In his speech before the United Nations General Assembly on 29 September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained Israel’s real vision of peace in six points:
Point 1: The circle of peace is widening; which promotes achieving peace between Israel and Palestine.
Point 2: Based on Trump’s peace plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel shall be ready to negotiate.
Point 3: The US peace plan took a different path to achieving peace on the ground. First, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Second, he recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel. Third, he proposed a practical peace plan that fulfils all the security needs of Israel.
Point 4: Trump’s steps pushed the peace process forward. Two Arab countries normalized relations with Israel, and in the coming stage, other countries shall follow.
Point 5: Palestinians shall admit that they no longer have a veto on peace in the region; and they shall, accordingly, pursue peace with the Jewish state.
Point 6: Unrealistic Palestinian demands, such as Israel’s withdrawal to 1967 borders and the Palestinian right of return, were rejected. No Israeli government shall accept these demands.
This vision for peace that Netanyahu announced before the international community, clearly reflects the Israeli understanding of peace, which greatly differs from the Palestinian-Arab version, especially with regard to Jerusalem, the withdrawal issue, and the right of return. This means that the gap between the Israelis and Palestinians has become wider, and that peace now is out of reach. It also seems that bringing these completely different views together is almost impossible, especially in light of the rigidity of positions and policies on all Arab, Israeli and American levels.
Israel has achieved more gains recently, prime among which are:
– The US president proposed a peace plan that fulfills the Israeli demands and diminishes the most important Palestinian demands. The plan proposes the establishment of a postponed, conditioned semi-Palestinian state that has incomplete sovereignty, while it allows Israel to annex more than one-third of West Bank territories.
– Both the UAE and Bahrain signed a peace agreement with Israel, without any Israeli concessions or changed views regarding peace. Israeli officials, including the US ambassador in Israel, affirmed that the annexation of the Jordan Valley region has been just postponed, not cancelled. In my opinion, the cessation of the Israeli annexation of the West Bank territories had to be stated in the peace plan, not entirely dropped.
Although the 2002 Beirut Summit’s Arab Peace Initiative still represents the Arabs’ vision of comprehensive peace with Israel, the Arabs could not get out of the closed circle. Until present, the Arabs adopt the two-decade initiative without being able to turn it into an achievable mechanism. At the moment, the initiative turned to be just one of the many references that were previously recorded in the long history of the Palestinian cause; at the same time Arabs do not have any power or influence to impose or even market their vision. The initiative also turned to be just an honorary campaign that exists until further notice.
On the other hand, Israel was able to empty the Arab Peace Initiative of its core. That was achieved through rejecting the initiative, pushing the US to reject it as well, and rearranging the priorities of the initiative according to its vision. What totally contradicts the core of the initiative, which proposed peace and comprehensive withdrawal for comprehensive normalization, is Israel proceeding on the normalization phase before establishing peace. Unfortunately, I believe that, in light of the current situation, nothing shall take place.
It is important to stress that there is always hope that Israeli normalization with Arab countries might lead to establishing comprehensive peace and achieving security in the region. However, in light of the rise of power of the Israeli radical right-wing, who successfully achieved normalization, and the lack of indications that the current Israeli government might, or even slightly, adopt fair peace, normalization shall not contribute to achieving peace.
Therefore, it is necessary to rationally analyze the current situation to determine the next step. During the coming stage, Israel shall strongly work on widening the circle of Arab-Israeli-Islamic peace, without making any concessions regarding the Palestinian cause. On the contrary, Israel shall continue its rigidity as long as normalization became an easy subject that comes with no commitments.
I believe that every country has the right to achieve its own interests according to its own accounts, and that no one has the right to criticize the countries that normalize relations with Israel, especially that the number of these countries shall increase in light of the current Arab weakness and division. The Egyptian and Arab responsibility towards the Palestinian cause has to persist, regardless of the nature of the Arab position. It is not fair that Israel makes gains because of its rigidity and the Palestinians suffer because of the fairness of their cause.
I have called for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations as soon as possible according to agreed-upon references. However, this matter is out of reach in light of the current complications and the hurdles before even holding a meeting to have a unified Arab position. Therefore, there are urgent moves that holds the Palestinians responsible for moving in the short term to achieve Palestinian-Palestinian goals. These goals are:
– Ending divisions witnessed at the meetings of secretaries-general of Palestinian factions. The Fatah and Hamas movements’ bilateral meetings that saw agreement should turn into reconciliation that ends divisions and achieves the interests of the Palestinians. Palestinian leaders acknowledge that the current opportunity to achieve reconciliation shall not take place again.
– Agreeing on a unified political vision adopted by the Palestinian presidency and all the Palestinian factions. That political vision shall be marketed on the regional and international levels. Moreover, it shall focus on the internationally-recognized two-state solution and establishing a Palestinian state based on the borders of 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, that lives in peace and harmony side by side with Israel.
– Demonstrating Palestinian readiness to participate in peace negotiations based on the previous vision for peace. There shall be no chance to accept any settlement, plan or proposed deal by any party that contradicts that vision.
– Affirming the Palestinian position that opposes violence and terrorism to make the international community, that has limited influence, sympathize with the Palestinian cause. In addition, affirming that what reflects the power of the Palestinian position is the nonviolent public resistance.
In conclusion, the current situation is much closer to evading the two-state solution, which is recognized by the Palestinians, Arabs and the international community and opposed by Israel and the US. I also affirm the importance of having to avoid discussing the distorted idea of the one-state solution, which means in short ending or erasing the words of “the independent Palestinian state” from the political dictionary for good.
The Palestinian Authority should control the initiative it launched to rearrange the Palestinian situation in the form accepted by all. This is a priority that should reap results soon. For the time being, we can only sit and watch developments on the Palestinian stage. In my opinion, we shouldn’t bet much on change, but rather focus on how to consolidate our position in the face of more developments and challenges.