The year 2011 showed Palestinians and the rest of the world that creating
positive momentum in support of Palestinian self-determination and statehood is
possible. After years of trying to make Palestine disappear from the world map,
Israel witnessed an unstoppable wave of recognition for the state of Palestine
on the 1967 border, with east Jerusalem as its capital.
is a member of UNESCO, and the international community now has a clear mandate
to protect our national and cultural heritage in addition to its responsibility
and obligation to support Palestinian state-building. This international
support for Palestine is an investment in peace that does not contradict the
fact that a two-state solution is predicated on negotiations.
contrary, it strengthens and preserves the prospects for a two-state solution on
the 1967 border – a resolution to the conflict that the entire international
What has Israel’s response been to our UN bid? An
aggressive, pull-no-punches diplomatic campaign opposing the initiative, which
has so far proved unsuccessful. To console itself and to save face with
its constituency, the Israeli government is continuing to change the facts on
the ground with an escalation of Israel’s settlement program.
Israeli actions over the past year, which defy Israel’s obligations under the
Quartet’s Roadmap for Middle East peace – not to mention international law
including the Fourth Geneva Convention – did not bring us any closer to an
agreement; rather, they have shown that Israel’s chief aim is to dictate the
terms of a final “agreement.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s modus
operandi is not new. His ideological inclination to favor settlements over peace
has been clear during his two terms as prime minister. His great feats of
oratorical gymnastics in which he attempts to criminalize Palestine’s resort to
international law and UN mechanisms to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict
while legitimating Israel’s population transfer and settlement construction in
the occupied Palestinian territory are legendary. His public relations campaign
and finger pointing will not detract from our national effort.
period between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech before the UN General
Assembly this last September and now, Israel has announced plans for the
construction of thousands of new settlement housing units that will have the
effect of putting the final nails in the coffin of a negotiated two-state
How does Israel expect a viable, sovereign Palestinian state to
exist without the Jordan Valley, or with the northern West Bank completely cut
off from the southern West Bank as will be the case if Israel’s settlement ring
around Jerusalem is completed? How will a Palestinian state will be born while
its capital, east Jerusalem, is being severely punished by Israeli policies
meant to change the demographic make-up of the holy city, policies which include
home demolitions, Jewish-only settlement construction, and arbitrary ID
revocations which result in the creation of new displaced Palestinians?
resist this injustice and oppression by taking our case to the international
community and to international fora; submitting to Israel’s plan to isolate and
marginalize us as a people is something that we will never accept. The
two-state solution has been a part of the PLO’s political platform since 1988
when we recognized Israel’s right to exist on over 78 percent of historic
This was reaffirmed in 1993 with the PLO’s signing of the
Declaration of Principles, and this year with its UN bid calling upon the
international community to admit the State of Palestine as a UN member on the
1967 border. However, Israel’s ongoing settlement expansion on Palestinian land
is making many rethink whether the two-state solution is even viable
The Palestinian people are not just the last people to live
under military occupation; they are a people nonviolently resisting an
aggressive colonial settlement policy that is aimed at grabbing as much land
outside of Palestinian urban areas as possible.
Unfortunately, there is
no state – largely because of the influence of the US – willing to take clear
action. As Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon confidently said a few
days ago, “we convinced the American administration that there is no way to
solve the conflict in one or two years... the US is trying to manage the
conflict now, rather than solve it.”
While 2012 does not seem to be a
promising year for those who aspire to achieve a just peace, Palestine
will continue its peaceful efforts to achieve our overdue
independence. It will continue its campaign to obtain international
recognition, including admission to the United Nations.
As was the case
in 2011, in this new year, Palestine will stand ready to negotiate a final
status agreement with Israel. To have meaningful negotiations, however,
Israel must be willing to implement its obligations under previous agreements.
Negotiating peace with Israel while it takes our occupied homeland would be
As the Quartet recognized in its September 23, 2011 proposal
for the resumption of negotiations, there must be a conducive environment for
direct talks to bear fruit. Continued settlement expansion is the antithesis of
a conducive environment. The Quartet Roadmap is clear: Israel must completely
freeze settlement construction, including the so called “natural growth,”on
occupied Palestinian land.
As Abbas stated in his address to the United
Nations: We are facing a “moment of truth.” If the resolution to the conflict
the international community seeks is two sovereign, viable and democratic states
framed by the 1967 border, we all know what has to be done. If, on the contrary,
the goal is to facilitate Israel’s confiscation of as much of Palestinian land
as possible and to consolidate Israel’s settlement enterprise, then it would
make no sense to waste our people’s trust and patience by participating in such
a failed exercise.
Israel’s response to our diplomatic actions and
civil society campaigns has shown political blindness. Israel will never be able
to negate the existence of Palestine or its people, just as we cannot negate the
existence of Israel. This new year, Israel ought to resolve to answer this
moment of truth by choosing to work with Palestine towards a prosperous future
of peace, justice and democracy for the sake of both countries’ citizens, not by
continuing to choose settlements over peace. The dreams of millions and the
future of our younger generations call upon Israel and the international
community to make the right choice.
The writer is an adviser to the PLO’s
Negotiations Affairs Department.