In a joint Israeli-Palestinian meeting with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday, Palestinian academics urged China to pressure Israel to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding the conflict.
“We ask the Chinese government to play an essential, key role in the international community to put pressure on Israel’s government to implement the UN Security Council resolutions concerning the Palestinians,” said Adnan Samara, who heads the Palestinian-Chinese Friendship Association.
He and the nine other Palestinian scholars and former ambassadors, including the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem William Shomali, sat in a row along a table opposite a similar group of Israeli academics.
Wang sat in the middle with a Chinese delegation. On the wall in back of him on a screen were the words “Joint Efforts for Peace” and the etching of a dove.
Samara spoke of the Palestinian desire for peace through negotiations and accused Israel of foiling any chance of coming to a final-status agreement through its aggressive actions against the Palestinian people.
He specified that these actions were the killing of innocent people, arrests, settlement building, Palestinian home demolitions and the protection of settlers who attack Palestinians and their land.
“We are for the two-state solution, in spite of these acts by Israel to stop the negotiations while blaming their failure on the Palestinians,” Samara said.
“We even refrained from going to the international organizations, to show our goodwill toward the negotiations and to ensure their success from our part,” said Samara.
He warned that if a final-status agreement was not reached in nine months, the Palestinians would seek unilateral statehood at the United Nations.
China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, whose approval is necessary for the Palestinians to attain full membership rights at the UN.
Samara assured China that the Palestinians planned to seek statehood through peaceful methods, not violent ones.
There have been proposals to address Israel’s security needs that include placing a third party such as the US or NATO at the borders, but he said Israel has rejected these options.
“Israel has refused this until now, and hence the Israeli government wants neither peace nor the establishment of the Palestinian state,” said Samara.
“Israel is the strongest country in the region. Hence, it needs no protection; on the contrary, the neighboring countries are the ones that need protection from Israel,” said Samara.
“Israel is a lion in the region,” said Samara, as he explained that Israel has attacked other countries in the region, including Sudan, Iran and east Syria.
“For sure they are not afraid of the Palestinians,” he said.
The Palestinians, he said, are committed to the Arab League Initiative which offers Israel normalized relations with its neighbors in exchange for a two-state solution at the pre- 1967 lines, with only some minor land swaps.
Israel’s former ambassador to the UN Dore Gold, who is now at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, countered that security is important for Israel, particularly given the dangers from Iran and Syria.
“This neighborhood of ours is brimming with weapons,” he said.
“While many people like to characterize Israel as such a strong and powerful country, we are one of the only countries whose existence is threatened by our neighbors, particularly by the Iranian leadership, and we have plenty of evidence to prove it,” said Gold.
He added that a true end to the conflict would come about only through negotiation and not through unilateral actions in New York.