2 weeks countdown to the Palestinian unilateral move: The settlement freeze is a hoax

Note: This is an abbreviated post summary focusing on one of five arguments I’ve made earlier to why the UN should, had it been interested in promoting peace, decline the Palestinian unilateral move this September. Click here to read the original full post.

Yesterday, though it surprised no one, the Palestinian Authority has issued a letter to the UN secretary-general, asking to be accepted to the UN as a new country to be taken upon vote in the coming 66th General Assembly. Surely, this resolution will pass. It should be noted that only the Palestinian Authority, in control of the West Bank, has issued the letter and not Hamas who violently controls the lives of over 1.5 million Gazans. While a farcical unity has been reached between Hamas and The Palestinian Authority, supposedly ending their long blood-filled feud, Hamas remains committed officially not to peace but to war, bloodshed and death. Hamas is an entity declared a terror organization by the Quartet (which the UN is a member of).

For the past two years, the Palestinian Authority refused entering negotiating with Israel. One could be surprised how a leadership screaming constantly at its’ own people’s agony would continually refuse entering negotiations to end such suffering (The answer is of course the shower of gifts raining upon them from all around the world, this unilateral move only one out of many, without them having to make a single concessions in term of negotiations). Their excuse has been that Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank, which renders them unable to talk peace. FALSE! This is merely an excuse, one that has worked well in their benefit, but only that. An excuse.

It could be that the Palestinians refuse to sit down with the current Israeli government (who has made several public announcements to its readiness to a two-state solution and negotiations, starting with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech). If that is the case, then the Palestinians should know that you don’t get to choose your partner in peace, but if you desire peace, you make an honest effort despite that. A negotiation on a peace deal so complicated and on a conflict lasting so long is not about to be resolved easily no matter what. You don’t start by agreeing on all issues, but you start on agreeing that you want to go somewhere. That agreement has been lacking.

If for you’re unaware of what a settlement freeze is, let me explain. Israel has froze building of settlements in the west bank for 10 months (starting November 26th, 2009) in an attempt to get the Palestinian to sit down to talk to them (this was done due to international pressure, mainly by U.S. President, Barrack Obama, but nevertheless – the settlement freeze happened). During most of these ten months there we no peace talks. The Palestinians refused to see this as a trust-building step and did not agree to start direct negotiations with Israel. The U.S. tried to sponsor indirect talks during that time, but that failed as well.

When time was starting to run out on the settlement freeze, a strong U.S. and European pressure has been put on the Palestinians to enter direct talks. These came to so-called fruition when the direct talk began on September 2nd 2010, three weeks before the end of the ten months settlement freeze. At that time, the continued freezing of settlements became a tipping point – from something that was not enough to get them into a room with the Israeli prime minister it became the most important issue in the world. Suddenly, the Palestinians have conditions. From that point on, they would go around the world and tell every diplomat and every news outlet that would listen that they want to, but Israel insists on building and that is why they can’t sit down to talk or try to make a peace deal.

This is a hoax. The settlements have not stopped them for entering negotiations with Israeli governments in the past, nor should it stop them now. Here is why:

  1. The big concentration of building is in populated areas that have a consensus that will be kept under Israeli territory in land swaps as part of a peace agreement. Those concentration territories make up of approximately 7 percent of the west bank.
  2. The U.S. tried to broker a deal that would enable the peace talks in which Israel would resume the settlement freeze for 3 more months. That deal fell through, due to many reasons. The Palestinians demanded the U.S. blame Israel for the failure of the talks, but the most pro-Palestinian administration ever has refused – Israel was willing to freeze the building of settlements in the west bank for three months, but the Palestinians suddenly demanded that it would include East Jerusalem as well (which was not part of the original moratorium, but de-facto had almost completely stop on building, especially in the last months of the freeze) – this was a direct attempt at settling the results of the talks before they even began by forcing Israel to treat Jerusalem – a contention point – the same as the entire west bank. This was also an attempt to once again delegitimize Israel by faulting it completely. The U.S. refused to place the blame (not because of its’ alliance with Israel, but because both parties were at fault).
  3. Keeping that in mind, in January of 2011, a leak of past negotiations papers from the Palestinian Authority was revealed on Al-Jazzira. In them, it can be clearly seen that the Palestinians have recognized that most of the Jewish settlements in Jerusalem and in the concentration of population in the West Bank would be kept under Israel’s territory. Therefore, this was merely an excuse to not enter peace talks with Israel.
  4. As for the rest of settlements, Israel has proved in the past its’ ability to evacuate territories and settlers. In 1979, Israel gave Egypt the whole of the Sinai Peninsula (except for the Gaza strip, which Egypt did not want) and evacuated it of all Israelis. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and evacuated close to 10,000 settlers. These actions were done by the current ruling party in Israel– Likud. Furthermore, in the past years, Israel has been evacuating and destroying illegal settlement activity, the last evidence to it was seen just this week.
  5. The ironic thing is that the settlements are being built by Palestinians. Construction workers are Palestinians themselves who build the settlements and as a result, the construction of settlements opens up Jobs and help the economic growth of the Palestinians. Giving the reasons above, this is not counterproductive.

Basically, there is no reason why the Palestinians would use the settlements as a reason to not enter negotiations, unless they’re simply looking for excuses. Furthermore, in the year that has passed since the last time direct talks took place, a deal could theoratically have been reached and today, as of September 2011, settlement building could have been stopped. So by not entering the peace talks, the Palestinians actually helped flourish more settlements.

In an interview posted on April 24th 2011, Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, clearly described the settlement issue as “being pushed to climb a tree and then having the ladder being taken away”. He is actually admitting that this is just an excuse, no real merits to it.

In an interview he gave to Israel’s Channel 2′s Dana Weiss, Abbas has said the Israeli prime minister failed him because he did not offer him anything real during their direct talks. The talks took place for three weeks (about three meetings with a lot of cameras flashing before and after) before Abbas walked away from the table. I will repeat – a negotiation is not about two sides agreeing on everything from the start (like Saeb Erekat, a member of the Palestinian Authority, who insisted that ‘this is not the time to negotiate, this is the time [for the Israelis] to do’). It’s starting from two different points with a similar end goal and working towards it, despite all the difficulties. The Palestinians were never actually interested in that end goal. Not through negotiations.

What does the settlement freeze hoax give them? First of all, the ability to blame Israel for everything, and seeing as how they portray themselves as the weak side, this ends up putting more pressure on Israel. Avoiding negotiations, while having the world turn against Israel, allows them to make unilateral moves and as a result not compromise on any key issue, such as borders, refugees, security and so on.

And once again, in 2 weeks time, the world (both free and horribly unfree) would reward the Palestinians for not promoting peace. The Palestinian Authority has spent so much effort in the past year to not promote peace but to promote a unilateral move in stead. In 2 weeks time, the final nail would be place to the coffin of peace. But the result wouldn’t be much different – the Palestinian people, whose leadership gained political fortune throughout the world from their continued suffering, will not be much better off. In fact, chances are they will be far worst if the US stops funding the PA and Israel will decide that it too no longer (as the Palestinians are with this unilateral move) respects the Oslo Accords. If the Palestinian Authority will survive, the Palestinian people would live under yet another oppressing Arab regime who respects human rights until it conflicts with its’ interests. If it won’t, chaos, terror and bloodshed will ensue. Peace is the last thing that the Palestinian Authority is promoting here.


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