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Occupation magazine - Commentary

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Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on Hamas-Fatah unity agreement and Israeli withdrawal from talks
Cecilie Surasky
Jewish Voice for Peace

Israelís sudden withdrawal from peace talks and its threat to punish the Palestinians for the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement is a tactical move meant to deflect from the main cause of the failure of decades of peace talks óIsraelís ongoing settlement expansion and the entrenchment of the occupation, materially and diplomatically supported by the United States.

Given decades of failed US-orchestrated peace talks that have deepened the hold of Israelís occupation, Jewish Voice for Peace will be grateful for an official end to the current round of talks. They appear to be all but dead, and show virtually no promise of achieving a just agreement.

We do believe a fair and lasting resolution will be possible one day when Israel and Palestine sit at a negotiating table with relatively equal power. But today is not that day. Until the balance of power changes, negotiations will only lead to more of the same: failed diplomacy with terms dictated to the Palestinians by the occupying power, Israel, and its unconditional backer, the United States.

Is a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation bad for peace?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims that in announcing the reconciliation agreement, the Palestinian Authority has chosen ďHamas over peace.Ē To the contrary, serious observers have long noted that if Israel is serious about diplomacy, it should welcome all parties to the table, whether or not they are in agreement. In fact, Netanyahu knows this well, as his government has negotiated with Hamas directly in the past.

The division of the two political parties, Hamas and Fatah, which was deliberately encouraged by Israeli and US policy, has weakened the Palestinian ability to negotiate with Israel. Without this reconciliation, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas could not legitimately claim to represent all of the Palestinian people under occupation, thus making any agreement to which the PA alone was a party illegitimate, and by definition unsustainable. Ironically, Netanyahu in the past claimed he couldnít negotiate with the Palestinians because they were not united Ė now he says he canít because they are.

Governments negotiate, not political parties.
Both Israel and the United States have set forth standards that negotiating parties must meet in order to sit at the tableórejection of violence, recognition of Israel, and respect for prior agreements. The Palestinian Authority has agreed to abide by these standards, but it is important to note that Israel itself cannot meet them: Likud, Prime Minister Netanyahuís own party, flat out rejects a Palestinian state in its charter (as do other Israeli parties); Israel has for decades used disproportionate force against civilians; and it willfully ignores international law and prior agreements.

So why are these standards invoked only against one side and not the other? Because, as any map of illegal settlements will show, these talks have been a sham that have only entrenched Israeli power and its occupation.

Hamas, like Likud, has problematic principles, and has also taken indefensible actions, including committing violence against civilians. But as representatives of the people of Gaza under occupation, Hamas would be a crucial party of any negotiation that would actually be implementable.

The bottom line
The only peace process that will work is one that recognizes and compensates for the massive power imbalance of the occupier and the occupied.

The framework of the current peace negotiations does not recognize that imbalance. When the official ďpeace processĒ ends, it may finally be possible to work toward negotiations where Israel and the Palestinians come to the table with equal power, and the U.S. no longer plays the role of Israelís enforcer.

That is why we believe that the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and other non-violent tools that create real consequences for Israelís continuing violations of human rights and democratic principles, are an essential part of changing the balance of power and moving toward negotiations that could end in a just peace.

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