By: Dr Mohammad Makram Balawi
The Americans and Europeans are not serious in addressing Israeli crimes committed against the Palestinians, an expert on international law told me yesterday, adding that they are selectively in their use of international organisations including the International Criminal Court (ICC) to punish their enemies, as we have seen in Ukraine.
“ICC’s Chief Persecutor visited Ukraine in seven days, but he was not able to visit Palestine in more than 70 years. The ICC and similar organisations are dead slow when it comes to Palestine, but when it comes to the interests of their creators, they become robust and decisive,” he told me.
Indeed, what has been happening in Palestine is not ambiguous or unknown. On the contrary, after more than 70 years of foreign aggression on Palestine and its people, the International Crisis Group’s report ‘The Israeli Government’s Old-New Palestine Strategy’ shows that the problem and the solutions are crystal clear in America and Europe.
The report describes how the new Israeli government led by Naftali Bennett has alluded to the policy of “shrinking the conflict”, this would slightly improve the miserable economic conditions Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza live in rather than seek a political solution, but it continues to follow the policies of the Netanyahu era. Although, it has succeeded in winning the sympathy of some disaffected Western leaders, who have no desire in any case to confront Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians, it has shown a strategy that has repeatedly failed to contribute to achieving progress towards peace.
The ICG’s report explains how Israel’s “gesture of economic goodwill” provides cover for its settlement expansion and changes to the historic status quo in East Jerusalem and the joint repression practiced by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The current government builds on the legacy of its predecessor with regards the construction and expansion of settlements in the West Bank, driven by a strong movement of settlers, through which it was able to expand the settlements in a way that makes the two-state solution increasingly difficult to imagine, while the settlement organizational schemes are described as “a plan for one state based on a single electricity network and infrastructure” and an integrated, sovereign force that takes all decisions in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the report, Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid’s plan for the Gaza Strip includes taking steps to restore its infrastructure and ease some restrictions, if Hamas commits to disarmament. This is totally implausible, because it assumes that Hamas will agree to stop its armed struggle while Israel is still besieging the Strip and the occupation continues. Such a policy amounts to the collective punishment of the population. The report believes that Bennett will not ease the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and will not take measures in this context, because he cannot bear the political cost of easing the siege. Instead, it says, Bennett’s government wants the Palestinian Authority to take over control of the Strip.
The blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, as the report explains, is the factor behind most escalations over the past 15 years, and if it continues, a return to violence is a realistic possibility, even if neither party wants a military confrontation.
With regards the international community, the report highlights that the Biden administration has not fulfilled its pledges to reverse Trump’s decisions and reopen the US Consulate to the Palestinians in East Jerusalem and has expressed its “decisive” support for Israel. As for the European Union and European governments, their responses have been limited to diplomatic statements in the face of Israeli measures against the Palestinians. Indeed, some European governments see no gain in resisting Israel.
The report concludes that Israel and Western powers should be held to responsible for the current situation and they need to take steps to ensure stability.
The global powers should press for a long-term truce in the Gaza Strip, return to the status quo at the Haram Al-Sharif (Al-Aqsa Mosque), stop eviction orders in East Jerusalem and home demolitions throughout occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank, halt settlement expansion and support holding Palestinian elections including in Jerusalem.
It is also important to review the conditions that the Quartet – the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia – have imposed on Hamas over the past 15 years; recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of all past Israeli-Palestinian agreements, in a way that allows the organisation at least to participate in a unity government.
Israel must be held accountable for its systematic discrimination, violence and expropriation of material and moral property.