The international failure to accept the final breakdown of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was yet again highlighted in the communique issued in Sydney on 18 January 2011 at the conclusion of the Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations between Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd and Minister for Defence Stephen Smith, and the United Kingdom’s First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague and Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox.
...It seems as though both countries were living in a dream world of their own as they solemnly pronounced:
“Australia and the UK highlighted their strong support for a just and enduring peace in the Middle East based on a negotiated two-state solution where Israel and a future Palestinian state live side by side in peace and security. Both countries highlighted the urgent need for Israel and the Palestinians to return, as a matter of urgency, to direct talks on final status issues, and to refrain from actions which undermined confidence, such as settlement construction. Both countries reaffirmed their practical support for Palestinian institution-building in preparation for statehood.”Surely the Ministers were engaging in wishful thinking with no possible hope of their wish-list ever coming to fruition.
■direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority effectively ended,
■an impotent Quartet comprising America, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations unable to bring the parties together and
■a raft of countries recognizing or threatening to recognize a non-existent, undefined and undeclared 22nd Arab State between Israel, Jordan and Egypt in flagrant violation of international law
- it surely is time to question whether there is any reasonable prospect of ever achieving a negotiated two-state solution between Jews and Arabs pursuant to the Oslo Accords formulated in 1993 and the Roadmap proposed by President Bush in 2002.
There are those countries such as Australia and Great Britain that apparently believe such a resolution is still possible.
Yet 17 years of negotiations have only seen
■the division of the West Bank into three administrative districts and
■the unilateral decision taken by Israel to evacuate Gaza in 2005.
The evacuation of Gaza has proved a total disaster
■ruining the lives of thousands of Jews forcibly removed from their homes,
■splitting the area proposed for the new Arab state – the West Bank and Gaza – into two separate and separately administered entities with no prospects of reconciliation between the two governing political entities – the Palestinian Authority and Hamas
■sparking the return of Israel’s army to Gaza in December 2009 to root out the threat posed to Israel’s civilian population by the indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets from Gaza
■causing Israel and Egypt to impose a blockade to prevent the entry of terrorists, arms and war materiel into Gaza
■Witnessing an ever increasing level of violence from Gaza and retaliation by Israel
Gaza and Hamas now appear to have been placed in the “too hard basket” by the international community. Instead it has thrown its weight behind the Palestinian Authority in seeking to resolve the issue of sovereignty in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – a far cry from the two-state solution posited by Oslo and the Roadmap.
Administrative responsibility for 95% of the West Bank Arab population has been vested in the Palestinian Authority and has indeed begun to see a marked improvement in their daily lives.
However the continuing refusal of the Palestinian Authority to moderate its political claims to sovereignty in anything less than 100% of the entire territory of the West Bank remains a stumbling block that has precluded any progress at all in resolving the division of sovereignty in the West Bank between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
There are other impediments to the conflict that have defied resolution and increasingly make it certain that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are already dead and buried.
If countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom still believe otherwise – then they would do well to seek answers to the following questions from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority:
- Is the Palestinian Authority prepared to recognize Israel as the Jewish National Home reconstituted pursuant to the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter?
- Does the Palestinian Authority intend to persist with its demand that every square centimeter of the West Bank be ceded to it by Israel or is it prepared to accept less in exchange for an equivalent land swap by Israel?
- Is Israel prepared to contemplate a land swap?
- Is the Palestinian Authority still committed to former Arab residents of what is now Israel or their descendants being given the right to return to live there, what would be the appropriate number the Palestinian Authority would demand be given this right and what number would Israel be prepared to accept?
- Is Israel prepared to allow the creation of a 22nd Arab State between Israel and Jordan in the West Bank with full and unfettered access and control over West Bank air space?
- Is the Palestinian Authority prepared to accept a State in the West Bank with restricted control over its air space?
- Is Israel prepared to evacuate and relocate all the Jewish residents of the West Bank?
- Is Israel prepared to cede its claims to sovereignty in any part of Jerusalem?
The sooner alternative solutions are introduced to replace the failed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority – the sooner the current dangerous impasse that threatens the resumption of hostilities can be averted.