International intervention is needed to save the two-state solution

As Israel flaunts new settlement plans, it is evident that Palestinians will not accept any deal that robs them of a viable, independent state

Monday, 8 November, 2010 - 22:09
London, UK

On Monday, as Netanyahu embarked on yet another official visit to the US, the Jerusalem District Building and Planning Committee once again used this questionable opportunity to announce building plans for 1,298 new units in settlements in East Jerusalem.

Until this announcement, for over four weeks now, the media junkie in me has flipped through news channels, scoured online media, and read top local dailies expecting to see rapid developments to get Israeli-Palestinian direct peace talks back on track.

It remained bizarrely silent on that front, with seemingly little or no progress at all. The two-state solution is fading away fast as Palestinian lands continue to disappear under further Israeli settlement construction and expansion.

International pressure to extend the building moratorium is not enough; definitive measures are necessary if these direct peace talks are to survive.

Israel is grabbing all the headlines by resuming settlement building in the West Bank at breakneck speed. Even before today’s announcement, two thousand new housing units had already received Israeli government authorization in recent months. These settlements not only divide the West Bank, cutting off Palestinian communities, but also control the vast majority of natural resources.

The facts on the ground beg the question: Where exactly will the Palestinian state exist?

The viability of the two-state solution is being permanently eradicated by the continued expansion and construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The settlers’ umbrella organisation ‘Yesha Council’ and extremist settlers are often blamed for what is in fact an official Israeli government policy that finances and subsidizes the settlements. It’s absurd to pour money and people into an area that will form the heartland of a future Palestinian state.

Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank tells only half the story. Travelling from the West Bank city of Ramallah to Jerusalem for work, I always pass through the Arab neighbourhoods of Beit Hanina and Shuafat in East Jerusalem. Every once in a while, my eyes drift to the hill tops surrounding the neighborhoods and a sense of dread washes over me. The Israeli settlements of Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Zeev, and Ramot are swallowing Beit Hanina and Shuafat.

Piece by piece, the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem are being dissolved by sprawling Jewish settlements intended to prevent the possibility of a Palestinian capital in any part of the city.

Israel’s actions are predetermining substantive final status issues outside the scope of negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is demanding that Palestinians continue direct peace talks without preconditions - while supporting developments that strike at the heart of these very negotiations.

Coercing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to remain at the negotiation table may allow the peace process to continue limping forward, but the Palestinian people will not accept any deal that robs them of a viable, independent state.

Such defiance requires personal responsibility and commitment to a peace process from both Israelis and Palestinians.

OneVoice Palestine believes that the Palestinian people must be a driving force constantly propelling their leaders to achieve a two-state solution, just as the Israeli people must signal to their leaders that enough is enough.

The Palestinian leadership is trying to meet international expectations to prove they are a genuine partner for peace. But these efforts must be matched by swift international intervention to stop Israeli settlement construction. Ensuring a future with two states for two peoples demands concrete steps today that reinvigorate the conviction on both sides to end the conflict.

Samer Makhlouf is executive director of OneVoice Palestine.

This article may be reproduced on condition that JNews is cited as its source.

Photo from settlement estate agency

commentary rss feed