Does Israel want peace with the Palestinians?

A tatreez, traditional Palestinian embroidery.
Israel has lurched to the Right and this has impacted policy across the entire Middle East. This article quotes the former Egyptian Foreign Minister in full. Ahmad Abdel-Rahman reports.

The Middle East has recently witnessed various conflicts, military exchanges and violence. This has prompted some politicians to say that the Palestinian issue is no longer a regional or Arab priority, but is a problem used by Arab leaders to cover up other problems. One of the most important and prominent promoters of this theory is Benjamin Netanyahu, who is once again Israeli Prime Minister, leader of the Right wing coalition and leader of the Likud party.

Nabil Fahmy, the former Egyptian Foreign Minister, says: "With the end of one year and the beginning of another, I decided to write about the Palestinian issue and Israel's position about it because it is an issue of usurped right and has more influence across the entire Middle East than any other issue. This obliges every Arab to give it its right and take care of it.

Let me begin by refuting the claim that the cause is calm, controlled, and with few casualties and victims. In this respect, I must refer to the recent United Nations reports confirming that Israeli forces killed at least 199 Palestinians in the West Bank until last November, including 47 children, which is the highest rate since 2008. This development prompted the UN envoy for children and military conflicts to visit the region, and the UN envoy for the peace process recently stated before the UN Security Council, that 'the cycles of violence will only end through a political solution to the conflict that includes the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders and in accordance with international law'."

Anyone who assumes that the Palestinian issue is resolved, or is not being reflected on other issues in the Middle East, is mistaken, he said.

Fahmy went on to say: "During my diplomatic and political career, I dealt with, interacted with, and was very preoccupied with the Palestinian cause as part of the Egyptian efforts to achieve comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace and end the occupation of Arab lands. During my career, I stopped a lot before Israeli and American allegations that the Palestinian leaders, headed by the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and the current President Mahmoud Abbas, hesitated to take decisive decisions for the sake of peace. In other words, there is a belief that there is an absence of a Palestinian partner who supports peace and is capable of making difficult decisions.

"I resented this because the essential question is not whether or not there is a Palestinian partner, but rather whether Israel wants peace with the Palestinians. In fact, all the evidence and indications reflect the absence of that desire among the Israelis, regardless of their partisan orientation. One of the most important negative indicators is that Israeli settlement expansion continues and grows even during the presidency of the left wing Labor Party and the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin, and it continued during the presidency of the Israeli right. Therefore, we have passed 70 years of occupation and Israeli expansion continues at the expense of lands that are supposed to form the independent Palestinian state.

"Recently, I attended a number of seminars on the new international order and the Middle Eastern equation in it. A number of Israeli politicians on the Israeli center left participated in these seminars, including former prime ministers, in which the Israeli side tried to distance itself from the current Israeli majority, but was not shy about holding the Palestinian side responsible for the failure of the Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts.

"So I wondered, does Israel really want peace with the Palestinians?

"Despite all that has been said, it is no secret to any simple follower of the Israeli political arena that the trend in Israel year after year is towards the right, rather the extreme and racist right, with the exception of a short coalition government between the far right and the center left, between Bennett and Lipid, after Netanyahu remained the longest serving Prime Minister in the history of Israel. He does not believe in the two-state solution. Now we find Netanyahu in the process of heading an extremely extremist coalition that includes the fascist and racist Itamar Ben Gvir, which made the American newspaper The New York Times warn of Israeli tendencies.

"A number of former US diplomats have recently written, including Daniel Kurtzer and Aaron Miller, that the United States must indicate early and explicitly that it will take strict positions, including punitive measures, against Israeli ministers if they violate human rights and practice racism.

"In conclusion, I believe that the frank and decisive answer, and the dangerous conclusion, is that Israeli society does not support reaching peace with the Palestinians and is not ready for positive cooperation towards that, rather it is not ready to deal with the Palestinians in accordance with international humanitarian laws.

"Moreover, that answer requires everyone to consider it and act towards it. Will the international community remain unwilling or unable to apply humanitarian legal standards to Israel, even when the occupying state assumes its responsibilities towards the occupied people? Is Israel allowed to eliminate even the waning chances of achieving a two-state solution?

"The Palestinian side, the authority and the people, must move with an integrated and diversified plan to confront this painful and inhumane reality. The Arab countries must also accurately assess the situation and define their requirements towards Israel in order to preserve the foundations of the peace process, even if conditions do not allow for negotiations at present. These countries must also determine in advance what unacceptable Israeli provocations towards the Palestinians are, and inform the Prime Minister of Israel as well as the members of the Quartet, led by US President Joe Biden and the UN Secretary-General."

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Sunday, 26 March 2023