The current truce has slowed down the war of attrition against Gaza for now, and the parties have started to prepare themselves for the next confrontation.
The framework of the confrontation has not changed and Israel will continue to sustain its occupation. The Palestinian side is defending itself and longing for the end of the occupation and self-determination. The so-called peace process of the last two decades has provided a cover for Israel to maintain the status quo, the occupation and continued Palestinian displacement.
It is important for all Palestinians to start thinking about a new national strategy. This strategy should aim to remove the Palestinian struggle from a political process in which the balance of power is tipped entirely in favour of Israel, the occupying state, thereby giving it the opportunity to impose its policies as fait accompli.
Israel’s interest is in maintaining the status quo to perpetuate the occupation, thereby providing cover for the continued establishment and expansion of colonies in Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank. In addition to this, Israel plans to further isolate the West Bank and maintain control over its resources, as it has done with the Gaza Strip. It leaves the burden and costs of administering daily life under occupation to the Palestinians, making the occupation a profitable project for Israel.
The Palestinians’ national strategy should push for the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and for establishing a UN mandate to provide protection for the Palestinian population through a peacekeeping force.
The duration and implementation mechanisms for the UN peacekeeping forces would be determined by an agreement between the PLO and its partners from Palestinian factions, including the Islamic Jihad movement and Hamas, on one side, and the UN General Assembly on the other.
The primary mission of the international peacekeeping force would be to prevent violations of international humanitarian law in the treatment of the Palestinian population living under occupation. In addition, the UN forces should prevent the occupation authorities from exploiting Palestinian natural resources, including groundwater, as well as prevent the acquisition of land and its annexation to the State of Israel under Israel’s Jewish settlement policy.
UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency, should continue its work, as stipulated in its UN mandate, in providing for the basic necessities of the refugees: water and food; housing, and basic education until the return of the refugees to their homes.
Settlers remaining in the areas subject to the international peacekeeping mechanism would be subject to the laws in force in the occupied Palestinian territories, and they would not enjoy any ethnic privileges. They should be dealt with equally under the law.
Palestinians would continue to be in charge of the administration of their daily lives in coordination with the UN protection force. This self-administration would differ from the existing Palestinian Authority in that it would refrain from providing any form of security services to the occupying power under the current so-called security coordination.
The international agreements that led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority are to be considered expired by virtue of their content as well as practice. Thus the security services will be disbanded and its members retired with all the rights and benefits provided for public sector employees.
In the framework of this Palestinian strategy, the following should be affirmed:
– Any settlement must satisfy the right of return and self-determination over the whole of Palestine.
– The occupying power will remain primarily responsible for the security and welfare of Palestinian citizens and the security of public property as provided for under international humanitarian law, the Geneva Conventions, and international norms.
– The Gaza Strip is occupied territory and will be included in the international peacekeeping arrangement in a manner that is commensurate with its specific needs and situation. This proposal should not be interpreted to be allowing redeployment of occupation forces in the Gaza Strip.
– The UN peacekeeping forces will control the international border crossings to enable Palestinian control of exports, imports and the balance of payments, as happened in Kosovo. This will reduce the dependency and economic annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories to the economy of the Israeli occupation authorities.
– The sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people is the PLO and its Palestinian partners. Therefore it is essential that it puts the internal Palestinian house in order, on the basis of democratic arrangements built on the broadest possible popular representation of all Palestinians wherever they may reside.
– All methods of struggle are legitimate as stipulated in international conventions and norms; and that the Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves and adopt different strategies to fight for their rights as per their differing circumstances (whether living in diaspora or in occupied territories).
Regarding the reaction of some parties to this proposed strategy, it is to be expected that Palestinian parties which have benefitted and continue to benefit from the existing political structure, and who would wish to continue to do so, would not support such a move. It is anticipated that they may resort to resisting it in a variety of ways.
Israel will oppose this move, as it will put the international community in a position of confrontation with the occupying authority. The presence of an international peacekeeping force is a practical means by which to disturb the occupation, instead of reducing its expenses through international aid and promoting the illusion of normalisation.
The United States will oppose any effort to end the occupation which does not satisfy Israel. But Israel will find itself and the international community confronting a complex situation in the event that the self-rule authority (the Palestinian Authority) is dissolved and the legal cover that it had been granted by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation lifted.
Palestinians are capable of managing their daily affairs as they did before the existence of the Palestinian Authority. Hence this proposal is not only aimed at putting pressure on Israel, but it also offers a chance for the different Palestinian political forces to move away from the current predicament of serving as administrators for the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The Palestinian struggle to end the occupation is ongoing and will not end until refugees return home and self-determination is realised. It is essential to push the international community to live up to its duty to put the occupied Palestinian territories under international protection and end the cycle of negotiations that have only worked to consolidate the occupation.
Efforts should be continued to build worldwide support for the Palestinian struggle against the occupation and promote the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
Samer Jaber is a political activist and researcher.
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