|Dr. Tony Klug|
Palestinian-American businessman Sam Bahour (who met with our visiting delegation to Ramallah in 2012) and British-Jewish peace activist and Mideast policy analyst Tony Klug have co-authored an article in the English Edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, “If Kerry fails, what then?” They propose an international ultimatum to Israel for a three-year period for its decision on how to resolve its relationship with the Palestinian Territories. We are not endorsing this idea, but only sharing it for the purpose of discussion. This is an abridged version of the article, with some additional comments beneath it:
. . . Our proposal takes as its starting point the need to resolve two crucial ambiguities regarding Israel’s control of the West Bank and Gaza: its rule over the Palestinians and the colonization of their land. . . .
First, is it, or is it not, an occupation? The entire world, including the US, thinks it is, and therefore considers the Fourth Geneva Convention and other relevant provisions of international law to apply. The Israeli government contests this on technical grounds, . . .
Israel has maintained that the Geneva Convention does not strictly apply, and therefore it is not legally forbidden from annexing, expropriating and permanently settling parts of the territory it captured during the 1967 Arab-Israel war.
But at other times, the Israeli authorities rely on the Geneva Convention to validate its policies, particularly with regard to treating Palestinians under Israel’s jurisdiction but outside its sovereign territory differently from Israeli citizens, citing the provisions that prohibit altering the legal status of an occupied territory’s inhabitants.
This ambiguity has served the occupying power well, enabling it to cherry-pick the articles of the Geneva Convention and have the best of both worlds, while the occupied people has the worst of them.
Our contention is that the occupying power should no longer be able to have it both ways. The laws of occupation either apply or do not apply. If it is an occupation, it is beyond time for Israel’s custodianship — supposedly provisional — to be brought to an end. If it is not an occupation, there is no justification for denying equal rights to everyone who is subject to Israeli rule, whether Israeli or Palestinian. . . .
The Israeli government should be put on notice that, by the 50th anniversary of the occupation, it must make up its mind definitively one way or the other. A half a century is surely enough time to decide. This would give it until June 2017 to make its choice between relinquishing the occupied territory — either directly to the Palestinians or possibly to a temporary international trusteeship in the first instance — or alternatively granting full and equal citizenship rights to everyone living under its jurisdiction.
Should Israel not choose the first option by the target date, it would be open to the international community to draw the conclusion that its government had plumped by default for the second option of civic equality. Other governments, individually or collectively, and international civil society, may then feel at liberty to hold the Israeli government accountable to that benchmark.
The three-year window would be likely to witness vigorous debate within Israel and induce new political currents that may be more conducive to a swift and authentic deal with the Palestinians over two states, probably within the framework of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative for which there is polling evidence of growing support among the Israeli population.
We need to break free of the divisive and increasingly stifling one-state-versus-two-states straightjacket that tends to polarize debate and in practice ends up perpetuating the status quo — which is a form of one state, albeit an inequitable one. The aim of our proposal is to bring matters to a head and to enable people to advocate equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis, in one form or another, free of the implication that this necessarily carries a threat to the existence of the state of Israel.
To be clear, this is not a call for a unitary state. How Israelis and Palestinians wish to live alongside each other is for them to decide and the indications still are that both peoples prefer to exercise their self-determination in their own independent states. . . . It would remain open to the Palestinians to continue to agitate for sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza, for a future Israeli government to relinquish these territories and, in extremis, for the Security Council to enforce the creation of two states through the UN Charter’s Chapter VII mechanism. . . .
Regarding Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter: “Action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression,” including provisions for the use of military force. Bahour and Klug also demand equal treatment for five million stateless Palestinians living in Arab countries, but do not lay out an enforcement mechanism.
Their proposal obviously depends upon a high degree of resolve within the international community—usually not known for being resolute—to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A peremptory demand of this nature might produce a backlash among Israelis to resist international finger-pointing; but it may also, as indicated, increase the likelihood of a new governing coalition committed to peace. Even now, without new elections, there is the theoretical possibility of a majority configuration within the Knesset for a government led by Labor and/or Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, with the support of Livni’s Hatenuah faction, Meretz, the predominantly Arab parties, and—critically—the ultra-Orthodox parties.
The option of Israel relinquishing the Palestinian Territories to an international trusteeship, as mentioned, was actually broached by a former leader of Meretz, Yossi Sarid, during the darkest days of the Second Intifada. A temporary arrangement of this nature, as a transition to independence, was implemented most recently in East Timor (from 1999 to 2002).
This proposal still probably leaves open for negotiations the questions of Jerusalem, settlements, the exact final boundaries and refugees—among others—but if this strategy were embraced by the international community (a big “if”), it could conceivably break the logjam in a positive way.