2017 will mark 50 years since the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian Territories resulting from the Six-Day-War (June 5-10 1967), when Syria, Jordan and Egypt attacked Israel that won over the three fronts, seizing, inter alia, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan. On November 22 of that same year the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 242 that called for the end of all hostilities in the Middle East, the respect of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all nations in the area, a fair solution to the refugee-problem, along with the withdrawal of Israeli Armed Forces “from occupied territories” (in the English text, “des territoires occupés” (from the occupied territories, in the French text). A grammatical difference that is more than a nuance, underlying different diplomatic interpretations that after 50 years remain unresolved. Even the adoption of Resolution 338 (ensuing the Kippur War, 1973) on the part of the UN Security Council, was to no avail. The latter demanded, inter alia, the full implementation of Resolution 242.
Occupied territories and settlements. Since then, all successive governments in the past 50 years (governments of National Unity, centre-right and centre-left coalitions alike) have favoured the settlements in the occupied areas, in many cases inhabited by settlers that arrived from the United States and from Eastern Europe. According to figures released by Peace Now, settlers presently amount to 570thousand (370thousand in the West Bank and 200 thousand in East Jerusalem) residing in 97 – unauthorized – outposts, 147 settlements, of which 17 in East Jerusalem. The settlements constitute a distinctive trait of Israeli military occupation in the Palestinian Territories. According to Hagai El-Ad, Director of B’Tselem, Israeli NGO for human rights, they are characterised by
“invisible, bureaucratic daily violence inflicted upon the Palestinian population, from the cradle to the tomb”
carried out via “forced expropriations, deportation of entire communities, extrajudicial assassinations, arrests and imprisonments without trial, which also affect children, control of movements to and from the territories, forbidden access to basic resources such as water.”
50 years of failures and broken dreams. The incessantly evolving situation prevents all attempts to peace, despite the negotiating efforts undertaken in the past 50 years, recalled the director of the Italian Centre for Peace in the Middle East – CIPMO – Janiki Cingoli, a close observer of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for over 36 years. The path was scarred by major setbacks such as “the murder of Rabin, on November 4 1995, by Ygal Amir, an extremist Jewish settler, and the discord in the Palestinian front, between Fatah and Hamas.” But there were also significant steps: the Camp David agreement in 1978, ratified by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Egypt was the first Arab country that recognized the Jewish State; the Madrid Conference (1991), which provided the basis for the peace agreement signed by Israel and Jordan in 1994. In the same period, in 1993, Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat respectively representing Israel and the PLO, signed the Oslo Peace agreement enshrining mutual recognition. The agreement was opposed by extremists on both sides: Israel was shattered by suicide-bombings perpetrated by Hamas and by the Jihad, Rabin was killed by a Jewish settler. Other meetings ensued in Taba (1995), Wye River in Maryland (1998), Sharm el Sheikh (1999) e and in 2000, the year marking the outbreak of the Second Intifada, took place the Camp David meeting between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat. The peace initiative promoted by Arab Countries (2002), by USA, EU, Russia and UN quartet (2003) as well as the Annapolis Conference (2007), were to no avail. Recent history is marked by the wars in the Gaza Strip, by the attempts of US President Barack Obama to freeze the settlements, and by the attempts of his Secretary of State John Kerry.
Now a marginal conflict. “It has become a marginal conflict in the Middle-Eastern arena.
Today the international community’s attention is focused on the Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese and Yemenite crises, on the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites (Saudi Arabia and Egypt) – Cingoli said -. The general approach is that of a ‘conflict management’ rather than a ‘conflict resolution.’”
Under a certain angle this position is shared also by “Israel, interested in preserving the status quo, while any change and/or concession risks undermining national political balance, especially in the right-wing.” The same can be said on the Palestinian front, notably on the part of President Abbas – since “in case of political elections the West Bank risks loosing its power and control over a large portion of funds, especially from Europe” – as well as on the part of Hamas, “that doesn’t want to jeopardize its control over Gaza.” It should be remembered, said CIPMO director, that
“the occupation is paid by the international community. In fact, international aids are supporting Palestinian civilians. If the National Palestinian Authority collapsed, the Israeli occupier would have to step in.
Hence the present situation enables Israel to save money and maintain the civil structures of occupation, and to save in terms of security, since Palestinian intelligence also work for Israel.”
Palestinian’s solitude. Moreover, the risk of a violent reaction on the part of the Palestinians – in the light of the two Intifadas: in 1987 and in 2000 – cannot be ruled out, given the deterioration of the situation at local level, which failed to deliver any results. In fact, for Cingoli, “Israel will try to avert the fall of the National Palestinian Authority. On top of that, Palestinians no longer enjoy the support of Arab countries, that converge in the common struggle against Iran. Abbas has to take stock of the close relations between Israel, Russia and Turkey on the one side, and between Israel and Egypt on the other. The intelligence services of the two Countries cooperate in the fight against ISIS in the Sinai region. Israel can also count on its good relations with China, India, East European countries and Central Africa, owing to direly needed Israeli state-of-the-art irrigation technology.
The danger of terror attacks by lonely wolves remains. In fact it risks becoming endemic, as it is a result of the unsolved conflict.”
Is the “two-State – two-People” solution still feasible? Given the present scenario, said CIPMO Director, “the official line remains that of a two-State-solution, while Israel continues seizing portions of land from the Palestinians.”
Rather than two States, “Israel appears to favour a three-State option: Gaza with Hamas, the West Bank with Fatah, and Israel,
that might renounce the more distant settlements and outposts.” But today, President-elect Donald Trump represents an unpredictable factor. “His first moves (the appointment of David Friedman, settlements advocate, as ambassador to Israel) appear to ignore the Palestinians’ better interests”, Cingoli said, adding that the UN Resolution 2334 adopted on December 23 against the Israeli settlements – with the historical abstention of the United States – is Obama’s legacy to Netanyahu and Donald Trump. Hence, after 50 years, we are left with no solutions; only with buried Resolutions.