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The deadline for the first stage of the Road Map was May 2003, it has expired three months ago.
The Hudna (cease fire) was declared unilaterally by the Palestinians for three months, but it didn’t last even for two months. During that period the Israeli Government continued the confiscation of Lands, demolition of Palestinian houses, building new houses in the settlements and the eight meters high wall of hate, violating the principles of the first stage of the RM. The new Palestinian Government didn’t even have the opportunity to prove if it has the capacity and the political will to prevent suicide attacks. Israel continued its policy of targeted killings of Palestinian activists and political leaders, and also civilians, by inevitable ‘accidents’.
The humiliation of occupation continued, and with it the mutual hate between Israelis and Palestinians, that led to the loss of hope. In the last three years, Palestinians and Israelis saw only the ugly faces of each other: Palestinians saw soldiers, settlers and helicopters. The Israelis saw suicide bombers. Almost no peace seekers in both sides were able to cross the border lines that separate Israeli citizens from the occupied Palestinians. Most people ready to cross these lines were those ready to use violence against each other.
The actions of Israeli civil society grew in the last year significantly in different specific fields, from solidarity actions done by Taayush, the committee against House demolition, to civil rights protection like Machsom Watch and Betselem; from concrete struggles against manifestations of the occupation, like the struggle against the separation Wall in Mas’ha Camp, to the struggle against the military actions of the COs.
Our problem is that under military occupation and Palestinian violent resistance it is very difficult to build an effective and powerful civil society, neither on the Palestinian side nor on the Israeli side, and for sure not a Jewish-Palestinian civil society. Freedom is a precondition for a powerful civil society; not only freedom of thought and speech, but also freedom of movement and organization. In the present situation, in the absence of these basic rights, we cannot speak about a genuine civil society; of course we cannot speak about functioning democratic institutions and processes. All the polls show that the majority of Palestinians and Israelis supported the continuation of the Hudna. If we were in democratic conditions the Hudna would have lasted. However under military occupation, civil society doesn’t have the capacity to prevent violence. In the absence of an organized and empowered civil society, the public space is occupied by its rival: the military society.
The Palestinian military society reacts to the violent Israeli repression by killing innocent Israeli civilians in sanguineous suicide attacks. The experience of the last three years clearly shows that the Palestinian violence is a reaction to Israeli repression; however it is not a strategy. Here is my most important message to this Conference: The Palestinians are trapped in a vicious circle, and they cannot escape it without international help. At the moment that the problem is defined by Israel and the US as a question of security and terror, and not of occupation and resistance, the Palestinians are trapped. They cannot develop an effective strategy of resistance: when they don’t use violence the Israeli public opinion is not concerned, and the political system is not under pressure to dismantle the occupation. However when the Palestinian resistance uses violence, the Israeli citizens feel under security threat and they support the expansion of repression.
The crucial problem is not security, but the uneven power relations between Israelis and Palestinians, and the ascendance of the military society over the civil society. Insecurity is the symptom, not the illness. The definition of the problem as absence of security, detached from the fundamental issue of occupation, is the trap. Let’s call it the insecurity trap. This detachment was implicit in the Oslo accords, and it is in the RM too. In both cases the Israeli Government has the right to continue the occupation, if the Palestinian authorities don’t protect Israeli citizens. However the security cooperation is illegitimate in Palestinian eyes, if it doesn’t deliver the goods, namely, if it doesn’t help ending the occupation. Moreover, Israel can continue the occupation also if it has security, in the absence of full agreement on all the issues of negotiation (refugees, Jerusalem, Holly places). That was the case of the Camp David negotiations: if there is no full agreement the occupation continues, and the Palestinians are blamed.
Ending the occupation cannot be an issue of Israeli political decision making. This is a matter of international responsibility. If ending the occupation remains an internal Israeli question, the Palestinians will remain trapped in the insecurity trap, without an effective strategy of resistance. What is the main problem of the RM? It legitimizes implicitly the continuation of the occupation, while it demands from the Palestinians building effective and transparent democratic institutions as a precondition to independence. I have never heard about ‘democratic conditionality’ for Independence and sovereignty. I know that sometimes this is a condition for IMF loans, but not for sovereignty over Lands. I also don’t know a single case of transparent and efficient democratic institutions under military occupation.
The most immediate need to save the RM is to correct its’ first stage, that didn’t work until now. I am speaking of saving the RM not so much because it was properly designed, but because this is the only political process we have now, and because it is not a unilateral imposition of the US, but a negotiation with the international community. Moreover, after the US confrontation with the UN in the last year, and the evident fiasco of the occupation of Iraq, may be there is a window of opportunity. Several voices in the US are calling for a revision of US policies, considering cooperation with the UN.
The RM promised in the third stage a viable and Independent Palestinian State in 2005, however in the first stage it creates an impossible situation, and if it is not corrected it is doomed to fail. It wasn’t by mistake that the most extremist parties in Israel remained members of Sharon’s coalition Government after the adoption of the RM: these parties understood that there is no chance that the RM will reach the second stage, so they can trust Sharon that when he says yes to the RM he knows why.
The first stage of the RM designed to end violence must be corrected, because without minimal conditions of security and freedom for the Palestinians it is impossible to stop the circle of violence. The first stage of the RM is designed to stop violence; however it neglects the essential fact that the occupation is in itself violence. It is impossible to eradicate violence before a concrete plan to end the occupation is designed, and sufficient international guarantees are given for its implementation. Indeed halting the present wave of violence is a precondition to stabilize the situation and to make substantial progress. However it is a mistake to assume that halting violence is possible while the Palestinians remain under direct rule of Israeli occupation.
In March 2002, long before the Hudna and the RM, even before the reoccupation of the PA territories in April, a group of six hundred Israelis sent a letter to the UN secretary urging him to deploy UN effective peace task forces in the occupied territories. (I was one of the initiators of that letter, together with Yehudit Harel) Since then the need for such a move has increased immeasurably. I am aware of the fact that the previous Conference of this forum in September 2002 adopted our call; however it was one of the points among many others. In my opinion it must be clear that this is a fundamental precondition to halt the present wave of violence. This is the substantial correction needed in the first stage of the RM in order to reactivate it; otherwise it will follow the fate of the Mitchell report or the Tenet plan, and for the same reasons.
If we want to move towards ending the occupation we need a durable cease fire. In order to implement the cease fire the active participation of UN peace keeping forces is needed, aiming to separate between the Israeli forces of occupation (the IDF and the settlers) and the Palestinian population. Only when the Palestinians will feel protected from the every day humiliation and killings, and at the moment they will be granted freedom of movement, they will produce substantial support in the civil society to restrain the military society.
The UN peace keeping forces must be large enough in order to be effective. The first step in implementing the RM is, in my opinion, very simple: the Palestinians must declare a new and longer Hudna, Israel must withdraw from the areas occupied since September 28, 2000, and the UN must deploy its peace keeping forces in the Palestinian areas. The three moves must be done simultaneously and unconditionally, within a time framework of two-three weeks, and coordinated by the UN forces.
The essence is that Palestinians must stop seeing everyday Israeli soldiers that rule their lives. The UN forces must be built of States that are trusted by both sides. Here I want to make a sensitive but important clarification. US military forces cannot be part of the international peace force. In the last year the US has lost all its credibility in the eyes of the Arab public opinion, and it is seen as another occupying force. Sending US forces together with the UN forces will encourage extremist aggressions. The UN forces must be seen as a genuine protection to the Palestinians, and not a new form of occupation and humiliation.
The UN forces must stay until the end of occupation. The dismantlement of Israeli settlements and the redeployment of Israeli military forces will take one or two years. Ending the occupation must produce a permanent Hudna, a non belligerence accord. Only then the parties will be able to launch the negotiations on the "historical compromise". I would like to emphasize here this point, despite the fact that I cannot expand on the issue. The concept of peace negotiations is blurring the distinction between ending the occupation and the issues of the "historical compromise". We need first of all to halt violence, and advance towards ending the occupation and Palestinian Independence. Only then the parties will be able to launch negotiations, in a more even situation, liberated from the present vicious circle.
I want to be very sincere with you. I am calling to protect the Palestinians as an Israeli patriot with a Zionist conviction. I am concerned with the everyday dangers of Israeli citizens in Israel. Only when the Palestinians will be protected from Israeli military violence, the Israeli citizens will be able to be secured from suicide bombers. In other words, I am calling to protect the Palestinians also because their insecurity creates my insecurity, the insecurity of my family, my friends, my students, my community. I don’t see here a contradiction. I am not in conflict with the Palestinian people; I am against the occupation. The conclusion is that the occupation is the enemy of all of us, Israelis and Palestinians, and we need help from the international community to end it.
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