Dr. Saeb Erekat| Published in The National June 25, 2019
A few weeks ago marked the day, 52 years ago, when the Israeli occupation of 1967 began. Under international law, military occupation essentially means to control with hostile armed forces. That is precisely what Israel has done to the land and people of Palestine. Israel has put in place an illegal colonial settlement enterprise that aims to deny Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
On the diplomatic front, the same day marked 52 years of international condemnation, without a single concrete action to hold Israel accountable for its systematic violations of international law, human rights and UN resolutions.
The administration of US President Donald Trump now wants to put a particularly bitter cherry on top of all of this. The US now seeks the normalisation of the Israeli occupation and settlements, and is attempting to buying Palestinian rights by presenting us with its so-called economic plan. The Trump team is composed of bankruptcy lawyers and real-estate agents, not diplomatic experts, and our response is this: “Palestine is not for sale”.
In an effort to achieve peace via a lasting agreement, Palestine has already made a hard concession. In 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organisation declared the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders, endorsing Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, among all other relevant resolutions, the UN Charter and all the principles of international law. This historic concession meant recognising the two-state solution with the State of Palestine on only 22 per cent of our homeland.
Israel’s response to that historic and painful compromise was to accelerate its illegal colonial settlement enterprise. In fact, it has tripled the number of settlers over the past 20 years of the peace process.
Israel again responded with more violence to the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which, supported by the Palestinian Authority, offered Israel full normalisation with 57 Arab and Muslim countries, in return for a withdrawal to 1967 borders, and a just and agreed-upon solution for refugees, based on UN resolution 194, which includes the right of return.
In February 2018, Israel rejected Palestine's Peace Initiative, presented by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the UN Security Council. The plan called for the convening of an international peace conference, direct negotiations with Israel, and the implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative. Meanwhile, the Trump administration continued to engage in an economic war against Palestine, encouraging Israeli settlements and legitimising Israeli violations of international law.
The US’s illegal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital reflects that its vision is far away from achieving a just and lasting peace between Israelis, Palestinians and the rest of the region. The Trump administration has been trying to force our surrender and impose terms that aim to legitimise the Israeli colonial settlement enterprise.
Washington has engaged in a process that threatens to set dangerous precedents for the international community, such as legitimising the acquisition of land by force in the cases of Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights, as well as setting the ground for further Israeli annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory – a war crime under international law.
What Palestine seeks is the implementation of our internationally recognised and long-overdue rights. Nothing more and nothing less. The Trump administration, however, cannot accept our nation’s right to live in freedom and dignity. Its team, composed of hardcore pro-settlement ideologues, who lack the necessary skills of diplomacy and are not versed in international law, can only see the world from the eyes of a CEO. We are talking about national liberation, justice, and equality, and those principles can never be devalued.
We should examine the Manama Economic Workshop and the US Economic Plan within this context. There would be no Manama without the US-waged economic war against the Palestinian people, the legitimisation of Israeli settlements, the strangulation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the closure of our mission in Washington and the US Consulate of Jerusalem, or the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. That is why we are telling those going to Manama that they should make it explicit that they are merely representing their interests, not those of the people of Palestine.
The economic crisis in Palestine is not caused by a natural catastrophe or by lack of human resources. It comes as a consequence of the Israeli occupation, the theft of our land and natural resources, the siege of our people, and the use of our airspace and maritime territory.
It is not about beautiful graphics and eye-catching coloured lines. As long as there is no Palestinian sovereignty over its economy, there will be no prosperity. The key idea remains "land for peace", not the fake slogan of "peace to prosperity" displayed in Manama.