Opinion |

Palestinians Have a Clear Message for the New Israeli Government

Will Bennett perpetuate Netanyahu’s toxic policies towards the Palestinians? Will the EU and the Biden administration back up their fine words about rights and freedom?

Ahmad Majdalani
Ahmad Majdalani
Protesters demonstrate against the eviction in Sheikh Jarrah, last month
Protesters demonstrate against the eviction in Sheikh Jarrah, last monthCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ahmad Majdalani
Ahmad Majdalani

After having dedicated his political career to the destruction of any prospects of peace, Benjamin Netanyahu’s departure won’t be mourned by many worldwide, with the exception of his friends Orban, Bolsonaro and the team behind President Trump’s "Deal of the Century."

But the real issue isn’t about one name, one individual, but about the policies that represent his real legacy: Hateful incitement, racism, discrimination and an illegal colonial-settlement occupation are among the policies Mr. Netanyahu so strongly enshrined in Israel’s political life through laws such as the Jewish Nation State law.

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And the real question now is whether the new Israeli government is merely a name-change, or if it has any intention of ending that racist colonial legacy for the sake of a comprehensive and just political solution with the Palestinian people.

If the new Israeli government is interested in achieving a lasting peace, it should learn from the situation of the past weeks. It should be courageous enough to look into the root causes, and take a clear decision to look at the Palestinian people as equals,rather than as subjects of a Jewish supremacist approach all over historic Palestine.

The formula is not difficult. It begins with several immediate steps that this government must take in order to show its seriousness, including the implementation of the agreements Israel signed with the PLO.

Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset on Sunday

This is, of course, just an initial step: The end goal of any political process between Israel and Palestine should be the implementation of international law and relevant UN resolutions, including UN Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 2334. This should be taken as a basic principle for those who support a rules-based world order.

The signals that the new government will receive from the international community are particularly relevant. Any overtexcitement over the new government, in the absence of clear policies aimed at ending the occupation, will be taken by Israel as a green light to continue on its current path.

Only a few days ago, the EU High Representative Mr. Josep Borrell explained to the UN Security Council that when they impose sanctions it is about bringing a change of policy, and that, "The EU will always be on the side of those calling for their universal rights to be respected… In many cases, given the refusal by those in power to respect people’s fundamental rights, we have imposed sanctions."

The EU has demanded that Israel change its criminal policy of colonial settlement and forced annexation for decades, yet it has never brought the issue of sanctions to the table. Being Israel’s main trade partner, the current EU position and that of several of its member states don’t incentivize Israel to change policy, to respect fundamental rights, but rather offer it impunity.

But this is not about the EU alone. The Biden administration has set out a new policy: That "Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live in safety and security and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy."

Translating that new U.S. policy into deeds must be a priority. This is not just about building healthy bilateral Palestinian – American relations, but also about ensuring that Israel does not use or exploit its relations with the U.S., including its acquisitionof weapons and financial support, to violate international law or the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Accountability remains the key missing word in U.S. – Israel relations.

The new Israeli government should understand the current scenario: Netanyahu’s policies of attacking Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, as well as denying the rights of those in exile, did not bring about a Palestinian surrender. Instead, it made Palestinians all over remind the world that there will be no solution short of the fulfilment of our rights.

Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan became symbols of this struggle not only because they are in Jerusalem, but also because they symbolize a blatant Israeli racism, imposing laws that only discriminate against Palestinians.

A Palestinian flag flies among the ruins of houses destroyed by Israeli air strikes during the recent Israel-Gaza conflict.Credit: Mohammed Salem / Reuters

If Israel was truly the liberal democracy it claims to be, it would refer to itself as the state of all its citizens, rather than just the state of the Jewish people. And it would allow Palestinians to reclaim their pre-1948 property.

I still carry the papers of our home in Safad, and I’m not the only one.

The attention brought by the world to Israel/Palestine over the past weeks should be translated into a proactive approach aimed at ensuring that all, Israelis and Palestinians, can fulfil their rights in the context of the implementation of Israel’s obligations under international law. It is as simple as that.

From what has been said so far, it appears that the new Israeli government is not committed to those principles, but will instead take a few cosmetic steps here and there. Prime Minister Bennett and others have mentioned support for more infrastructure forsettlements. They have not committed to their obligations under signed agreements, let alone endorse the two-state solution.

Taking that approach simply means perpetuating Benjamin Netanyahu’s toxic legacy.

Dr. Ahmad Majdalani is a PLO Executive Committee member and chairperson of the Department of Labor and Planning. Twitter: @MajdalaniAhmad



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