“A settlement, negotiated between the parties, will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours. The settlement will … end the occupation that began in 1967.”
This statement was not made by Cornel West as part of his laudable but ill-fated attempt to get the Democratic Party Platform Committee merely to say the word “occupation”. Rather, it was one of the first communiques of the Quartet, in April 2003, echoing US President George W Bush’s October 2001 declaration that creating a viable Palestinian state had long been part of the United States’ “vision for the Middle East”.
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Thirteen years later, the occupation continues, and seemingly nothing Palestinians can do – from official protests to well-coordinated civil resistance, to random stabbings – will change that fact.
Bernie Sanders was hailed as a miracle worker merely for declaring that Palestinians have the same rights as other human beings. The likely next president, who wants to take America’s relationship with Israel to “the next level”, clearly does not share that view.
Or rather, Hillary Clinton feels they have the same rights as Hondurans and all the other peoples suffering under the corrupt and brutal client regimes she has supported as senator, secretary of state, and through the Clinton Foundation.
As for progressive stalwart Elizabeth Warren, putative frontrunner for vice president, she is being celebrated as a “surprising pro-Israel hawk” by Alan Dershowitz, who should know.
The departure of the predictably pro-Israel UK from the European Union could, in theory, strengthen the Union's inclination to act as a counterbalance to US support for Israel.
The much-awaited report of the Quartet, which is expected to place significant responsibility on Israel for the lack of negotiating progress, still holds to the fiction that “only direct negotiations” between the all-powerful occupier and the ever more occupied population will lead to a viable resolution to the conflict.
Even The New York Times has acceded to the normalisation of the occupation, recently putting the word in “scare quotes” to reflect the fait accompli.
Changes on the horizon?
The departure of the predictably pro-Israel UK from the European Union could, in theory, strengthen the Union’s inclination to act as a counterbalance to US support for Israel. More likely, the need to staunch a haemorrhage of members will drain most of its energy.
Of the remaining major donors to Palestine, hardly a single country can be expected to lift a finger other than to write a cheque.
Even Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to have abandoned Palestinians as part of his official rapprochement with Israel.
Indeed, it is hard to think of a time when Palestinians had a weaker hand to play diplomatically or strategically.
The growing support within international civil society and the spread of BDS – the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement – globally, the upgrading of Palestine’s status to a “non-member observer state” at the United Nations and joining of the International Criminal Court, have done nothing to change the calculus or behaviour of Israel’s leadership, which now brazenly cuts off water to the West Bank without a care in the world.
Nuclear options and new identities
Israel might be the region’s only country with nuclear weapons, but observers have long believed that Palestinians retain several diplomatic “nuclear options” they could deploy if all hope for a solution fades. Joining the ICC was one, but it has so far produced no hint of an investigation of Israel.
Dissolving the Palestinian Authority is another, but it’s highly unlikely given the almost 150,000 people, including the entire political elite, who would see their salaries disappear with the PA.
Creative civil and artistic resistance with international partners has no doubt raised international awareness and support, but is unlikely to do more than slow down the inexorable push towards annexation, which is the stated policy of Israel’s ruling establishment.
A similar option would be to return to the International Court of Justice, which in 2004 ruled that the Occupation was in fact an occupation, to request it declare the Occupation itself illegal. This could severely weaken Israel’s position, but would take years to generate.
There is another “nuclear option”, one which would blow the entire political edifice of the occupation to smithereens, that could be pursued by Palestinians: to demand citizenship and full rights in an Israeli state that would encompass the entirety of present-day Israel/Palestine.
This particular political jujitsu would go one step beyond dissolving the PA, demanding not just that Israel assume responsibility for administering the occupied territories but also accepting that a one-state solution has already been in place for years, and any hope for an sovereign independent Palestinian state will have to be relinquished in favour of fighting for full civil and political rights within “Greater Israel”.
The brilliance of Israeli strategy ... has been that by dangling the possibility of independence in front of Palestinians, Israeli leaders have incentivised them to devote decades of energy towards investing in ... a solution that had no chance of being realised...
The brilliance of Israeli strategy over the past 50 years has been that by dangling the possibility of independence in front of Palestinians, Israeli leaders have incentivised them to devote decades of energy towards investing in an identity and a solution that had no chance of being realised in the existing local, regional and international contexts.
And with both the PA and Hamas invested in the continuation of the status quo, any change in Palestinian politics and identity would have to arise from a grassroots that is under incredible pressure merely to hold the line on a daily basis.
But as no less than the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned, the day that Palestinians would ask for passports Israel as an exclusivist Jewish state would be “done for”.
But a very different Israeli and Palestinian polity would be born. However painful and traumatic its birth, it would at least open the possibility for a different future.
The question remains, what will it take before Palestinians avail themselves of their final “nuclear” strategy, and how much violence will the Israeli government deploy before it is forced to re-imagine itself as a very different society than it has become during the last half century?
Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle Eastern History at University of California, Irvine, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lund University.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.