by Dr. Amer Araim

No doubt Secretary of State John Kerry has devoted tremendous efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. However, the recent visit of the Israeli Prime Minister to Washington affirmed not only lack of progress in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), but the urgent need to reevaluate the entire strategy of President Barack Obama’s administration toward the conflict. As far as Israel is concerned, for the time being, the status quo is very suitable. It is building settlements in the Palestinian territories thus ensuring that there will be no viable Palestinian state, diminishing any chance for the return of Palestinian refugees, and ultimately rendering more Palestinians refugees.

In order for the Obama administration’s new strategy to bring peace and justice in the Holy Land, there must be an immediate end to the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967. Due to internal American politics, the Obama administration cannot go beyond statements such as warning Israel about the international campaign of boycotting over the Israeli settlements. The question was addressed to the Israelis leaders about how to move forward in peace efforts without fulfilling the demands of the Palestinians to establish their own viable state on the occupied territories of 1967. This important question was not answered. On the contrary, there was instead a new demand by Israeli leaders that the PA must recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This is a new Israeli attempt to put further obstacles in the path of a final agreement with the PA.
First, in 1947 this question was not raised, and even President Harry Truman omitted the reference to the Jewish state while signing the statement recognizing the state of Israel. Second, Israel did not request Egypt or Jordan that it be recognized as a Jewish state while negotiating the peace treaties with them. Third, according to recent polls in Israel, the majority of Israelis did not consider such a condition as essential for peace with the Palestinians. Therefore, the best way for the Obama Administration to proceed with the efforts to end this impasse, is to request the United Nations Security Council, and the International Court of Justice, to provide an interpretation to the Council resolutions on this question.
The United States government cannot continue in its policy of preventing the United Nations from dealing effectively with this important question regarding international peace and security. It is ironic that despite the capitulation of the PA under US pressure, it is accused of failing to fulfill its obligations. The United States’ pressure on the PA will not yield tangible results. The failure of the United Nations (due to the threats of United States veto power) to take any meaningful action to resolve the dispute on the basis of its own resolutions will not bring peace to all sides. Therefore, it is doubtful that the activities of Secretary of State John Kerry will yield tangible results.
There has been a major shift by the Obama administration in favor of Israel since the statement of President Barack Obama in Cairo at the beginning of his first term, and contrary to the hopes raised then. Generally, the Obama administration favors the Israeli position and will prevent the United Nations from playing a role in resolving the dispute. As for the Arab states and the PA, they are helpless because of the turmoil of the Arab Spring which is threatening the status quo. All of them depend on political, and other forms of US support, therefore, the Arabs cannot exert influence.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to a certain extent, is similar to that of South Africa in the mid-1980s. The three Western permanent members of the Security Council vetoed sanctions against South Africa proposed by the then Organization of African Unity. However, there was popular support in the United States, and other Western countries that forced the legislatures to adopt sanctions against South Africa. Only after the imposition of sanctions, the South African regime decided to reconsider its policies. The Palestinians cannot depend on the Obama administration or US Congress to adopt such a bold step. There is a hope that the movement to boycott Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories that began in Europe, would expand and impact nongovernmental organizations, as well as peace activists in the United States and around the world. In the meantime, the PA should continue in the negotiation process until announcement of Kerry plan. If the plan does not include Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, including Arab East Jerusalem, and the modalities for the implementation of the right of return for the Palestinian refugees, the PA should not continue in the negotiations and request the assistance of United Nations member states to convene a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to request an interpretation for its own relevant resolutions. It is expected that the United States would use its veto power. If so, then UN Member States should convene a meeting of the General Assembly under “United For Peace” to request the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice to provide interpretation to the United Nations resolutions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The General Assembly should call on all states to boycott the products exported from the Israeli colonies in the Palestinian territories as well as to cease any relations with them. Furthermore, the General Assembly should establish cultural, sports, and academic boycott of Israel, as it did against South Africa.