Oman Tribune (Editorial)
January 25, 2012 - 1:00am

Palestinians have threatened to cut off exploratory talks with Israel as construction of settlements on their occupied lands continues unabated. Walking away from the dialogue table by January 26 in Amman will be a forced move by Palestinians who don’t see these talks, being held in the presence of the Peace Quartet (United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia), going anywhere. The main hurdle in this direction, as the Palestinian negotiators have repeated time and again, is Israel’s refusal to freeze settlement activity in areas under occupation. The Quartet had set January 26 as the last date for submission of proposals on borders and security by the two sides, but while the Palestinians have complied the Israelis have not done so. Although there is some talk of extending the January 26 deadline, it doesn’t seem logical to continue them if the advantage is heavily in Israel’s favour concerning its pushing of borders by establishing new settlements.

A Palestinian official said: “I confirm that exploratory meetings will come to an end on the date agreed upon if Israel does not stop its settlement building in the whole of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.” If the Palestinians can see through Israel’s scheme of territorial expansion, can’t the Quartet? Even if it does, what powers does it have to force Israel to halt its settlement activity? Mediation for resumption of the peace process is a worthwhile and democratic approach, but it can only succeed in an atmosphere of trust and a genuine desire for peace. If Palestinians are being uprooted from their ancestral homes to pave the way for Israeli settlers where is the real desire for peace on the Israelis’ part? The Israelis have said despite the January 26 deadline they want to submit their proposals on borders and security within three months from the start of the talks. This unmasks their real intention of keeping the talks on ice until they can complete their settlements agenda.

The Israelis did not listen to the US when they were asked to freeze settlements so that peace talks could resume, neither will they listen to the voice of UN chief Ban Ki-moon who said during a visit to the region this month: “The Israeli occupation of Arab and Palestinian territories must end. So must violence against civilians. Settlements, new and old are illegal. They work against the emergence of a viable Palestinian state.” One must remember that Ban Ki-moon had also been quick to respond to the Palestinian campaign for statehood when it was launched in Ramallah in 2011. What he said gave the Palestinian push for recognition of their country as the 194th member of the UN a shot in the arm: “The two-state vision where Israel and Palestinians can live…side by side in peace and security – that is still a valid vision and I fully support it.” He said: “And I support the statehood of Palestinians; an independent and sovereign state of Palestine. It has been long overdue.” The Palestinians won a small battle at the UN in 2011 when they were allowed full membership of Unesco, and although their case for statehood is threatened by a US veto, many countries view it favourably. A recent example of this is the recognition of a Palestinian state by Thailand.


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