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26 Jul, 2011 10:41

Israelis and Palestinians gear up for final diplomatic battle

In response to the Palestinians’ decision to declare statehood at the UN General Assembly in September, Israel has started drafting options of “punishing” Palestinians if they proceed with their quest for independence.

The latest threat to the Middle East peace process is a promise from Israel to scrap the Oslo Accords, a 1993 agreement which is the main roadmap for a resolution to the conflict.However, this response to a possible decision of the UN is not the only one. The Israeli National Security Council started drafting a set of possible responses in case the independence of Palestine is recognized, Haaretz newspaper reported. Security Council will introduce its recommendations in September, when the UN is due to render its decision over Palestinian statehood.Meanwhile, the draft of the UN resolution on the recognition of an independent Palestinian state is expected to be presented during a meeting of representatives of the Palestinian Authority and several Arab States in Doha, Qatar, on August 4. A spokesperson from Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yigal Palmor, claims that this “punishment”, stirred up by the media, is just propagandist fiction from the Palestinian side, which decided to ignore negotiations and go straight to the UN in breach of existing agreements.“That will have legal implications,” he told RT. “They must bear the consequences, and now we are examining what this would mean to relations between Israel and the Palestinians.”“We are not threatening anyone,” he added. “On the contrary, we are under threat. Israel has evacuated the Gaza Strip completely in 2005, handed it over to the Palestinian authority and hoped that this would dynamize [sic] the peace process. We were helping the Palestinian authority to work together for the prosperity of Gaza. And yet, Gaza is now a platform for terror attacks against Israel.”The peace talks between Israel and Palestine have been stalled since last September when Israel resumed settlement building. But Yigal Palmor believes everything that has been done is the consequence of the Palestinian policy.“I could give you a full list of provocative moves by the Palestinians, and that is precisely because we have our grievances and they have a grievance, or many grievances that we need to negotiate,” he said. “The settlement issue can and will be solved but only if addressed in a negotiation, and through talking, through dialogue.”Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas continues to gather international support for the UN vote despite Israeli threats. Reportedly over 100 countries have promised support in September. Yigal Palmor says the whole thing is about “scoring some PR points.”“If they can get some sort of symbolic satisfaction at the UN nothing will change on the ground, and everybody knows that,” he said. “A negotiation means concessions. If you go to the UN you don’t need to concede anything. Things will not move forward right here on the ground where they need to make progress.”Yigal Palmor says Israel wants to negotiate a peace treaty that will give security to both sides“The issue is, will this Palestinian state come out of an agreement, because if there is no agreement there will be no recognition and no state,” he said. “And once it is established can we have the guarantees that this will be real peace, or will this be only a phase in the Palestinians’ plan to continue to combat and battle Israel, but under improved conditions, from their point of view.”Politics and International Studies professor at San Francisco University, Dr. Stephen Zunes, explained what’s behind the Palestinian declaration. “Declaring independence based on the 22 per cent of Palestine that was occupied by Israel back in 1967, they [the Palestinians] are hoping to essentially force a crisis to isolate Israel and the US in the international community, get recognition from much of the rest of the world and hope that that would move the process forward. It’s not a desperate act. It may not work, but in many ways the Oslo process died many years ago,” he said.

Oslo Accords no use to Palestinians

Israel's possible decision to scrap the key agreement is a threat to try to get the Palestinians back down, says Robert Naiman from the Just Foreign Policy campaign group. But it will not succeed, because the Palestinians do not really rely on the Oslo Accords, which failed to help them establish an independent state. “Palestinians don’t see the Oslo process as having worked. And if it’s not leading to a Palestinian state, then it’s not useful to them.”The point of the push to UN recognition is to increase pressure not only on the Israeli government, but on the US and the international community to move forward towards the Palestinian state.The status quo is unacceptable for Palestinians because it may lead to Israel’s annexation of the West Bank, Naiman warns.There has recently been a theme in Palestinian diplomacy to highlight the difference between the stated US policy and what the US is actually doing.The United States has a stated policy against Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, notes Naiman. But Washington failed to get the Israeli government to agree to keep to its commitment and vetoed the Palestinian resolution condemning Israeli settlement expansion at the UN.“What the US is doing in opposing the Palestinian move in the UN is trying to keep the Palestinians in the US sandbox, even though the US sandbox, the peace process, is not leading towards Palestinian aspirations for an independent state.”

“Israel will only make its own position isolated”

Political writer and blogger Emily Hauser believes Israel will achieve nothing if it cancels the Oslo Accords, but “will only make its own position more isolated and more difficult to negotiate out of.”Moreover, she says there is no “Jedi mind trick” to be done to make the Oslo Accords disappear.“This is an internationally recognized bilateral agreement, it is not Israel breaking up with her boyfriend,” she said. ”You can’t just cancel something.”“It does not seem it is being considered all that seriously,” she said. “The report put it as not the ‘leading alternative’. To me it reads as Israeli officials’ spitballing in kind of a state of desperation.”