Accepting Fait Accompli
India should not use the Mazen-Beilin understandings of October 1995 as a base for foreign policy regarding the Israel - Palestine conflict. Any outline of parameters based on this document endorses brutality, illegality and voraciousness of colonial rule.
In the April 18, 2011 issue of The Hindu, newspaper Mr. C. R. Gharekhan outlined parameters that India among other countries should propose as the basis for settling the Israel-Palestine dispute. Since Mr. Gharekhan is a former official envoy of the Indian government to West Asia he can be taken as expressing the views of certain circles which do have significant influence in shaping the actual policies of the Indian government. This advocacy is preceded by a broader analysis where he states that the contours of a possible two-state solution were laid out by the Mazen-Beilin understandings of October 1995, where Beilin was a confidant of Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas (better known as Abu Mazen) of Yassir Arafat. All those in favour of a ‘just settlement’ in which the primary emphasis falls on the adjective and not on the noun, will seriously contest the course he advocates.
Let us start then with his implicit endorsement of the Mazen-Beilin plan since it is quite correct that all subsequent negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian authority (PA) have been based on this outline but with Israel demanding ever more concessions from the PA. Just how far the latter have retreated even from proposed concessions at Camp David (2000), Taba (2001) and after the death of Yassir Arafat has now been revealed by Al Jazeera’s disclosure of the internal documents – the “Palestine Papers” of the negotiations between the two sides from 1999 to 2010.
The Mazen-Beilin understandings is a shameful document that shows how far even Arafat, desperate for some kind of settlement, was prepared to depart in private (the understandings were never revealed to the Palestinian people) from his public demand for a complete end to Israeli occupation and its return to pre-1967 borders – the position enshrined in UN resolutions and widely recognized as just since it refuses to condone what is now the longest running illegal military occupation (and blockade) of the last 150 years, sustained by the most brutal forms of overt and covert violence. But as subsequent negotiations showed, Arafat was not prepared to go as far as Mazen and his cohorts now are, which is why by the time of his death he was seen in many circles as an obstacle to securing that ‘final settlement’. The real meaning of the Mazen-Beilin plan was revealed by none other than Beilin himself in the course of an interview he gave to Ha’aretz on March 3, 1996 which in translation reads “…..They are willing to accept an agreement which gives up much land without the dismantling of settlements, with no return to the ’67 borders and with an arrangement in Jerusalem which is less than municipality level.”
this new development should be seen as something of a short term response for short term gains by both parties
Mr. Gharekhan’s one reference to the devastating revelations of the “Palestine Papers” is to say it shows Israel does have a “partner for peace”. The more accurate judgement, however, is that these papers confirm once again that colonial rule will invariably succeed in making substantial sections of the colonized collaborators in sustaining the brutality, illegality and voraciousness of colonial rule itself. This is precisely what has happened to many of the key leaders of the PA which frankly is no surprise to many of the most astute followers and analysts of developments in that region. This is of course an unpalatable truth which many would simply like to ignore. But let us leave aside such matters as the help given by Israel and the US to Fatah in its internecine strife with Hamas, since undermining and destroying the unity of Palestinian society has always been a key goal of Israel. The interesting thing is that the revelations of the enormous and utterly unwarranted concessions made by the PA were not acceptable to Israel and the US. As for the recent ‘unity accord’ between Hamas and Fatah, this is in part a response to the power shifts that have emerged as a result of the Arab Spring. But given the enduring differences between them and the failure of previous such efforts at unity, as well as Israel’s and the US’s continuing influence and reliance on the Fatah leadership, this new development should be seen as something of a short term response for short term gains by both parties. It remains to be seen how this accord, though cautiously welcomed, plays itself out in the medium, let alone, longer run.
These concessions included giving up the Right of Return as well as agreeing that only 10,000 Palestinians from a diaspora of over 5 million could return to their homes in Israel on “humanitarian” grounds; accepting Israel as a “state of the Jewish people” which not only further legitimizes second-class citizenship for the Israeli Arabs (some 20% of Israel’s population) but lays the legal ground for their possible future expulsion since their higher birth rate is widely seen as a growing threat to Israel’s Zionist, i.e. thoroughly communal nature; legitimising the post-’67 and post-Oslo illegal annexations in the West Bank and once Arab East Jerusalem.
Israel’s rejection of such abject terms of surrender should now eliminate all illusions about what is its long-term strategy, one backed by the US which is and has long been anything but an honest broker. Israel seeks to constantly establish ‘new facts on the ground’ that guarantee for as long as possible enduring colonial subjection and control of Gaza and the West Bank; and as a last resort, fall-back position (only if forced to do so by a changing global scenario sometime in the distant future) a two-state settlement on terms effectively dictated by it – an utterly truncated and Bantustanized Palestine, formally sovereign but effectively run by a thoroughly subordinated regime. Whether the Arab Revolutions might seriously change the geopolitical relationship of forces against Israel and the US is still something of a much longer term and open-ended question, and Tel Aviv and Washington know this.
Mr. Gharekhan’s parameters [...] actually accept and legitimize Israel’s unrelenting expansionism
Not only do Mr. Gharekhan’s parameters, not seriously challenge Israel’s ‘last resort’ strategy, they actually accept and legitimize Israel’s unrelenting expansionism, its fait accompli, only asking for some minor adjustments here and there. To say as he does that Palestine must be compensated for any land given to Israel to keep its settlements is to do the exact reverse of what justice and elementary morality demands. For a new Palestinian state to be at all viable it must be contiguous, united territorially (Gaza joined to the WB), not cantonized, maintain its most fertile lands, have assured access to the sea and a deep water port, and not be surrounded or crisscrossed by Israeli troops. This means land swaps which favour Palestine and its elementary security and other needs, not favouring a power that is militarily the strongest in the region backed by the militarily strongest force in the world which then constantly declares that ‘its security’ is under threat.
On Jerusalem Mr. Gharekhan may be unaware that according to the Mazen-Beilin plan Israel is basically demanding that its ongoing annexations in East Jerusalem be accepted while the Palestinians can, in the small portion left to them, rename a couple of villages Al Quds and delude themselves that they have established a capital in East Jerusalem as well. Finally to say, as Mr. Gharekhan does, that Palestinian refugees must have the right to settle in the ‘new’ Palestine is to dodge the crucial issue – Israel’s refusal to accept the principle of the Right to Return although the manner of its implementation – the actual numbers returning to their homes in Israel – can be left for negotiation. The principle is paramount. Could there be any new beginning between Jews in Israel (and elsewhere) and Germany if the latter did not apologise for the Holocaust? Israel came into territorial existence through the deliberate ethnic cleansing of a people and then demands of that very people that they recognize its existence without itself acknowledging even its responsibility (let alone apologizing) for that ethnic cleansing! Without atonement for the crimes of 1948 not just of 1967 and after – and that is real meaning of the Right to Return -- there will not be any new beginning.
It is a measure of how far down the road India’s governments and most political parties have traveled that they are all committed (the Left being an honourable exception) to pursuing the strategic-military alliance with Israel and the US even as New Delhi will continue paying lip service (and money) to the Palestinians. Securing a just settlement for Palestine is a long term perspective and requires above all first changing the relationship of forces against Israel and the US. That means working to isolate Israel politically and diplomatically as India and many other countries once did against apartheid South Africa, and strengthening the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against it throughout global civil society. One has no doubts that today’s Indian government would much prefer Mr. Gharekhan’s ‘pragmatic and realistic’ proposals to following any such course.