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21-Jul-2020 02:31:00
Palestinians witnessing ‘crushing of their dream’ of own independent, sovereign state, veteran academic tells Security Council.

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Support has gradually tilted in favour of a one-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the past decade among Palestinians due to the grim reality on the ground, a veteran researcher told the Security Council in a 21 July video conference meeting.

“Palestinians witness the crushing of their dream of one day seeing the ending of the Israeli occupation of their land and the building of their own independent and sovereign State,” said Khalil Shikaki, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

In May, more than three quarters of Palestinians surveyed did not believe that a Palestinian State would be created in the next five years, he noted. Most are torn between insisting on their national aspiration for decolonization, building a State of their own, and their recognition that it is not feasible anymore because of the grim reality on the ground in which Israeli settlement expansion destroys day by day the chance for peace based on partition.

Many of them, particularly the youth, driven not only by this reality, but admittedly by a high degree of discouragement given their own domestic shortcomings, have come to embrace a one-State solution, one in which all Jews and all Palestinians have equal rights, he said.

Turning to the United States plan on the Middle East peace process, titled Vision for Peace, he said that if implemented, it would create a one-State solution in which Palestinians are denied their basic right to elect those who set the important rules by which they are governed; a future invitation to greater discrimination and violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

The Trump plan and its annexationist corollary send the message to Palestinians and Israelis that the two-State formula is out of reach, perhaps dead and buried, Mr. Shikaki said, urging Council members to stand up to the current United States and Israeli Administrations and protect the norms and rules of the international system. “Afterall, protecting that system is your own raison d’être,” he said.

“Our findings clearly show that the two publics are not an impediment to peace,” he said. “With the right leadership and the right incentives, the two publics can be brought to support a detailed identical vision of peace based on a real, not make-believe, two-State solution.”

Also briefing the Council was Daniel Levy, President of the United States/Middle East Project, who urged the 15-member organ to explore, together with the Secretary-General, a mechanism to assess and evaluate its record and effectiveness on the Israel-Palestine issue and consider convening a commission or other appropriate vehicle to appraise anew approaches to resolving this longstanding conflict.

He said the prospect of the partition question needs to be revisited in the not-too-distant future. Given the gap between what is necessary for a genuine two-State outcome and the reality on the ground, the Council should consider, alongside expressing a preference for two States, acknowledging a readiness to engage with other ideas, so long as any alternatives respect one irrevocable standard, namely full enfranchisement, equal and democratic rights for all of those within the political and physical space in question.

Noting that as of 21 July, there has been no further Israeli annexation on the West Bank, he stated that this is not a moment for self-congratulation. “Keep Champagne on ice,” he said, adding that refraining from de jure annexation carries no reward and avoiding criminality is normative, not praiseworthy.

He urged the Council to ensure accountability, pointing out that occupation has become cost-free for Israel while it should be costly. The issues of human rights and international legality should no longer be subordinated to maintaining a peace process and must be front and centre, he added.

A plan that strips all attributes of sovereign Statehood cannot offer a path to peace, and pre-emptively normalizing regional relations with Israel while occupation continues is to indulge maximalism, he said.

Presenting periodic updates on the situation in that region, Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative, said that the ferocity of the COVID-19 virus and its devastating human and economic toll demand extraordinary measures beyond politics-as-usual.

“We must use the opportunity presented by the current crises to move forward, and to regain the path towards a negotiated two-State solution, built on a just and sustainable resolution to the conflict in line with relevant UN resolutions, bilateral agreements and international law,” he said.

Stressing the need to restart diplomacy, he reiterated the Secretary-General’s call to the members of the Middle East Quartet, the Arab countries, and the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to urgently re-engage.

He noted that Palestinians and Israelis are grappling with a complex and potentially destabilizing three-pronged crisis: First, an escalating health crisis as both struggle to contain the rapid spike of coronavirus cases. Second, a spiralling economic crisis as businesses close, unemployment soars, protests increase, and the economy suffers the financial impact of months of lockdowns and restrictions. And third, a mounting political confrontation, driven by the threat of Israeli annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, and the steps taken in response by the Palestinian leadership.

In recent weeks, the region and the broader international community have continued to express their firm rejection of annexation, he said, reiterating the Secretary-General’s call on Israel’s Government to abandon plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

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