By Jamal Kanj
It has been more than 20 years since the Madrid talks and the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis started.
Thus far, their abject failure has surprised even the most pessimistic of observers.
In June 1992, about one year after the Madrid talks, then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir told daily newspaper Maariv: “I would have conducted negotiations on autonomy for 10 years and in the meantime we would have reached half a million people in the West Bank.”
He was lamenting his election defeat and declared: “It’s very painful… I will not be able to… complete the demographic revolution… Without this… there is no reason to hold autonomy talks as there now is a risk of a Palestinian state.”
Two decades later, all succeeding Israeli governments with no exception, from the spurious left to the devious right, committed to the Judaisation roadmap through protracted negotiation, “demographic revolution” and simultaneously proceeding with land appropriation that benefit Jews only.
When negotiation started in 1991, illegal settler population in the occupied West Bank was 110,000.
Today, as Shamir prophesied, their numbers in the “Jewish only” settlements have swelled to half a million.
Israel sees negotiation as diplomacy of detraction; it’s an end by itself.
Nahum Goldman, a Zionist leader in the 1970s, construed: “Diplomacy in the Middle East is the art of delaying the inevitable as long as possible.”
Sadly, the Palestinian Authority has been powerless.
It has never missed an opportunity to prove to the world its best intentions by complying with every senseless Israeli demand without reciprocity from the Zionist state.
They annulled the Palestinian charter, changed books in schools, co-ordinated security arrangements that led to the arrest and killing of many Palestinian activists, stifled free media under the pretext of “incitement” and subdued the Second Intifada.
In return, the world’s powers could not even get a temporary freeze on illegal settlement.
For 20 years, the international community, mainly Israel’s chief sponsor the US, has missed no opportunity to prove its incompetence in dealing with Israeli intransigence.
Time was never on the side of the peace process.
While “Jewish only” colonies are mushrooming in every neighbourhood, Palestinians are refused building permits, their homes are demolished and native East Jerusalemites’ homes revoked at an unprecedented level.
These Israeli actions are an omen for war, not peace.
Under the current de facto peace, Israelis have no incentive to stop guzzling Palestinian land and the international community lacked the motivation to interfere forcefully as it did in other conflicts.
Undeniably, the majority of Israelis would rather maintain things the way they are over a rigorous peace process.
A 2010 poll by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung showed: “A majority of Israelis in the age group 15-24 favour a continuation of the status quo over an invigorated peace process.”
It also showed the majority of Israelis would “choose a Jewish state over a specifically democratic one”.
Indeed, why should Israelis alter their roadmap to a “Jewish state” if they enjoy a bona fide peace, especially since the Palestinian Authority seems to have opted to surrender its will to endless negotiation?
The Palestinian leadership must rethink its strategy and viable options.
Doing nothing is not an alternative. Winning over the world’s public opinion brings empathy, not justice.
– Jamal Kanj writes frequently on Arab issues and is the author of Children of Catastrophe, Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: [email protected]. (This article was first published by Gulf daily News Newspaper.)