Israel Must Remember: Every Occupation Eventually Collapses

If Israel does not recognize that it is an occupying power denying the Palestinians their basic, legitimate rights, it will find itself embroiled ever deeper in this bitter conflict.

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Yasser Arafat and Ahmed Qureia in Ramallah in 2002.
Yasser Arafat and Ahmed Qureia in Ramallah in 2002.Credit: AP
Ahmed Qureia (Abu Alaa)

According to a proverb derived from the common experience of all nations and peoples, there is no point crying over spilt milk. However, alongside this piece of eternal wisdom, there is the need for essential scrutiny, in order to avoid repetition of the event in question, to prevent regret, and to avert future mistakes. Such an approach is also in keeping with the theory of trial and error employed in scientific laboratories.


I believe that, politically, we now find ourselves in a moment in time that presents an unprecedented level of candor. All the dimensions and components of our situation are being exposed, as are political interactions and their repercussions.

Such a reality instructs us that it is foolhardy to employ blind force or misjudge the consequences of continually absconding from paying one’s dues and abiding by commitments. It is futile to gamble on the passage of time being a factor that will change the essence of entrenched realities.

If we wish to be candid, the portrayal of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as being merely a state of frozen diplomatic relations is a mischaracterization of a deadlock that has, over time, evolved into the clinical death of the political process.

Embarking on a political process was a major breakthrough following a long history of animosity. Indeed, it began promisingly, with significant shifts in the course of both the conflict itself and also in the wider regional context.

Each side could now attribute culpability to the other for what has become of the aborted peace process. Each side could again blame the other, as has long been the norm over the course of our political confrontations. However, this will not bring about change. It will only lead to prolonging the deepening crisis, a disregard for reality, and the open-ended deferral of outstanding obligations. By doing so, we would be placing our fate, and that of our future generations, in the hands of forces of religious extremism, racism and terrorism.

It is a truism that each crisis has its own unique logic, while each conflict has its own dynamism rooted in its configuration and facets. This conflict is no different – and it will continue to escalate as long as we rely on the passage of time, callous force and a policy of maintaining the status quo.

Former Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia and opposition leader Tzipi Livni, in Jerusalem on July 11, 2010Credit: Itzik Edrey

Win-win formula

It is also exacerbated by both disregarding the narrative of the other side and by repudiating its right to freedom, independence, self-determination and sovereignty – rights enjoyed by all other nations of the world.

Therefore, we now call for a new approach to the conflict while, at the same time, we must also strive to subvert its deadly forces. It is incumbent upon us to operate on the basis of a “win-win” formula so as to avoid sliding into renewed flare-ups. This will pave the way for us to replace bloodletting with substantial dialogue. We will leave behind the underhanded political dealings to which we have become accustomed, recognize the United Nations’ binding resolutions and abide by obligatory time frames.

In other words, it is incumbent upon us to first of all recognize that the Israeli occupation – which has spanned 48 years in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Syrian Golan Heights – is the prime root of evil and continues to be the source of sparks igniting flames around the region.

In the same way that a sick person cannot be treated without a precise diagnosis of his ailment, it is futile to expend any diplomatic efforts focusing on the side effects of this terminal disease while the lethal viruses that are causing its symptoms are not meaningfully tackled with appropriate treatment.

Thus, if Israel does not recognize that it is an occupying power denying the Palestinians their basic, legitimate rights and that it practices policies of systematic state terror that have no legal or moral footing, it will find itself embroiled ever deeper in this bitter conflict, the variables of which may well turn against it.

This is especially true given that Israel is suppressing a people that are clinging increasingly tightly to both their land and rights. Israel’s use of excessive force only generates greater feelings of hatred and desire for revenge, and takes us to the brink of an incurable religious conflict.

Of course, we realize that calls for goodwill will not fall on receptive ears in a society led by extremist right-wing political parties, whose government is controlled by expansionist settler groups. We are also aware that, throughout its history, Israel has not responded to any peace initiative, but rather backpedaled from them. After shedding yet more blood, Israel has ended up realizing it is impossible to maintain the status quo with armed force.

Time and again, this reality leads Israel to a withdrawal imposed by a higher power, rather than one implemented out of reason, wisdom and moderation.

I am in no doubt that such a realization will become ever more entrenched among Palestinians, or at least among wider sections of the youth. They have seen with their own eyes that the path taken by the generations of their parents and grandparents has been one of complete failure, and has led to nothing but the entrenchment of occupation, suppression and settlements. As such, they are now demanding of themselves that they adopt new approaches – perhaps even change direction – rather than continue with this state of impasse.

International agreements

Amid the deluge of frustration that is engulfing all levels, elites and sections of Palestinian society – all the more due to the extremist right-wing government and settlers that dominate Israel – talk of the two-state solution or even the possibility of a just and comprehensive peace has been rendered farcical. Meanwhile, the most rancorous of accusations are leveled at those left defending it.

Accordingly, in recent years we have been overcome by feelings of futility, as well as submission to our detractors from among our sons and daughters. We also feel that nothing can be achieved with a right-wing government that pledged, on the eve of the last Knesset election, that a Palestinian state will not be established.

We recognize that we erred in our comprehension of their lack of regard for international agreements and mutual understandings. Indeed, they now no longer attribute any importance to them at all.

I would like to highlight the fact that the writer of this article – which is awash with bitterness – is one of those who led the process of change during a period of conflict under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, a Palestinian leader whose like will never be seen again.

This article is written by one of those who signed their initials on the Oslo Accords on that day so long ago. This demonstrates to the greatest extent possible the exacerbation of the despair felt toward a process that has been torpedoed by Israel before the world’s eyes and then used for increased settlement-building and Judaization. Meanwhile, the peace process has not moved us a single step closer to peace.

It is a fact that the Palestinians are in a state of even greater hardship due to all the failures on the path to peace. Indeed, regional and international circumstances do not render it likely that the peace process will be revived from its protracted coma.

It is also a fact that we will remain on this land and will continue to hold fast to our rights until God wills otherwise. The current situation cannot go on as it is. Every occupation eventually collapses – whatever one wishes or denies. We have rights that neither we nor our future generations will cede. History bears witness to that fact.

Almost five decades of Israeli occupation have passed. Over that time, the world has undergone multiple transformations. On a regional level, all variables have changed, as has been the case with respect to the Palestinians in particular. Empires have fallen and states have been established. Wars and insurrections have been waged. Concepts, values and interests have also evolved.

Israel alone has remained recalcitrantly opposed to change. It continues to ride those same old horses: the doctrines of settlement-building and military force, safeguarding itself with suppression and subjugation, moving from extremism to even more extreme extremism. This should serve as a warning to sound-minded people. As God said, “Heed the admonition, O people of understanding.”

The writer was Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority. He served as head of the Palestinian Delegation to the Oslo negotiations.