We are still far from achieving peace and a just solution to the Palestinian cause

We are still far from achieving peace and a just solution to the Palestinian cause
* Academic and former minister 

In a time of turmoil, disintegration, open conflicts, and the apparent inability in emerging from our self-perpetuating and almost intractable Arab crises, the Palestinian cause, and along with it the Arab-Zionist conflict, remain at the heart of questions about the future of the Arabs, no matter how it is apparently disguised in frailty and fears and resorts to a realism that surrenders to the current power relationships, not only in our region, but all over world. It is true that the Arab peoples have not openly opposed their rulers with alternative stances and policies they chose or were driven to adopt. But it is also true that Arab public opinion, despite the faint voices and the manifestations of complacency and submissiveness, still believes in the power of Palestinian and Arab rights in the face of Israeli arrogance, occupation and racism. Perhaps this duality, firm stance and reluctance to announce it, is not an inevitable fate, as indicated by field studies and various surveys. We should objectively view the path and future of Arab-Israeli normalization, and the potential US policy after Democratic candidate Joe Biden was elected president.

Since the days of President Barack Obama, the US inclination to a gradual withdrawal from the Middle East has strengthened, and it has continued to do so, despite the different causes and motives, during President Donald Trump’s term. Since Washington abstained from retaliating to the attacks that targeted the oil facilities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the fears of some Gulf states rulers have increased about the growing potency of Iranian threats in the region. This led two states to sign “peace deals” with Israel which they see as a major military and technological power in the Middle East that will potentially stand by them if they face threats, and that is also capable of prevent the US from getting out of its commitment to protect the security of the Gulf and its regimes. The “peace deals” were reached at no cost incurred by Israel. Regardless of the Gulf states’ desire for Israeli abandonment of annexing large parts of the occupied West Bank, the Israeli creeping annexation of the Palestinian land went on, the latest acts of which was manifested in the Knesset approval of a draft law that would legitimize the settlement outposts in the West Bank, which Israeli law itself considers illegal. As for some African Arab countries which have pursued the path to normalization with Israel, Donald Trump took advantage of their special conditions to strike “deals” with them at the expense of the Palestinian cause.

In fact, Arab-Israeli normalization has led to the consent of concerned countries to Jewish settlement and the annexation project on the one hand, and to abandoning the demand for the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland on the other hand, which implies their implantation in the country of residence and luring the countries that host them, including Lebanon, with financial aid to make that happen. The “peace deals” came as an overt retreat from the Arab Peace Initiative unanimously approved in the Beirut Summit in 2002, which stipulated trading normalization between Arab countries and Israel for its withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and finding a just and agreed solution to the issue of the Palestinian refugees in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

With regard to the United States after Biden’s election, it is no secret that  he is a friend of Israel, and he will not retract Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel and moving the US embassy to it. It is also likely that he will support any future normalization with Israel that this or that Arab country has an inclination or is preparing for. On the other hand, he will most likely assume a conservative stance on the Israeli annexation project, and his administration will likely resume providing aid to the Palestinians and UNRWA, reopen the US consulate in East Jerusalem, and the PLO office in Washington. By declaring adherence to the “two states for two peoples” solution, the US will not hesitate as usual, since it imposed itself as the sole “mediator”, to exert pressure on the Palestinians to bring them back to direct bilateral negotiations with Israel, away from the international conference the Palestinian leadership has called for. Thus, the US will adopt once again the “conflict containment” and “crisis management” approach rather than seeking a just and final solution that is in line with the UN resolutions. In this context, one may wonder if the US administration under Biden, will reiterate its commitment to the UN Security Council Resolution 2334 adopted on December 23, 2016 by a majority of 14 votes, while the US abstained from voting. The resolution affirms the illegality of the settlements in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, considers its establishment a flagrant violation of international law, and calls for an immediate cessation of all settlement activities in the occupied territories.

In light of the above, we are still far from achieving peace in the region and finding a just solution to the Palestinian cause. It is not expected that the conditions of the Palestinians in the Arab countries will change, nor is it expected that new possibilities will be offered to them. Wherever they live, it remains for the Palestinians to garner their potential, rebuild their unified national institutions, rise above their destructive divisions, restore their moral and political strengths to face the occupation, and contribute to mobilizing popular support in the Arab world and global support for their just cause.