women, their cities and their villages, their property and their infrastructure.” She went on to call for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.” More recently, Shaked pushed for a plan to apply Israeli law to the illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, effectively annexing them to Israel.

Culture Minister Miri Regev has insisted that the Israeli flag should fly on every state cultural institution, even in Arab areas. Her extremist views are not new but she has reconfirmed her former statement that African migrants are a “cancer”, adding, “Heaven forbid we compare Africans to human beings.”

Another group now facing an unprecedented attack are leaders and proponents of the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Transportation Minister Israel Katz has called for the “civil targeted killing” of BDS leaders like Omar Barghouti. Interior Minister Arye Deri followed this up with a decision not to renew Barghouti’s Israeli travel document, which effectively bans him from travelling.

Sitting at the top of the tree of the most extreme government in Israel’s history is, of course, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The normally skilled communicator of Israel’s “victim” narrative and peace-seeking propaganda let his guard slip in the run up to the 2015 elections, when he promised voters that there would be no Palestinian state “on his watch” and incited against Palestinian citizens of Israel who were going to the polls “in droves”.

If Israel’s political leadership is seen as the most extreme in its history then what about its religious leadership? Take Rabbi Yitzhak Shapiro of Yitzhar as an example. In his book “The King’s Torah” he wrote that even babies and children can be killed if they “pose a threat to the nation.” At the height of Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza, Rabbi Dov Lior – who lives in the occupied West Bank – announced that “Jewish law permits the destruction of Gaza.” This followed the 2007 letter from former Chief Sephardi Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu to then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that there was “absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings.” He advocated the carpet bombing of Gaza. The most recent ruling by a religious leader was Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu‘s call to the Israel Defence Forces to execute rather than arrest alleged Palestinian attackers.

Even when it comes to coexisting with Israel’s Palestinian minority, its religious leaders tend to fall on the side of racism. In 2010, dozens of top Israeli rabbis signed a ruling to forbid the rental of homes to “Arabs”. Furthermore, the religious ranks have been silent on the predicament of the Bedouin citizens of Israel. Although what was called the ‘Prawer Plan’ to displace thousands of Bedouins from their homes in the Negev into what are more or less US Native American-style reservations was defeated, Israel has continued to implement it by stealth. The obscenity of destroying Bedouin villages and displacing their residents against their will only to build Jew-only settlements on the ruins has not troubled the religious leadership of Israel. This applies in particular to the Negev villages of Umm Al-Hiran and Atir.

You would be hard pressed to see any condemnation of the attack on the Bedouins in Israeli society, which I have described as being in a deep moral coma. Not only has its leadership moved towards extremism and racism but so too has the society that it represents. How else do you explain the recent call for Palestinian and Jewish mothers to give birth in segregated hospital wards? Jewish Home’s Bezalel Smotrich supported this call, saying: “My wife is truly no racist, but after giving birth she wants to rest rather than have a hafla [a mass feast often accompanied by music and dancing] like the Arabs have after their births.” He claimed that, “It’s natural that my wife wouldn’t want to lie down [in a bed] next to a woman who just gave birth to a baby who might want to murder her baby twenty years from now.”

It seems that Israeli society wants to see segregation not only in maternity wards but also in schools. A recent poll reported that half of Israeli Jews do not want “Arabs” teaching their children. The figure rose to 82 per cent among Israel’s religious Jews.

Anyone looking to the political left for an alternative will be disappointed. Israel’s Labour Party accepted its leader’s plan for separation from Palestinians, particularly around Jerusalem. It is, therefore, clear that Israeli society, religious leadership and political leadership are moving dangerously towards further racism, with not only separation from the Palestinians under occupation but also their Palestinian fellow citizens of Israel. The collective lurch to extremism and intolerance will increase the disdain towards Israel held by ordinary people around the world; increasingly, this includes Jews, particularly in the US. The success of BDS and the recent refusal of Holland, Ireland and Sweden to condemn or outlaw the campaign will increase pressure on Israel just when it thought that its friends would criminalise the movement across the world.

While BDS is succeeding in isolating Israel to some degree, though, it is Israel’s own lurch towards extremism that will increase its isolation even further. The government of Israel can choose to end this by ending the occupation, ensuring equality among its citizens and allowing the Palestinian refugees to return. It’s Israel’s call.

The next generation of Israeli leaders could complete Israel’s isolation

This was first published on the Middle East Monitor on Saturday, 19 March 2016

File photo of Benjamin Netanyahu and his colleagues greeting supporters after their electoral win last yearPhoto from the Middle East Monitor

The nature of Israeli politics tells us that elections could be called fairly quickly. Should that happen in the next couple of years it is of course feasible that current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could stand and win a further term. However, if he chooses retirement, then who might replace him is important both to domestic Israeli issues but crucially to the conflict with the Palestinians. Their record to date and their stated positions on a number of issues will tell us about their possible approach to resolving the conflict with the Palestinians.

The ongoing shift to the right both in Israeli society and Israeli politics suggests that a left wing coalition led by say the Labour party or the ‘centrist’ Kadima party is unlikely to win and have any chance of forming a government in the near future. However, before dismissing potential leaders from the left, an examination of the current party leaders’ positions offers no hope of a genuine attempt to achieve peace with the Palestinians.

Take the leader of Labour, Yitzhak Herzog. As leader of the Zionist Union bloc, he was touted as a potential game changer at the last Israeli elections in 2015. He claimed that if elected he would “try to reignite” the peace process with the Palestinians. However, in reality he was only looking at seeking “confidence building measures” which would have simply prolonged the occupation. There was no vision.

In recent weeks Herzog has demonstrated his true colours in relation to how he would really deal with the Palestinians. There was clear acknowledgement that the two-state solution was “impossible to realise under current conditions” and that rather than reaching out to the Palestinians and changing the dynamics of the conflict, his plan is to separate from them. “I wish to separate from as many Palestinians as possible, as quickly as possible,” said Herzog, speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

“They over there and we over here; we’ll erect a big wall between us. That is the kind of co-existence that’s possible now. You exist there and we exist here.” Remember, this “plan” is from the leader of the left in Israel. What hope then from the right?

Within the Likud party, Gideon Saar who was a minister under Netanyahu and then took a break from politics has criticised him for not taking hard enough action against the Palestinians. In 2012 he claimed that the establishment of a Palestinian state was “never part of Likud’s platform”.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, a former brigadier general in the Israeli army has been described as “Trump in high heels”. She has called for Arab Knesset members who pray at Al-Aqsa to be jailed. She believes that any “concessions on Jerusalem or the status of Palestinian refugees should require an absolute majority in the Knesset. Regev also called for the family of the Beersheba “terrorist” to be expelled to Gaza.

Another of the crop of possible future Likud leaders, Tzipi Hotovely, is the de facto foreign minister who holds some of the most extreme views amongst the potential leaders. Shortly after her appointment she proclaimed: “We need to return to the basic truth of our rights to this country. This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologise for that.”

To complete the crop of possible future leaders from Likud is Netanyahu’s number two, Gilad Erdan, minister of public security, strategic affairs and public diplomacy with the specific brief to fight the growing BDS movement.

The lack of possible moderate future leaders extends beyond Likud. Take former Likud member now Finance Minister and head of Kulanu Moshe Kahlon. He claims that he sees no possibility of reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians as he does not see a Palestinian partner with whom to negotiate and asserts that Jerusalem will remain united.

The views of Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party and Israel’s minister of education, provide no hope for peace with the Palestinians if he was ever to lead Israel. He famously said: “I’ve killed many Arabs in my life, and there’s no problem with that.” Bennett recently banned a novel on Jewish-Arab romance from schools in Israel for “threatening Jewish identity”.

As for the Palestinians, he believes that parents don’t keep children from terrorism because “the Palestinian Authority pays them”. Regarding the peace process, he said “the time has come to say Israel is ours” and “to go from strategic defence to a process of initiating the implementation of Israeli sovereignty over the territories under Israeli control in Judea and Samaria.” Thus he supports annexing the West Bank and is firmly against a two-state solution.

It is rather ironic that the Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked holds some of the most extreme views amongst the next generation of potential leaders. In 2014, the notorious Palestinian hater said: “They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.” She was recently heavily criticised for attempting to introduce a “transparency bill” designed to curb the activities of NGOs partly funded by foreign governments in what was seen as an attempt to silence criticism of Israel.

For those looking beyond Prime Minister Netanyahu to the new crop of potential Israeli leaders that could bring peace to historic Palestine, I have some bad news. Israel’s move to the right and to further denial of Palestinian rights appears to be permanent and the mirage of a final settlement based on a two-state solution is just that, a mirage as none of the potential leaders has come out in favour. They are for continued occupation, dispossession and oppression until the Palestinians submit. The Palestinians have shown no indication that they will anytime soon as evidenced by the continuing intifada. The status quo is therefore likely to continue and with it Israelis will see their country’s isolation accelerate. The next Israeli elections will not offer them a choice between moderate and extremist candidates, only a choice between extremist and more extremist. That is a bad situation for them but also as importantly, for Palestinians and anyone that wants to see peace in the Holy Land.

Professor Kamel Hawwash is a British Palestinian engineering academic based at the University of Birmingham. He is a commentator on Middle East affairs and is Vice Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He blogs at He writes here in a personal capacity.

Abbas commits to more negotiations while violence escalates

The Middle East Monitor publiched my article on 15/1/2016

Abbas commits to more negotiations while violence escalates

Image from the Middle East Monitor
In his first speech of 2016, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas reviewed the situation facing the Palestinians and set out his approach for the forthcoming year. He started with the major achievement of 2015, the formal recognition of Palestine by the Vatican. He noted that the Pope had surprised the PA delegation by ordering the raising of the Palestinian flag during his last trip to Rome. He looked forward to further recognitions in the near future.

He did not refer to any other major achievements in 2015. However despite characterising the PA in the past as an “Authority without authority”, due to Israeli actions, this time he referred to its shear existence as a “major achievement for the Palestinian people”. He committed to not allowing it to collapse. He also committed to ending the “leaking” of Palestinian land to anyone else. He was referring to the ongoing campaign by Zionist individuals and organisations to purchase land from Palestinians through shady deals with owners. He was also possibly referring to the Greek Orthodox Church which had sold land to Israel.

As to the current situation, Abbas claimed that all Palestinian protests are peaceful but are met with brutal force. He elaborated that “a stone thrower is shot from a distance of 100 metres even if the stone only travels 10 metres, therefore not reaching the occupation’s soldiers”. This has resulted in the number of prisoners reaching 7,000, including many children some as young as ten. He warned: “It is dangerous for the young people to feel that the only option open to him is violence.”

Abbas claimed that he “will not allow the status quo to continue”. He wanted a halt to the “cancerous settlements” and reaffirmed that all settlements are illegal, including the so called large settlement blocks. He said “the settlers must leave as they did from Gaza”. He argued that that the Israelis continue to suffocate the Palestinians. “Leave us alone”, he said in desperation. His message to the Israelis was: “We are here and will not leave. We will not allow an Apartheid state. We want a fully sovereign Palestinian state.”

The PA President expressed his view that solving the conflict would end extremism and terror in the region, though he was not forthcoming with how he would change the status quo. “The Palestinians fulfil their obligations while the Israelis don’t,” he argued.

Despite all this, Abbas extended the hand of peace to the Israelis and committed the Palestinians to achieving this through “peaceful negotiations”. It is worth pausing for a moment to absorb this new term. Have the negotiations with Israel that have lasted over twenty years been anything but peaceful? Were the Israelis dragged to the negotiating table under threat of, or exercise of violence? Clearly this has not been the case; otherwise far fewer violations of international law would have been committed by Israel, including the growth of the “cancerous settlements”.

Negotiations with Israel over the past twenty two years have not only failed, they have been catastrophic. They have allowed Israel to expand settlements and to increase the number of settlers to over 600,000 in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. PLO Executive Secretary and the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat admitted this in interview withAljazeera in October 2015. He confirmed that he had given up on negotiations with Netanyahu, calling them “a waste of time”. He predicted that a decision about disbanding the PA would be made by the end of 2015. This contrasts Abbas’ promise in his recent speech not to allow the PA to collapse.

An attempt by Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat to restart talks was flatly rejected by his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom, following meetings in Amman and Cairo in July and August last year. Erekat told an IPSI dialogue audience that he warned Shalom that there would be a “sea of blood” if the current impasse continued but his warning fell on deaf ears. In November 2015, US President Barack Obama concluded: “Right now, barring a major shift, the parties are not going to be in the position to negotiate a final status agreement.” With the US effectively declaring an end to its engagement, at least until the end of Obama’s reign and with most US Presidential candidates declaring that they side with Israel, the status quo, which everyone claims to be unsustainable, is set to continue for years.

In his recent speech, Abbas reminded the audience that the Arab Initiative was still on the table. That once Israel ended its occupation of Arab land and the two-state solution was implemented, 57 Arab and Muslim states would normalise relations with Israel but that “Israel refuses to consider it seriously, therefore, what do they want”?

He called for an international conference that widens the group involved in seeking a solution, particularly since the Middle East Quartet had failed. He suggested that this conference should then set up a committee to find a solution, similar to that which oversaw the Iran deal.

However, with the world’s attention currently consumed by the threat of Daesh and how it can be defeated, and President Obama seeing his second term out, prospects for an international conference are negligible. No one, apart from Abbas, talks about it.

Meanwhile, the current escalation of violence continues. The PA is helpless to stop it. It has also failed or chosen not to nurture the escalations in-order for them to become a strong, peaceful intifada that is costly to the occupier. The PA’s repeated threats to re-evaluate its relationships with Israel, including the Oslo Accords and in particular the infamous security cooperation have to this date remained threats, further eroding the credibility of the PA with the Palestinian people. The PA supports a boycott of settlement goods. However, it does not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. This should be revisited as it is another peaceful and effective way of exerting pressure on Israel.

There are also no prospects of the US or bodies such as the UN, the Arab League or the Quartet intervening with an initiative unless Israel begins to feel the cost of the occupation. The Palestinians may feel that an investigation of Israeli crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2016 and joining more international bodies could pressure Israel. However, those steps are unlikely to be sufficiently costly on their own for Israel to change its ways.

The International Community has Created a Rogue, Nuclear State, Israel

Israel is a nuclear state, there can be no doubt about that. It’s actions in defying countless United Nations Resolutions, continuing an illegal military occupation, annexing Palestinian and Syrian land and expanding illegal settlements.  This and many of its policies and practices make it a Rogue State.

Benjamin Netanyahu was as clear as he can be about the end of the two state solution when interviewed in the lead up to the recent elections. He will not allow a Palestinian state to be established. He will continue to build illegal settlements and will not ‘divide’ Jerusalem. This is in addition to him denying Palestinian refugees the right of return.

We have a state with dangerous, genocidal leaders that have a finger on the nuclear button. Remember Lieberman calling for his own non-Jewish citizens to be beheaded? Remember the savagery of last summer’s attack on Gaza? Remember Israeli religious leaders calling for the carpet bombing of Gaza?

The International Community, which created Israel, supposedly as a safe haven for Jews, has in fact created a Rogue, Nuclear state. It has been allowed to act with complete impunity like no other state. It has become so powerful that it can continue to defy the will of the International Community if it chose to.  

One day it could also point it’s weapons at them, ‘in self defence’!