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The UK and World Must Act to Stop Israeli Apartheid

Whether or not Israel’s government goes through with the annexation of any part of the occupied West Bank starting in July as the newly formed Israeli government has declared, one thing is clear, this is not an existential threat to the Palestinian people.

It is an existential threat to the two-state solution.

The land and people of Palestine will not disappear. Occupation, colonisation and discrimination may continue. But our national identity, ancient civilisation and historical narrative will carry on undimmed. So will our struggle for freedom, justice and rights.

What will happen is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will secure a personal gain at the cost of the region and the world. Because annexation is the final nail in the coffin for hopes of a two-state aim solution.

Moreover, if Israel gets away with it, it is at the cost of global order and justice everywhere.

This is a cost the Palestinian leadership and people are determined shall not be paid by future generations. We look to world countries for help, but we are not standing still.

We have taken steps already and are prepared to take more.

We are also not alone. Netanyahu’s stated intention to begin annexation has set the world scrambling to unite in opposition.

Indeed, Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke for the vast majority of world leaders when he recently told the UK parliament that annexation amounted to a breach of international law to which he “strongly” objected.

But neither the Prime Minister nor any other leader has specified what measures they will take to prevent Israel from breaking that most foundational part of international law that prohibits the acquisition of territory by force.

What’s more, the issue of annexation has also functioned as a diversion: The discussion has been about how to prevent annexation when it should be about how to end occupation.

This is classic Israel. Move the goalposts, then reap the plaudits when returning to somewhere near the starting position. They’ve done it with the illegal settlements for years.

Even if annexation does not go ahead, that only takes us back to a status quo in which Israel has imposed geographic and demographic fragmentation on our people and land with ever-deepening occupation and colonisation.

The solution cannot simply be the status quo. It has to be saving a two-state vision for peace.

And this is the real dilemma that confronts Palestinians and the world: Twenty-seven years after the Oslo Accords that was meant to find a negotiated two-state solution, a broad Israeli unity government has instead committed to unilateral annexation of significant swathes of occupied territory, effectively nulling all previous agreements with the PLO.

It has done so according to a White House plan that also stipulates that Israel maintains “overriding security control” over all territory west of the River Jordan.

Taken together, this is a direct contradiction to the premise that underpinned not just Oslo, but international resolutions that led to Oslo and every negotiation since: the principle of a negotiated two-state partition based on 1967 borders.

What is at stake here is the very two-state paradigm.

That is the reason Palestine rejected the US plan. It was not only because it was a bad deal but it undermines the foundation of 30 years of two-state peace-making.

It is why President Mahmoud Abbas has declared, upon announcement of the Israeli government that it plans to annex occupied Palestinian territories, that Palestine is absolved of all agreements with Israel and has ended all contacts with Israel and the US administration.

This is a moment of truth, for us and the world. Either we double down on our efforts to achieve a two-state outcome or we go back to the pre-1993 dynamic.

And if Israel annexes even an inch of territory that is where we will go.

Let me be clear: We do not want to disband the Palestinian National Authority. The PNA is a hard-won achievement paid for in decades of struggle.

But it is also not an end in itself. The PA is supposed to be a precursor to a state and we will not let it become a rope for our own necks.

We continue to suggest ways forward, including calling for a multilateral peace-making mechanism based on international law and the Arab Peace Initiative.

We do so because we believe it is still possible to save the two-state vision.

But it will necessitate an urgent and real international commitment that pre-emptively confronts Israel with specific consequences for its actions, including ramifications for political and trade relations as well as sanctions.

It should include the immediate recognition of the State of Palestine on 1967 borders to redress a little the balance of power between the sides and pave the way for meaningful resolution.

It should be undertaken in the understanding that Palestinian rights are enshrined in international law. Ignore them and you ignore the rules-based international order.

Peace can never be imposed. It is an outcome of fulfilling peoples’ legitimate grievances and aspirations. That is a matter of when not if.

Netanyahu has ensured his political survival and continued immunity from prosecution on corruption charges. He has deflected talk of ending occupation.

But this is a shallow kind of victory that will come at the cost of an international system that has largely made the world a less violent place for 70 years.

As one of the prime architects of the international order, the UK can and should take a leading role to save it.

In 1917, the UK authored the Balfour Declaration. That contributed directly to the ongoing suffering and dispossession of the people of Palestine. The UK has a special responsibility to ensure that that injustice does not resolve itself into the kind of vulgar apartheid that Israeli government is proposing.

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Middle East Monitor

This article is republished from Middle East Monitor under a Creative Commons 4.0 license.