Later this month US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to put a two-state peace plan on the table for Israel and Palestine.
There is plenty of debate as to what he will recommend, and what of that will or will not be possible.
It is clear though, that it will be difficult for Palestinians to agree to any deal while Israel continues to act with aggression and disdain towards Palestinians.
Equally, it will be difficult for Israel to agree to soften its approach while rockets are being fired from Gaza.
Israel continues to build new settlements on occupied land, and Palestinian civilians are still harassed, abused, arrested, and even killed at border crossings. There are reports of Palestinian football players being shot in the feet to stop them from playing and being able to represent Palestine internationally.
Meanwhile, reported today is a rocket attack on Southern Israel from Gaza, and the obligatory retaliatory airstrike from Israel with the promise that “we will continue to thwart those that wan to harm us, and we will act against them with great force.” Hamas responds “we hold the occupation responsible, we warn of the consequences of any escalation, and we reiterate that resistance is the right of the Palestinian people to defend itself.”
This is not the space from which to enter into mutually-respectful peace talks. But change can still occur if conditions are right, and the international community can do a lot to help those conditions along.
It was said of apartheid South Africa that the ‘tipping point’ came after increasingly robust and unified international expressions of outrage at the treatment of black South Africans, and increasingly effective economic, political, and cultural sanctions.
The campaign for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel (BDS) is getting legs. European funds are being drawn out of Israeli business interests. The PGGM, a Dutch Pension Fund, has liquidated its holdings in five Israeli banks. Hollywood stars (Scarlett Johansson) are being forced to choose between humanitarian organisations (Oxfam), and lucrative contracts with Israeli business with West Bank interests (SodaStream). Johansson chose SodaStream, but her controversial decision has sparked interest worldwide in the implications of supporting business that makes a profit by using occupied land, and cheap labour from Palestinians who are desperate for work. If we keep progressing this way, the next star might find it in their best interests to make a different decision.
This increasing shift towards unity of international condemnation is affecting Israel. Israel’s Finance Minister apparently said recently “Let’s not kid ourselves…the world listens to us less and less.”
With perseverance it is possible that Israel will feel the pressure, enough to truly become a peaceful part of the regional and international community, rather than be known for its aggression against its neighbours and ill treatment of Palestinians.
This is not to refute the legitimate rights of Israel to exist as a state and of Israeli citizens – Jews, Arabs, others – to live securely within the pre-’67 borders.
It is simply to identify where and when Israel is flouting international law, and to acknowledge that there can be no lasting peace for Israel itself while its neighbouring people are being oppressed by its own hands.
The status quo is simply unsustainable.