Geneva-Iran, Geneva-Syria: Why Not a Geneva Conference for Palestine?

It's time to officially accept the reality: A nuclear occupying power like Israel is comfortable in the current setting of negotiations.

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The decision to accept the two-state solution was not easy for the people of Palestine. Our declaration of independence in 1988 - the acceptance of a State of Palestine on the 1967 border - was a huge and painful concession for the sake of achieving peace with Israel. To this day, we have not seen any such process of compromise on the Israeli side - quite the opposite, in fact. And unfortunately we have seen little in the way of international intervention.

The historic Palestinian compromise has never been matched by any Israeli government. Since 1967, Israel’s policy has been guided by one aim: to take as much Palestinian land with the lowest number of Palestinians, while making life so unbearable for Palestinians that they are directly or indirectly forced to leave. This colonization process, a war crime under international law, is the biggest obstacle to achieving the two-state solution, a solution born out of international consensus. The Israeli government is fully committed to this illegal enterprise, de facto rejecting the two-state solution.

Employing empty rhetoric and diversionary tactics, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offers negotiations without parameters and draws attention to Iran. These disingenuous statements continue while his cabinet is split between those promoting the expansion of settlements and those joining demonstrations against the release of Palestinian prisoners.

We are committed not to release details from the negotiating process, but I think my resignation betrays the lack of seriousness on the Israeli side. And it was not an easy decision. When I meet people I always remind them that no one stands to benefit more from peace than the Palestinians - we are the occupied people, after all.

My decision to leave the negotiating table would not have been necessary in the presence of a serious Israeli partner, one that was ready and able to make the decisions needed to prepare Israelis for a final-status agreement with Palestine. We challenge Netanyahu to hold a cabinet vote, with the parties he chose for his government, on ending the occupation that began in 1967 and accepting a sovereign Palestinian state. Netanyahu's inability to support the two-state solution rests not only on his ideological commitment to colonization but also the fact that, if his cabinet voted, it would show itself in favor of an apartheid regime against the Palestinian people.

Twenty years after the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel’s behavior has not changed. It's time to officially accept the reality: A nuclear occupying power like Israel is comfortable in the current setting of negotiations. The Israeli government is not pushed to move because of the huge disparity in power between Israel and Palestine and the Israeli lobby's strength with the majority of the U.S. Congress that fully backs the Israeli position.

The success of the Geneva talks over the Iran issue, and the possibility of success for the Syrian issue, makes us wonder why there is no talk about a Geneva–Palestine discussion. We would exchange the current bilateral situation for a multilateral forum where other powers, including Russia, China, the European Union, the Union of South American Nations and the BRICS countries can contribute to a just and lasting peace for Israel, Palestine and the rest of the region.

This proven process would mean the internationalization of the solution. The international community would not only play the role of donor, it would have to be active in implementing resolutions on Israel-Palestine.

To reach a final-status agreement, both Israelis and Palestinians must agree on the endgame. It cannot be denied: This most fundamental requirement for negotiations is missing. An active international role under the framework of a multilateral conference could set and implement requirements and obligations for peace rather than granting impunity to the stronger party so it can violate agreements without any sort of arbitration mechanism.

Everyone but Israel has accepted the formula of a two-state solution on the 1967 borders. All regional blocs agree that the basis for regional stability depends on the end of the Israeli occupation. But as long as Israel continues to be treated with impunity, it will have no incentive to accept the internationally recognized framework for peace.

Israeli policies on the ground continue to reject the historic Palestinian compromise. These policies clearly aim to undermine U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts and put the nail in the coffin of the internationally endorsed two-state solution. This is no longer a secret but the official position voiced by the majority of the Israeli government.

To conclude, Israel is asked to decide whether it wants the two-state solution on the 1967 borders. At the same time, the world must realize that bilateral negotiations are not the answer. If the multilateral framework of the Geneva talks worked elsewhere, why not for Palestine?

Dr. Muhammad Shtayyeh is minister in charge of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, a member of the Fatah Central Committee and a former negotiator in the talks with Israel.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat (right), with the U.S.' John Kerry (center) and Israel's Tzipi Livni.Credit: AP

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