8 June 2009
General Assembly
GA/PAL/1129

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

UNITED NATIONS ASIA-PACIFIC MEETING ON QUESTION OF PALESTINE HEARS

 

EXPERT OPINIONS ON INTERNATIONAL EFFORTS TO ACHIEVE PEACE

 


Israeli Journalist Says Two-State Solution Generous to Jewish State


(Received from a UN Information Officer.)


JAKARTA, Indonesia, 8 June --  The United Nations Asian and Pacific Meeting on the Question of Palestine this afternoon heard presentations of four experts, including Israeli and Palestinian, on the theme “International efforts aimed at achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine”.


A journalist from Israel pointed out that the two-State solution was generous to Israel, as it acknowledged that history could not be undone.  The reason why Israel did not accept that solution was, according to her, because it would threaten Jewish contemporary thinking in Israel as it would leave the future out of control of the hegemonic Jewish authorities. 


A Palestinian lawyer stated that the diplomatic community had failed to separate the process of colonization from the process of exercising control over Palestinians.  Throughout the period of the peace process from 1993 to Annapolis, the emphasis of the international community had always been on conflict management and not on the root problem of colonial practices and control over territory.


A former member of the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on Palestine, saying that the violence in Gaza and during the Holocaust as well as the violence of suicide bombers were the product of a pathological state of mind that should be addressed clinically, pointed out recent developments that created possibilities of change, including the 4 June speech by United States President Barack Obama in Cairo.


The Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations in New York stressed that a simple repeat of positions was not sufficient.  To translate international consensus into reality, Israel must be brought into compliance with its obligations, including its obligation to freeze all settlement activities.  Lessons from the past implied the necessity of bluntly telling Israel either to abide with the global consensus “or else”.


The presentations were followed by an interactive discussion.  The Meeting will resume tomorrow with two more plenary sessions.


Statements by Panel Members


AMIRA HASS, journalist for the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz, said people were often lost in formulas.  It was necessary to take the reality out of standard and confusing language.  The two-State solution was not just a mantra, she said, but posed a deep historiography of the conflict, different from the one used by the Israelis or the Palestinians.  That solution said that Israel was part of the colonialist period.  Zionism was both a product of European colonialism and also of the prosecution of the Jews with its culmination in the Nazi industry of murder.


She said the two-State solution was generous to Israel, as it was an admission that history could not be undone.  The question then was why Israel rejected that generous offer.  The reason was that the two-State solution threatened Jewish contemporary thinking in Israel as it would leave the future out of control of the hegemonic Jewish authorities.  It would also mean losing privileges the Jews had acquired over the years. 


As an example, she said Israel was now in control of all water resources and determined how much water was allocated to Jews and Palestinians in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The two-State solution required that water would have to be allocated equally, including to Gaza.  Another problem was that settlements for many had become the only option for upgrading their economical and social situation.  It was difficult to give up such an option, which was ingrained in Israeli mentality. 


During the last 30 years, she said, Israelis had developed a powerful security industry, Ms. Hass said.  In Gaza, some 1,400 were killed during the recent conflict, but only less than 100 by short-range fire.  More than 1,000 had been killed from the air, half of them by missiles launched by drones.  Israel was now selling drones to Turkey and Russia, allegedly pro-Palestinian States.  Young people could go all over the world as security experts.  Those examples showed how occupation had become part of the normal life of many Israelis, difficult to give up.


In order to proceed towards a solution, in order to prevent a disaster for Israel, the question must be asked why, for 20 years since Oslo, Israel had not used the golden opportunity offered in the two-State solution.  The two-State solution was necessary for the sake of the Jewish existence in the region, for the sake of a decent life of Palestinians and for the sake of the future of the whole region.


DIANA BUTTU, a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer based in Ramallah, said diplomatic efforts did not focus on the issues at hand, namely the day to day reality for Palestinians.  Using slides, she showed the areas where the population in the West Bank lived and how those areas were interspersed by settlements containing now about half a million Israelis.  The two-State solution was difficult to reconcile with all those settlements, she said. 


From the perspective of international law, occupation was a legal concept, but nothing in international law said how to end an occupation, she said.  The only way occupations ended was through international pressure or because of realization on the part of the occupier that the occupation had to end.


Two processes had been going on in the West Bank, one of colonization and one of occupation and control, she said.  Over the last thirty years, those two processes had been welded together.  Israel claimed that settlements were helpful in maintaining control and security, and the international community had allowed that justification to continue.


Since the Oslo Agreement, colonialism had increased, because the reasoning was that only when the Palestinian Authority was capable of providing security could the colonialist project be ended, she said.  Since the Agreement, the number of settlements had increased and more and more land was being taken.  That process was exacerbated by the construction of the separation wall on the West Bank. 


Ms. Buttu said disengagement from Gaza had shown that settlements could be removed.  However, the welding together of the two processes had created a mentality that colonialism was part of Israel.  The idea that one always had the option of going out to the settlements had been engrained in mainstream Israeli society.


She said the diplomatic community had failed to separate the process of colonization from the process of exercising control over Palestinians.  The focus instead had been either on security for Israel or on the Palestinian economy.  Throughout the period of the peace process from 1993 to Annapolis, the emphasis had always been on conflict management and not on the root problem of colonial practices and control over territory.


Ms. Buttu said that although the tone of the new Obama Administration was very warm, the framework was not changing.  Unless there were diplomatic efforts to address the two processes of colonialism and occupation, she feared that the situation would again be “security first”.  Unless there was a recognition of the existence of a system of inequality of power between the two parties, the issue of control over people and the taking of land could not be successfully addressed.


She said the major challenges facing the international community now were that the framework used in the past had never addressed reality on the ground; that there was a lack of support for the peace process on the part of the Palestinians; and that Palestinians increasingly believed that a solution was no longer possible.


KAMAL HOSSAIN, Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh and a former member of the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on Palestine, said the recent devastation of Gaza testified to the extent to which destructive forces were able to obstruct the change of the reality presented by the continuing Israeli occupation of Arab territories.  Giving a historical context to the issue as well as to other trends in recent history, including the end of Apartheid, he said change was possible, as had been underlined by the 4 June speech of President Obama in Cairo.


Many ordinary and decent people in Israel found the violence and home destruction unacceptable, he said.  It was a pathological state of mind that brought the kind of violence as exhibited in Gaza, in the Holocaust or in the bulldozing of an American college student trying to defend the home of her host family in Gaza.  That same pathological state created the violence of suicide bombers.  That pathology should be dealt with clinically.


He said that since 2004 two things had happened.  President Bush had said that no decisions could be taken except by bilateral agreement and at the same time had accepted the Israeli argument that there was nobody to talk to on the Palestinian side.  Another negative step was the repudiation of the principle of the “inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by war”.  In contrast, what the American President had said on 4 June was catalytic.  President Obama’s address in Cairo was the beginning of the kind of change that could make the twenty-first century different.


RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations in New York, said that at the current and very critical moment, reiterating positions was not sufficient.  The repetition of the international consensus every day for 15 years after Madrid and Oslo had not accomplished the objective of the termination of occupation, dismantling of the settlements and allowing the creation of the Palestinian State.  If those statements were now going to be repeated, the results would not be different.   The failure of the Annapolis process must be analyzed.  The logical conclusion was that if the obstacles from the past were removed, success was more likely. 


He said that to translate consensus into reality, Israel must be brought into compliance with its obligation to freeze all settlement activities.  Since the late seventies, tremendous efforts had been exerted to address the illegality of settlement activities, including several Security Council resolutions.  However, there had been no will, in the Council or in the United States, to bring about the needed practical pressure to force Israel into compliance. 


He said 50 countries and international organizations had been summoned to Annapolis where they had been promised that, within a year, there would be a peace treaty paving the way for a Palestinian State.  There was also agreement that there would be negotiations on final status issues, including refugees, Jerusalem and water.  There was also agreement that negotiation had to take place in a good atmosphere.  That atmosphere would be created by the parties fulfilling their commitments under the Road Map. 


Noting that the Palestinian side had fulfilled almost all its obligations, he said the most important obligations on the Israeli side were to freeze settlement activities, to allow freedom of movement and remove checkpoints from the West Bank, and to open Palestinian national institutions in East Jerusalem.  Not only did Israel not fulfil its obligations, but it went in the opposite direction.  Settlement activities had increased during the negotiations, as had the number of checkpoints.


President Obama had given positive signals, among other things by appointing Mr. George Mitchell to be in charge of the peace process and delivering his speech in Cairo, he said.  But in order to succeed, it would make sense to apply the lesson of the past that the obstacle to success was the determination of Israeli leaders not to implement international consensus.  That lesson implied the necessity of bluntly telling Israel either to abide with the global consensus “or else”.  One could not leave the vulnerable Palestinian people at the mercy of the powerful Israel.  Help was needed from the international community.


He said it was a good signal that for the first time in the history investigations were carried out regarding the conduct of Israel in Gaza.  It was refreshing to see the report of the Board of Inquiry with clear conclusions that Israel had deliberately killed civilians in Gaza, that those were war crimes and that the responsible criminals needed to face justice.  Those and other small steps were a significant indication of what must be done by the international community to let Israel comply with the global consensus.  If that did not happen, everyone was to blame.  Israel was counting the hours until it could say that all peace efforts had failed and that there was no way than “our way”, which would result in tremendous bloodshed.


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For information media • not an official record