No US-backed Mid­dle East deal with­out peace

With­out Pales­tinian unity there is also lit­tle chance of a two-state so­lu­tion

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION - SHAN­NON EBRAHIM Ebrahim is In­de­pen­dent Me­dia’s Group For­eign Edi­tor.

THE TRUMP ad­min­is­tra­tion has been boast­ing about clinch­ing the “deal of the cen­tury”, but there is no deal, nor will there be. Trump may have scored a for­eign pol­icy suc­cess on North Korea, but ham­mer­ing out a deal be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans will not hap­pen un­der the cur­rent US ad­min­is­tra­tion.

As PLO mem­ber Hanan Ashrawi told me in Pre­to­ria this week: “It seems Trump has left the so-called Ul­ti­mate Deal to the arch-Zion­ists to de­cide, like his son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, who sup­ports set­tle­ments, David Fried­man, the US Am­bas­sador to Is­rael, and Ja­son Green­blatt, his lawyer. But there is no deal as there is no recipe for peace.”

When Ashrawi says there is no recipe for peace, she points first to the fact that the US has tried to take Jerusalem off the ta­ble, but the Pales­tini­ans will not com­pro­mise on East Jerusalem be­ing the cap­i­tal of an in­de­pen­dent Pales­tinian state.

She notes that the US has tar­geted Pales­tinian refugees by cut­ting US fund­ing for UNRWA, the UN agency that cares for Pales­tinian refugees.

Worse than that, the US now wants to re­de­fine what a Pales­tinian refugee is. In­stead of recog­nis­ing the 5.5 mil­lion refugees that the UN does, many em­a­nat­ing from 1967, the US wants to con­sider only the 1948 refugees, of which Ashrawi says there are only about 40 000 left liv­ing.

Not only is the US “de­fund­ing” the Pales­tinian hospi­tal in Jerusalem, but also the NGOs in the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries. The PLO of­fice in Wash­ing­ton has been closed by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, as has the US con­sulate in Jerusalem, which has served as a mis­sion to the Pales­tini­ans since 1844.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has also re­fused Pales­tinian state­hood, re­fused to call Is­raeli set­tle­ments il­le­gal, which they are un­der in­ter­na­tional law, and re­fused to recog­nise the 1967 bor­ders that the UN has recog­nised.

“They are smash­ing the re­quire­ments of peace, there is noth­ing left to talk about,” Ashrawi says.

“Not only are they a part­ner in oc­cu­pa­tion, but they try to give Is­rael in­ter­na­tional im­punity.”

It would seem that the US wants the Pales­tini­ans to ad­mit they are de­feated, but that would go against their DNA and their strug­gle.

For Ashrawi, all that is left is to wage an in­ter­na­tional cam­paign of sol­i­dar­ity with the Pales­tinian peo­ple.

While she wants the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to push back against at­tempts by Is­rael to crim­i­nalise the Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions move­ment and equate it with anti-Semitism, she also be­lieves that al­lies in Is­rael should not be boy­cotted as they are cru­cial.

Ashrawi refers to the pro­gres­sive Is­raeli or­gan­i­sa­tions which sup­port the Pales­tinian strug­gle, such as Rab­bis for Hu­man Rights, B’tse­lem, Com­mit­tee Against House De­mo­li­tions, and Com­bat­ants for Peace, among oth­ers.

She be­lieves South Africa has a crit­i­cal role to play, within the AU and BRICS (Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia, China and South Africa) bloc, where it can mo­bilise sup­port for the Pales­tinian cause.

“Is­rael must know there is a price to be paid for their vi­o­la­tions of in­ter­na­tional law.”

But even beyond that will be South Africa’s pres­ence on the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil in 2019/2020 when the Pales­tini­ans will rely on coura­geous voices.

Re­gard­ing South Africa’s de­ci­sion to down­grade its em­bassy in Tel Aviv, which is in­formed by the ANC’s 54th con­fer­ence res­o­lu­tion, Ashrawi be­lieves the sooner the em­bassy is down­graded, the more ef­fec­tive it will be.

“It sends the mes­sage that there are still gov­ern­ments that act on prin­ci­ple, which is a very re­spon­si­ble and moral po­si­tion.”

The Pales­tini­ans have also pinned their hopes on the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court, which it had ap­proached over the con­tin­ued con­struc­tion of il­le­gal set­tle­ments and the killing of civil­ians, both of which are con­sid­ered war crimes.

“We need the ICC to in­ves­ti­gate beyond the pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Ashrawi says.

The ICC, which is ac­cused of fo­cus­ing pre­dom­i­nantly on hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in Africa, has a chance to prove its met­tle by in­ves­ti­gat­ing the cases the Pales­tinian lead­er­ship has brought to it.

As for the role and re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Pales­tini­ans, Ashrawi ac­knowl­edges unity is cru­cial and there is still a long way to go.

“Ha­mas must be part of the PLO and re­ac­ti­vate the demo­cratic sys­tem.”

It is no se­cret that the leader of Ha­mas in the Gaza strip, Mah­moud al-Za­har, was in South Africa this week at the same time as Ashrawi, but there was no in­ter­ac­tion or even aware­ness of each other’s vis­its, which in­di­cates just how far apart the Pales­tinian fac­tions re­main.

With­out Pales­tinian unity there is lit­tle chance of them suc­ceed­ing in creat­ing a two-state so­lu­tion.

Is­rael must know there is a price to be paid for their vi­o­la­tions of in­ter­na­tional law. HANAN ASHRAWI PLO mem­ber

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