Palestine: the international community screws up, again
…and so does the Palestinian leader, again
The Middle East peace conference which took place in Paris on 15 January was the usual farce, with Israel and Palestine, the subjects under discussion, both staying away. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the talks “useless” and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was off opening an embassy in Vatican City and meeting the Pope while 70 nations gathered to take part in another peace pantomime. It ended with a pathetic declaration urging both sides to “officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution”.
Is this what the much-trumpeted two-state solution looks like?
Everyone knows Netanyahu and the Israeli regime have never wanted peace. Land-grabbing and ethnic cleansing is what they do, so the jackboot of Israeli occupation must remain firmly on the Palestinians’ neck. He was bound to treat any peace conference with utmost contempt. And Abbas’s crass absence was not only another slap in the face to all who sympathise with the Palestinians’ plight and to the millions of campaigners who fight for their cause, but also another disservice to the Palestinian people.
I call the conference declaration “pathetic” because no-one in the international community, as far as I’m aware, has actually told us what the two-state solution they keep banging on about will look like – or even what they think it should look like. No-one, that is, since the former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, and his so-called “generous offer” to the Palestinians in the summer of 2000.
The West Bank and the Gaza Strip, seized by Israel in 1967 and occupied ever since, comprise just 22 per cent of pre-partition Palestine. When the Palestinians signed the Oslo accords in 1993 they agreed to accept the 22 per cent and recognise Israel within “Green Line” borders (i.e. the 1949 armistice line established after the first Arab-Israeli war). Conceding 78 per cent of the land that was originally theirs was an astonishingly big-hearted concession on their part.
But it wasn’t enough for greedy Israel. Barak’s “generous offer” demanded the inclusion of 69 Israeli settlements within the 22 per cent Palestinian remnant. It was obvious on the map that those settlement blocs created impossible borders and already severely disrupted Palestinian life in the West Bank. Barak also demanded the Palestinian territories be placed under “temporary Israeli control”, meaning Israeli military and administrative control, probably indefinitely. The generous offer also gave Israel control over all the border crossings of the new Palestinian state. What nation in the world would accept that? But the ludicrous reality of Barak’s two-state solution was cleverly hidden by propaganda spin.
Since when did Her Majesty’s Government favour negotiating with the perpetrator of criminal acts and crimes against humanity?
Later, at Taba in Egypt, Barak produced a revised map but withdrew it after his election defeat. The ugly facts of the matter are well documented and explained by organisations such as Gush Shalom, yet the Israel lobby’s stooges continue to peddle the lie that Israel offered the Palestinians a generous peace on a plate. Is Barak’s crazed vision of the two-state solution the one the 70 nations have in mind?
Britain’s stance on Palestinian independence has always been nonsensical. I remember former Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt announcing that we would not recognise a Palestinian state unless it emerged from a peace deal with Israel. London “could not recognise a state that does not have a capital, and doesn’t have borders”.
Where did he suppose Israel’s borders are? And is Israel within them? Where did he think Israel’s capital is? And where did Israel claim it to be? In other words, is Israel where Israel is supposed to be? If not, how could he possibly recognise it, let alone align himself with it? “We are looking forward to recognising a Palestinian state at the end of the negotiations on settlements because our position is again very straightforward: We wish to see a two-state solution, a secure and recognized Israel side by side with a viable Palestine, Jerusalem as a joint capital and agreed borders,” Burt said.
Negotiations about illegal settlements? Since when did Her Majesty’s Government favour negotiating with the perpetrator of criminal acts and crimes against humanity? At around the same time Hillary Clinton had rejected in advance an anticipated Palestinian bill in the UN against unlawful Israeli settlement building. According to her, Israel’s illegal squats could be resolved through “negotiations” between Palestinians and Israelis and to hell with international law. Burt embraced this “solution” instead of enforcing international law and upholding justice, as he should have. He cooperated with the most dishonest peace brokers on the planet to revive discredited, lopsided direct talks. It’s been the same story with every other UK foreign secretary.
UN Resolution 242, a work of evil
So why, after decades, is the Palestinian homeland still under foreign military occupation and total blockade when international law and the United Nations have said it shouldn’t be?
And why are the Palestinians being pressured – yet again – to submit to “direct negotiations”, victim versus armed invader haggling and pleading for their freedom?
The answer appears to lie in the hash made of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967. Here is what it said:
The UN Security Council…
Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,
Emphasizing further that all member states in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the charter,
1. Affirms that the fulfilment of charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories [i.e. Gaza, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights belonging to Syria] occupied in the recent conflict;
(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force;
2. Affirms further the necessity
(a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;
(b) For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;
(c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every state in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;
3. Requests the secretary-general to designate a special representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the states concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;
4. Requests the secretary-general to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the special representative as soon as possible.
It was adopted unanimously.
Article 2 of the UN Charter states, among other things, that all members “shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered” and “shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations”.
Nothing too difficult there for people of integrity and goodwill, one would have thought. But after 49 years nothing has happened to give effect to the charter’s fine words or to deliver the tiniest semblance of peace, or allow the Palestinians to live in security, free from threats or acts of force. Israel still occupies the Holy Land and the Golan Heights with maximum brutality while law and justice, the cornerstones of civilisation, have evaporated.
This dereliction of duty began with careless use of language – or more exactly the deliberate non-use of a certain word, the “the” word, which should have been inserted in front of “territories” but was purposely omitted by the schemers who drafted the resolution.
Behind the scenes there was no intention of making Israel withdraw
Arthur J. Goldberg, the US ambassador to the UN in 1967 and a key drafter of Resolution 242, stated:
There is lacking a declaration requiring Israel to withdraw from the (or all the) territories occupied by it on and after 5 June 1967. Instead, the resolution stipulates withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal. And it can be inferred from the incorporation of the words “secure and recognized boundaries” that the territorial adjustments to be made by the parties in their peace settlements could encompass less than a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territories.
According to Lord Caradon, then the UK ambassador to the UN and another key drafter,
the essential phrase which is not sufficiently recognised is that withdrawal should take place to secure and recognised boundaries, and these words were very carefully chosen: they have to be secure and they have to be recognised… It was not for us to lay down exactly where the border should be. I know the 1967 border very well. It is not a satisfactory border, it is where troops had to stop in 1947, just where they happened to be that night, that is not a permanent boundary…
He later added:
It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of 4 June 1967… That’s why we didn’t demand that the Israelis return to them and I think we were right not to.
Professor Eugene Rostow, then US undersecretary of state for political affairs, had also helped to draft the resolution. He was on record in 1991 that Resolution 242
allows Israel to administer the territories it occupied in 1967 until “a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” is achieved. When such a peace is made, Israel is required to withdraw its armed forces “from territories” it occupied during the Six-Day War – not from “the” territories nor from “all” the territories, but from some of the territories, which included the Sinai Desert, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Israel was not to be forced back to the fragile and vulnerable Armistice Demarcation Lines (the “Green Line”).
Israel could thus keep the territory it seized as long as the Zionist regime avoided making peace. Even if it did make peace it could keep some unspecified territory, presumably what it had stolen in terror raids before the 1967 war.
In the meantime, Arab leaders had picked up on the fact that the all-important “the” word in relation to territories had been included in other language versions of the draft resolution (e.g. the French document) and it was therefore widely understood to mean that Israel must withdraw from all territories captured in 1967. Unfortunately, under international law, English is the official language and the English version ruled.
For Israel, Foreign Minister Abba Eban said:
As the representative of the United States has said, the boundaries between Israel and her neighbours must be mutually worked out and recognised by the parties themselves as part of the peace-making process. We continue to believe that the states of the region, in direct negotiation with each other, have the sovereign responsibility for shaping their common future. It is the duty of international agencies at the behest of the parties to act in the measure that agreement can be promoted and a mutually accepted settlement can be advanced. We do not believe that member states have the right to refuse direct negotiation…
Eban seemed to forget that Israel was in breach of international law.
“Acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible,” right?
So, here was Israel, aided by the devious drafters, pressing for direct negotiations as far back as 1967 and sensing that the defenceless and impoverished Palestinians under their heel would be easy meat.
But the Soviet deputy foreign minister, Vasily Kuznetsov, wasn’t fooled.
In the resolution adopted by the Security Council, the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” becomes the first necessary principle for the establishment of a just and lasting peace… We understand the decision taken to mean the withdrawal of Israel forces from all, and we repeat, all territories belonging to Arab states and seized by Israel following its attack on those states on 5 June 1967.
Kuznetsov dismissed Goldberg’s border-adjustment argument, saying that the clause concerning the inadmissibility of territorial acquisition trumped any consideration for secure boundaries. He argued that the security needs of Israel “cannot serve as a pretext for the maintenance of Israel forces on any part of the Arab territories seized by them as a result of war”.
Your average native English speaker would not have been fooled by the missing word either. To the man on the Clapham omnibus “withdrawal from territories occupied in the recent conflict” plainly means “get the hell out of the territories you occupied in the recent conflict”.
US Secretary of State Dean Rusk, writing in 1990, remarked:
We wanted [it] to be left a little vague and subject to future negotiation because we thought the Israeli border along the West Bank could be rationalized; certain anomalies could easily be straightened out with some exchanges of territory, making a more sensible border for all parties… But we never contemplated any significant grant of territory to Israel as a result of the June 1967 war. On that point we and the Israelis to this day remain sharply divided… I’m not aware of any commitment the United States has made to assist Israel in retaining territories seized in the Six-Day War.
And how had UN members so conveniently forgotten about the Palestinian lands seized and ethnically cleansed before 1967? You know, those important Arab towns and cities and hundreds of villages that had been allocated to a future Palestinian state in the UN’s 1947 Partition Plan but were seized by Jewish terrorist groups and Israeli militia while the ink was still drying on the document? Had they also forgotten that the Palestinians were never consulted on the UN’s decision to hand over their lands to aliens, mainly from Europe, and with no ancestral links to the ancient Holy Land? The borders set down in the 1947 Partition Plan and incorporated into a UN resolution are certainly “recognised” because they were duly voted on and accepted even by the Zionists and their allies, were they not?
As everyone knows, Israel has never declared its borders nor respected the UN-specified borders. It is still hell-bent on thieving lands and resources, so no border is ever secure enough or final. Of course, a Palestinian state, if or when it emerges, is equally entitled to secure borders but the Israeli regime is unlikely to agree. It wants total control. So, going down the talks path again and again is fruitless. Borders should be imposed by the proper international bodies and enforced. That has to be the start-point. Adjustments can then be made with mutual consent once Israeli troops are no longer in occupation.
Incidentally, Article 33 of the UN Charter says that the parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger international peace and security, shall first of all seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.
Should the parties fail to settle it by those means, Article 37 says they must “refer it to the Security Council. If the Security Council deems that the continuance of the dispute is in fact likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, it shall decide whether to take action under Article 36 or to recommend such terms of settlement as it may consider appropriate”.
Article 36 declares that “in making recommendations under this Article the Security Council should also take into consideration that legal disputes should as a general rule be referred by the parties to the International Court of Justice in accordance with the provisions of the Statute of the Court”.
Isn’t the Israeli occupation a legal dispute? How much longer must we wait to see the UN Charter complied with? Which brings us back to the question: why wasn’t Abbas at the conference batting for Palestine’s freedom and a just solution based on law? His presence would have put Netanyahu on the wrong foot.