World Bulletin / News Desk
The United Nations and the international community are approaching a decisive moment since the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations eight months ago, Jeffrey Feltman, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs cautioned the UN Security Council this week.
But there are still three major stumbling blocks in negotiations after U.S. President Barack Obama met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week, a few days after talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.
At issue is the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; the right of Palestinians to return; and the division of Jerusalem between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Hamid Abdeljaber, a lecturer at Rutgers University in New Jersey on Middle East affairs who writes extensively on the subject told Anadolu Agency (AA) the U.S. president has requested a “painful compromise” from the Palestinian president on all three issues. A compromise not so easy to achieve.
It would involve the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, giving up the right to return and leaving Jerusalem in the hands of the Israelis.
The right of return
UN resolution 194, adopted in December 1948, defined the principles for reaching a final settlement in forming the state of Israel and returning Palestinian refugees to their homes. Out of the then 58 UN member states, a majority of 35 countries voted in favor even as all six Arab UN members, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, voted against. Israel itself was only admitted to the UN in early 1949.
But a final settlement and the full implementation of the resolution has been fraught with disagreement and discord from the beginning.
The “Israelis are (still) insisting that no Palestinian can return as a result of implementation of UN resolution 194. Instead, they say they could do it only as a humanitarian gesture of family reunion, but there are not going to be many of those that satisfy the criteria because many of them have died,” Abdeljaber said.
And Palestinians are unable to agree to Israel as a “pure Jewish state,” he said. “There are red lines that no one can cross.”
Beny Avni, an Israeli-born American columnist for Newsweek and the New York Post told AA, the Palestinians have to give up certain claims. It is not realistic for Palestinians five generations removed from when Israel was created to count themselves as refugees, he said.
“Usually these situations are resolved after one generation or they remain a problem but not of this magnitude. This is the only set of refugees in the world where the United Nations considers a fifth generation of refugees, as refugees,” Avni said:
“For this or any agreement to be realistic, the Palestinians will have to give up their dream of making Israel another Arab state -- which is what would happen if all the refugees went back.”
And there are other voices interested in the future of Jerusalem even if the Palestinians were to concede control to Israel. Jerusalem contains the third holiest site for all Muslims around the world, the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The status of the city should be considered carefully, said Hamid Abdeljaber, since it is not only a Palestinian city but “an Arab city and a Muslim city.”
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), formerly The Organization of Islamic Conference, was created after the burning of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in old Jerusalem in 1969 and has 57 nation states as members.
“They (OIC) can say that they will never accept or compromise about the Islamic character of East Jerusalem,” Abdeljaber said.
Indeed, according to the original UN plan, Jerusalem was to be placed under international control in recognition of its shared religious importance not only to Jews and Muslims but also Christians.
And over and above the three issues bogging down current talks, Avni said the U.S brokered peace talks could perhaps hinge on the question of leadership legitimacy and the ability to carry out an agreement that will not please everyone.
Netanyahu is “one of the strongest prime ministers” that Israel has had in long time and able to remain prime minister even if the ruling coalition changes, Avni said. “So he can come to an agreement if he wants.”
“On the other hand you have Abbas, who was elected 10 years ago and has promised an election ever since but can’t deliver on that,” Avni said, since he is not favored by the popular vote.
And just as Abbas “doesn’t want to move too far from the Palestinian narrative, the Israeli side needs to do some major things about the settlements,” said Avni.
The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics announced earlier this month that construction of Israeli settlements in areas claimed by the Palestinians more than doubled in 2013 compared to 2012. The UN has expressed concern regarding any movement toward approval of settlement projects in East Jerusalem.
Yet even as the issues appear insurmountable, the UN’s Feltman sounded an ominous warning, “the status quo is not sustainable.”Last Mod: 22 Mart 2014, 09:40