Viewpoint by Somar Wijayadasa*
NEW YORK (IDN) – A workshop entitled ‘Peace for Prosperity’ to introduce the United States President Donald Trump’s Peace Plan (also known as the ‘Deal of the Century’) for the Palestinians, was held in Bahrain on June 25-26 – hosted by Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner.
According to Kushner, the deal includes: $50 billion in economic aid; extensive infrastructure investment; double the Palestinians’ GDP; create over a million jobs; lower unemployment to single digits; and reduce the poverty rate by half – over the next decade.
Kushner failed to spell out the source of funds or how it would be spent. Its implementation will definitely not be in the hands of Palestinians who have no authority, basic rights or own land.
Though such a lucrative and generous plan would no doubt uplift the currently powerless, marginalized and landless Palestinians, they explicitly rejected the deal by saying that it is a deceptive deal to delude them and the world.
Washington, no doubt put the “cart before the horse” and perhaps misconceived that the oppressed Palestinians would embrace enticements and forget the 70-year old struggle for their land.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas slammed the “Deal” saying that “They are selling us illusions that won’t take us anywhere, and we are not in need of their aid because our people are able to build their state”.
A glance at the plight of the Palestinians would explain why they rejected this deal.
The 70-year inhumane conflict
The confrontation between the Israelis and the Palestinians worsened, in 1948, by the creation of Israel by the UN General Assembly Resolution 181, causing a profound diplomatic impasse.
Since then, Israel waged wars with neighboring Arab states in order to expand its territory.
In 1967, during the infamous Six-Day War, Israel seized the Gaza Strip, West Bank, the old City of Jerusalem, Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights – territories that today remain a major point of contention in the Arab-Israeli conflict – triggering a massive exodus of Palestinians from their homes.
Same year, the UN Security Council Resolution 242 urged Israeli forces to withdraw from all occupied territories, which Israel – to date – refuses to adhere to.
Since 1948, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and the UN Security Council (UNSC) have been pre-occupied with this disastrous conflict – adopting nearly 400 resolutions (187 UNSC and 192 UNGA, respectively).
These resolutions condemned Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, illicit construction and expansion of Israeli settlements, the demolition of Palestinians’ homes displacing civilians, and condemned all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, the right of return of 3.7 million Palestinian refugees.
The UN resolutions called for the rights of the Palestinian people, including self-determination, the right to national independence and sovereignty – with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized borders.
While most of these UN resolutions emerged from Israel’s “gross crimes” (that could be defined as “war crimes”) and its prima facie violations of international law against the Palestinians, the day may come for the Palestinians to seek justice and accountability in the International Criminal Court (ICC).
According to the Human Rights Watch, “The Israeli government continues to enforce severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights; restrict the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip; and facilitate the unlawful transfer of Israeli citizens to settlements in the occupied West Bank.”
Reliable sources such as B’TSELEM and Aljazeera estimate that Israel has illegally built over 200 settlements in occupied territories, and has settled over 750,000 Jewish settlers in those settlements – this in “a gross violation” of International Law that prohibits the transfer of its civilian population into the territory it occupies.
Armed to its teeth with sophisticated U.S. weaponry and receiving approximately $3.8 billion a year in military assistance, Israel in flagrant violation of all international norms continues to enforce severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians and has frequently used excessive lethal force on them.
For example, in 2014, Israel attacked homes, schools, hospitals, and UN shelters in Gaza killing 2,200 Palestinians.
Condemning that action, Navi Pillay, the then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that “Israel was deliberately defying international law in its military offensive in Gaza and that world powers should hold it accountable for possible war crimes.” The UN Security Council has failed as the United States vetoes any action against Israel.
The 2018 report of Human Rights Watch is an eye opener to recent Israeli atrocities on Palestinians.
In 2011, addressing the UN General Assembly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, spelled out a barrage of atrocities committed by Israel on Palestinians, and said that “the time has come for my courageous and proud people, after decades of displacement and colonial occupation and ceaseless suffering, to live like other peoples of the earth, free in a sovereign and independent homeland”.
This conflict has worsened since Trump assumed office in 2017 – even though he has promised to announce a political settlement that he calls “the deal of the century”.
In 2018, the U.S. declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel and moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina). The U.S. ended all funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) – previously up to $350 million per year – which provides critical services, including education and health care, to children in the West Bank and Gaza. Washington also endorsed Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights and shuttered the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington – to name a few.
These actions have undermined Palestinian rights, contravened international law, and flouted longstanding U.S. and UN policies with regard to Palestine.
These episodes caused Abbas to boycott political dealings with the Trump administration and excluded the U.S. from any role mediating peace with the Israeli side.
The Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said in June: ”It is obvious that the recent U.S. measures taken against the Palestinians aimed at blackmailing us into surrendering and accepting the peace deal”.
‘Cart Before the Horse’ or Land Grab?
It is under these atrocious conditions against the Palestinians that the U.S. decided to put forward its economic plan instead of the long-awaited and critically needed political settlement.
No sooner the White House announced the launch of the economic workshop the Palestinians voiced strong opposition to it, and many Arab countries, Europe, Russia and China boycotted the event.
One of my former UN colleagues (a Palestinian) said that “this is an American-Israeli conspiracy to liquidate our inalienable rights, including rights to our land”. He opined that “It is common sense that a political settlement must come before the economic aspect”.
According to the Xinhua, Nimrod Goren, Head of the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, a think-tank, has said that “If a plan asks the Palestinians to drop their national agenda by just giving them a lot of money, it is nothing but a humiliation as if they could be bribed by money”.
Also criticizing the deal, Abbas said: “They are selling us illusions”. The Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi tweeted: “first lift the siege of Gaza, stop the Israeli theft of our land, resources & funds, give us our freedom of movement & control over our borders, airspace, territorial waters etc. Then watch us build a vibrant prosperous economy as a free & sovereign people”.
With so strong repudiation of the ‘Deal of the Century’, it is crystal clear that this conflict can only be resolved by paving way for the Palestinians to establish an independent, fully sovereign state along the 1967 pre-war borders with East Jerusalem as its capital – a state for Palestinians to live in dignity.
*Somar Wijayadasa, an International lawyer was a UNESCO delegate to the UN General Assembly from 1985-1995 and was Representative of UNAIDS at the United Nations from 1995-2000. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 July 2019]
Photo: UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis and the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Claudio Cordone meeting with Palestine refugees in Mieh Mieh refugee camp, Lebanon. 2019 UNRWA Photo by Ahmad Mahmoud
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