Exactly nine months ago, the Palestine Liberation Organization, in light of the extraordinary efforts deployed by US Secretary of State John Kerry, decided to enter nine months of negotiations with the Israeli government, in order to reach a final status agreement. According to US assurances, negotiations were to be based on the 1967 border and tackle all final status issues including Jerusalem, borders, and refugees, among others.
It was also nine months ago when, following an extraordinarily difficult decision, President Mahmoud Abbas announced the postponement of our accession to international conventions and UN organizations in exchange for the release of 104 pre-Oslo prisoners, including Palestinian citizens of Israel. The last group of 20 prisoners are still in Israeli prisons.
Unfortunately, Israel never gave the negotiations a chance to succeed. Everything Israel did during the past nine months aimed at sabotaging Palestinian and international efforts to achieve the two-state solution. To build settlements in occupied land, kill Palestinians and demolish hundreds of Palestinian homes is certainly not the behavior of a government that wants to end occupation but of a government that wants to turn occupation into annexation. Rather than using nine months to achieve a two-state solution, the government of PM Netanyahu has used every possible tool in order to consolidate its Apartheid regime. There is no other word to define this system of segregation and discrimination that has been imposed on our occupied country by the State of Israel.
We remained fully committed to this 9 month process, despite an escalation of oppressive Israeli policies. Israel should once and for all understand that negotiations are a peaceful tool towards achieving peace rather than a smoke screen behind which it can continue its violations of human rights, further its settlement enterprise and make the two-state solution increasingly impossible.
Last week, using our national reconciliation as yet another pretext, PM Netanyahu decided to end the negotiations process. If this Israeli government were sincerely interested in peace, it would have taken Palestinian national reconciliation as an opportunity for peace rather than an opportunity for a new blame game.
The Central Council of the PLO met last weekend and decided that resumption of negotiations is possible upon Israel’s respect of its commitments and obligations, including the implementation of signed agreements and an unequivocal compliance with the pre-1967 borders and UN resolutions. The Central council dismissed Israeli threats and the aggressive campaign against the national reconciliation process. It reaffirmed the sovereign right of Palestine to pursue its independence through diplomatic and non-violent means, including popular resistance and international instruments gained as a result of Palestine’s enhancement of status to Observer State at the UNGA in November 2012. After 47 years of belligerent occupation and 66 years of exile, we owe it to our people to fulfill their rights through every legitimate mean possible.
The Government of Israel, a ruling coalition representing the most extremist sectors of Israeli society, including the settler movement, never prioritized peace as a strategic objective. We believe that the international community must now do what is needed, in order to make clear to Israel that choosing settlements and Apartheid over peace has a political, legal and economic cost.