On 15th January, the French sponsored an international conference on Palestine. It maintained the illusion that there is a two state solution to this tragic conflict.
Sorry this dove is dead.
Within a few days president elect Donald Trump became Mr President and promptly announced his support for further Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory. He also declared he would move the USA Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
If historians note the event at all, it will be named the “Dead Dove conference”.
Trump was not responsible for its failure. His action only demonstrated how absurd is the two state solution the conference endorsed.
It left unanswered two questions: “If there is to be a two-state solution, where will the boundaries be drawn?” And, “Will Israeli leaders give up the illegal settlements built on Palestinian land?”
Palestine territory is home to thousands of illegal settlements, housing 600,000 people and the numbers are growing. Not only with USA encouragement.
In Britain, despite scandalous news of Israeli attempts through its London Embassy to ‘take down’ British politicians opposed to Israeli policies, the May government offered the green light to further expansion by saying it is improper to question the policies of democratically elected governments that are UK allies
Palestine territory is home to thousands of illegal settlements housing 600,000 people. Obama’s Secretary of State John Kelly, along with Palestinian leaders, warned Israel of the dangers of destroying the prospect of the two-state solution by building more settlements. Israel’s response was to announce a further 5,600 units to be built on the West Bank. Both Saeb Erekat of the Palestinian Authority and Hanan Ashwari of the Palestine Liberation Organization, have already said that all peace hopes will vanish if the Embassy move takes place.
Most Tory MPs are friends of Israel
Support for Israel cuts across the British political spectrum. 80% of all Conservative MPs belong to the Friends of Israel Parliamentary Group as do many of right wing Labour MPs, prominent among these being Hilary Benn. Those belonging to the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East group have spent a lifetime fighting racism, only to be tagged as anti-Semites, even by their Parliamentary colleagues.
Neither Israel nor Palestine or British government representatives were at the Paris conference. Not surprisingly, Israel and its supporters have dominated the news themes around it.
Three well-honed themes stand out in the Zionist response to the conference: peace will happen when Palestinians recognize the ‘Jewish state’; only bi-lateral talks will bring about peace and, finally, no peace is possible until Palestinians reject violence.
A ‘Jewish state’ is an anachronism in the modern world. We would not accept an Islamic state or a Christian state, why would we accept a Jewish one? Bi-lateral talks between a David and a Goliath will be dominated by Goliath. How can the world expect Palestinians to join in a negotiation when the other partner to talks is a military behemoth controlling all the terms of the discussion?
Palestinian violence is a response to the occupation. Palestinians seek to defend what little land they have left; they will always resist Israeli power and the systematic daily humiliations of the occupation.
A peaceful solution
Conflict between Israeli and Palestinians is not inevitable. Neither is condemned by fate to despise the other. There is a better future for both peoples in one, secular, bi-national, democratic state based on human rights. I am convinced this is the policy that should be advocated by all progressive movements throughout the world.
Such a state would provide real security and would flourish to become a model for the whole Middle East. Some Israelis as well as many Jews across the world share this view. It is an idea whose time has come, not least because the unfolding alternative at this dangerous moment of historical transition in the world is unthinkable.
Israel has already dismissed the Paris conference as irrelevant. That leaves people across the world, if not in the United States, but especially in Europe, with a choice: whether to continue to cow-tow to Israel’s leaders or to insist collectively on a new approach to peace.
In a Europe threatened by its own dangerous right-wing movements, the responsibility to do so rests heavily on parties of the Left to re-affirm their support for ethical foreign policies based on human rights. The Paris conference failed, but its failure could be the beginning of a new politics for the Middle East.