Israel-Palestine peace process rendered irrelevant

Palestinians say that long-standing US bias towards Israel has pushed the peace process towards irrelevance.

The city of Jerusalem, with its historical, religious and political significance, has always been a prominent symbol for the Palestinian cause, or what is left of its tattered remains.

With a stroke of a pen, the United States, which has undertaken the role of peace broker between the Israelis and Palestinians for over two decades, has become the first country in the world to recognise the whole Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

But to the majority of Palestinians, who say their interests were never pursued by their leaders, the unprecedented move came as no surprise, and the peace process will have little meaning.

Abdelsattar Qassem, a professor of political science at the an-Najah University in Nablus, told Al Jazeera that the Palestinian leadership will not bring about any seismic changes to the peace process.

“Nothing will happen,” he said. “[Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas is not a man who takes decisive decisions, and he is not in a position where he has any choices.”

“He will go to the negotiating table if called on because he thinks it is a privilege to meet President [Donald] Trump,” Qassem continued.

“He is not going to sacrifice any chances to meet with the Americans.”

WATCH: Trump official Raj Shah discusses Jerusalem decision

The PA, whose economy is propped up by international conditional donor aid, relies on an annual budget of $300m from the US.

The 1993 Oslo Accords was based on the UN resolution 242, which called for a two-state solution with occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestine state.

Yet Israel showed no signs of cooperating to move in this direction, and did not rescind its 1980 law which stated Jerusalem as its “undivided capital”.

On the opposite spectrum, the Palestinian leaders made one concession after the other, turning the entire peace process into a farce.

In exchange, these leaders got what they craved for: recognition at the international level and a system of pseudo governance and control over a few ever-shrinking territories in the face of continued Israeli occupation and land expropriation.

Talal Awkal, a Gaza-based political analyst, told Al Jazeera that in light of Trump’s decision, the expected course of action – if the Palestinian officials had political leverage – would be for the US to stop its mediating role.

“Abbas did say that if this decision took place then the US can no longer be a mediator,” Awkal said.

However, “the US will continue to practice this role whether we like it or not, although this time its position will be unequivocal to the Arabs especially with regards to the ‘deal of the century'”.

Echoing Qassem’s view that nothing will change, Awkal said that the US administration will attempt to “soften their decision through empty verbal bribes to the Palestinians”.

On their part, “the Palestinians might choose to hasten their way to the ICC,” he said, “or speed up the process of reconciliation talks. But the peace process will remain.”

Pro-Israel bias

On this day in 1988, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) recognised Israel on 78 percent of the country, including West Jerusalem, which Israel occupied and illegally annexed in the aftermath of the 1967 war.

Yet the initial reaction from the US was frosty, and considered the PLO’s recognition of Israel as falling short of long-standing American requests.

The US had long said it would not deal with the PLO until it stated unambiguously that it recognised Israel’s “right to exist” in addition to UN resolution 242 and 338, the New York Times reported at the time.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the PLO, told Al Jazeera Trump’s decision on Jerusalem “ends the charade that the US can be an even-handed peace broker” between Israelis and Palestinians.

WATCH: Hanan Ashrawi – Trump is allowing Israel ‘to annex Jerusalem’

“He has just given Israel permission and support to annexe Jerusalem, to transform its character, to kick out the Palestinians, and to Judaise it without any kind of accountability,” she said. 

Ashrawi said PLO leaders must begin looking for a new strategy to hold Israel accountable.

“We have to redefine everything: our relationship to Israel, our relationship to the United States and also our relationship to the rest of the world that pays lip service to a two-state solution and allows Israel to destroy it.”

Previous statements by US officials regarding Jerusalem has also made their bias towards Israel clear. Furthermore, the US gives Israel an annual military aid of $3bn.

For Qassem, it is these enduring US positions that have made the peace process useless, and the Palestinians unsurprised at Trump’s decision. In his words, “there is no popular anger” on the streets.

“The Palestinian cause has been on a steady decline and it is primarily the fault of the PLO and Palestinian leaders,” he said. “Signing the Oslo Accords and defending Israel’s security sends a message to the world to recognise Israel and its rights, leaving the Arabs racing each other to normalise relations with it.”

Source: Al Jazeera