The Jordan Times (Editorial)
December 28, 2007 - 3:54pm

It is fine that the Palestinian delegation to the bilateral negotiations with Israel should refuse to negotiate anything other than a freeze on settlement building. It is a shame that the Palestinian side should have granted Israel the diplomatic victory of Annapolis before such a principled stand could be reached.

The freeze on settlement building is not a negotiable issue. There is nothing controversial about it: Israel’s settlement project in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, is clearly against international law. As such, it should not be tolerated, not by the international community, including the Arab world, and certainly not by the Palestinians.

To agree to negotiate while settlements are being built is tantamount to accepting defeat. It is tantamount to signalling to Israel that it is OK to continue such settlement building. It is tantamount to selling out Palestinian principles and the principles of international law and justice.

There is no excuse for such defeatism and no reason to pursue such a course.

Unfortunately, Palestinians appear to have resigned themselves to a philosophy that approaches negotiations as a form of damage limitation. Such a philosophy will posit that negotiations cannot bring what Palestinians want, international law decrees and any common understanding of just demands, but can only act as a brake on Israeli expansionism.

Such a philosophy brings nothing but misery. Notwithstanding the generosity of the international community towards Palestinian “institution building”, generosity that can also become a trap in the absence of a fair negotiated solution, Palestinians have to realise that they have nothing if not the justness of their cause.

If they themselves are not willing to negotiate the underlying principles of that cause, then there is nothing left. It is their one and only ace in this game, and played too soon and for the wrong reasons, it will go to waste.

Negotiations cannot and should not be pursued for the sake of having negotiations, for the sake of placating Washington or anyone else. Negotiations, if they are to be serious, have to be pursued only in the real hope that they can reach a fair conclusion. Does anybody seriously believe that any results can be achieved with this Israeli government?


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