16 January 2014
Speaking to reporters in the West Bank today, senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath warned that Israel has eliminated the fate of its large settlement blocs from the diplomatic agenda:
“Israel has succeeded in really persuading Mr Kerry to change the agenda of the discussions… Today, you will see Mr Kerry going back and forth, discussing nothing but two issues. The two issues have never been in our agenda: the Jewishness of the state and (security in) the Jordan (Valley).”
In an interview with New Left Project published earlier this week, Norman Finkelstein made the same observation:
The Israelis—with, of course, active and critical US connivance—have managed to completely shift the debate and shape the agenda. The only issues now being discussed are the Jewish state and the Jordan Valley, which, in terms of the international consensus for resolving the conflict, never figured at all…
The key issue (apart from the refugees), in terms of the international consensus and in prior bilateral negotiations, has been the extent of the land swap along the border: Will Israel be allowed to annex the major settlement blocs and consequently abort a Palestinian state? But the debate has completely shifted, because annexing the settlement blocs is a done deal.
The question of settlement blocs did, finally, appear in media coverage today—unfortunately, in a way that merely confirmed Finkelstein’s analysis. Speaking to Army Radio, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu demanded that Israel be permitted to permanently annex “a fourth settlement bloc”—Beit El. “Israel has already laid claim,” Ha’aretz notes in passing, to the settlement blocs of Ariel, Gush Etzion and Ma’ale Adumim. This occasions no comment; Israel’s annexation of these critical chunks of the West Bank is now taken for granted.
The “framework agreement” to which Israeli and Palestinian leaders are being prodded by US Secretary of State Kerry, in coordination with the EU, will, Finkelstein predicted, effectively annul the Palestinian refugees’ right to return:
The agreement will probably resolve on the formula: Israel as the state of the Jewish people and its citizens, Palestine as the state of the Palestinian people and its citizens. It will afford (legal) protection for Israel’s Palestinian citizens, but will negate the right of return for Palestinian refugees, which is what Israel really cares about.
Sure enough, Al-Hayat reports today that,
conservative Jordan politicians understand a framework agreement being drafted by the US as abrogating the Palestinian ‘right of return’.
As the diplomatic tempo increases and events converge—Netanyahu flies to Amman for an impromptu meeting with King Abdullah; Europe escalates pressure on Israel over settlement construction; the US pressures Netanyahu to control or ditch Israeli hold-outs—a framework agreement, on the terms described above, appears imminent. Regrettably, Palestine’s supporters abroad seem not to have noticed.
Scanning the front-page of one prominent Palestine solidarity website, one finds scarcely a word about it. (The lone mention of Israel’s settlement blocs accidentally endorses Israel’s illegitimate demand for “mutually-agreed” land swaps.) In part, this blindness reflects complacency born of historical experience: after countless rounds of negotiations that yielded nothing, it is difficult to believe that this time is different. In part, too, it reflects the increasing prominence within the solidarity movement of demands for a ‘one-state’, rather than the international consensus ‘two-state’, solution to the conflict. Those who have already reconciled themselves to the permanence of Israel’s settlements, the political irrelevance of Israel’s legal border and a generations-long struggle for an end to Israel as a Jewish state naturally find themselves untroubled by diplomatic developments. Abandoning the fight for a two-state solution, activists leave the US and Israel at liberty to impose their own.