Op-Ed via IMEU

Expert Q&A: On the Obama-Netanyahu Meeting & the Crisis in Palestine-Israel


Q - On Monday, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu met at the White House. According to reports, Netanyahu detailed certain measures intended to defuse the current crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, including removing some checkpoints and taking steps to improve the Palestinian economy, which is severely affected by Israeli restrictions imposed as part of its occupation regime. Do you think these minor gestures will succeed in calming the situation, even just in the short term?

Tareq Baconi - “Israel is not in the business of resolving this conflict, but rather of managing it. As historian Avi Raz has noted in the context of the 1967 war, Israeli leaders took the 'decision not to decide' on the fate of the Palestinian territories in the direct aftermath of the fighting. Since that time, Israeli policies toward the occupied territories have been aimed at pacification: keeping the Palestinians just sufficiently content so they do not resist the occupation. These policies are aimed at ensuring a sustainable occupation and an indefinite grip on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. When violence ensues (hardly an unexpected outcome when an entire population is kept under harsh military rule), Israel takes measures to calm the situation, and restore a reality where Palestinians continue to be subjugated. This cycle is most crudely manifest in Israel’s policy of ‘mowing the lawn’ in Gaza.

“So will removing checkpoints and pursuing measures to improve the Palestinian economy succeed in the short term? Possibly. If not, other initiatives will spring up. But they are in all certainty part of a much wider failed policy (successful from Israel’s perspective), as they are mere stop-gaps until the next round of violent escalation, often provoked by the Israeli military and its settlers. These cycles can only be stopped when Israel decides to pull out of the territories – or decides to give full human rights to all the Palestinians living under its rule.”

Nadia Hijab - “Such minor gestures might have bought some time even as recently as a year ago, but they are unlikely to do so now. Netanyahu has given the armed settlers free rein to attack Palestinians. Indeed, the many militant settlers among the more than 600,000 now colonizing the West Bank and East Jerusalem are so entrenched in the Israeli army and political system that Netanyahu would be unable to rein them in even if he wanted to – and there is no evidence that he does. On the contrary, there is plenty of chilling evidence that the Palestinians are completely unprotected from Israel’s military and settlers. For example, Israel has not formally charged the killers who this summer burned alive a Palestinian baby and his parents in their home, even though it knows who they are, so as not to expose its intelligence sources; Israel’s shoot to kill policy; and its mandatory three-year sentences for Palestinian youth convicted of throwing stones.”

Samah Sabawi - “Removing some checkpoints and taking some vague steps to improve the Palestinian economy falls far short of addressing Palestinian grievances under Israel’s prolonged military occupation – now in its fifth decade – and affirming the Palestinian people’s basic human rights under international law. Leading human rights groups have documented Israel’s ongoing grave violations of international law over the years, ranging from use of excessive deadly force against Palestinians, targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, arrest and detention and sometimes torture of Palestinian political prisoners, including children, systematic destruction of Palestinian homes and ongoing theft of Palestinian land and resources. Netanyahu’s suggestions to remove some checkpoints and improve the Palestinian economy is empty rhetoric meant for the consumption of the news media in order to create the illusion that Israel is prepared to do something to alleviate Palestinian suffering. Meanwhile, the main item on the Obama-Netanyahu agenda is increasing military aid to Israel, thus increasing Israel’s ability to continue its oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people."

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