In November 1947, the aims of the Jewish Zionist movement were achieved when the United Nations announced under Resolution 181 that the former British mandate of Palestine would be partitioned into two states ; a Jewish and an Arab state. The controversy rooted in the creation of Israel in historic Palestine, which is their sacred homeland enshrined in the Torah, was because the state was created at the expense of the Palestinian people, who had been the indigenous inhabitants for centuries.
The partition plan was disregarded by Israel as they took over most of the Arab state in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and then captured the last two enclaves; the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Six-Day war. This total disregard and ignorance of International law set a precedent for the Israeli’s illegal occupation of Palestinian Territories.
Since 1967, Israel and the USA have formed an alliance which has been formed upon the shared value that a Jewish state must exist in security, yet also based upon the total denial of Palestinian rights and statehood, and because of this, have blocked every single diplomatic route for a viable Palestinian state. The role that Israel Has played has been pivotal in establishing the environment in which a sovereign Palestinian state can not be created, through essentially, the nature of its domestic policies within the Occupied Territories.
To an extent its diplomatic role is limited and that is where the link with the US becomes completely fundamental to the sustainability of the Israeli state as they wish, hence the continual and successful blocking of the attempts for a Palestinian state, so the main focus upon Israel’s part in its role for preventing a Palestinian state lies with its domestic policy. One of the main policies that have been extremely detrimental in maintaining the sovereignty of the Palestinian lands, and making any future Palestinian state look increasingly bleak is the Israeli settlements within the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
What these settlements constitute are small communities within the two enclaves Israel captured in the Six-Day war, and transporting their citizens to live within these heavily fortified and protected communities built upon what was the Arab State. What makes these settlements so destructive to the Palestinians lives, is the fact that each settlement is connected by web of protected roads, only available to use by the Israeli’s, and means that the Palestinians must go through a series of checkpoints to get to any destination.
By 2006, after the disengagement of settlements from the Gaza Strip, it was estimated by a UN report that within the West Bank, there were over 200 settlements, with a population of around 240,000, with a further 190,000 within East Jerusalem. It is also estimated that 42% of the West Bank comes under jurisdiction of the settlements. The aim of these settlements is in essence an attempt at colonizing the West Bank, and as Geoffrey Aronson of the Foundation for Middle East peace explains, the settlements are ‘aimed at consolidating Israel’s ability to secure a permanent hold over these lands’.
The effect this has on any attempt at Palestinian statehood is it practically makes it impossible, as the Israeli’s grip on the area that would encompass the state have become part of the Israeli state, and in a most basic analysis it is inherently clear that these settlements are an obstacle to peace and a lasting settlement. The legality of these settlements also provide a realistic understanding on its stance on International law and diplomacy.
Under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, of which Israel is a signatory, it is stated that an ‘occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies’. This disregard of International law was cemented in UN resolution 476, which stated its settlement process ‘was a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention’. It has also been called by UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard, a ‘system of road apartheid… hich relegates Palestinians to second class citizens’. This violation of International law shows the low regard Israel holds for the viability of a Palestinian state, as its main intention appears to be sustaining its own presence in the area to uphold any chance of an autonomous and sovereign nation. Another element of the continual process of Israel’s annexation of Palestinian lands , in contrast and out of sync with every peace deal is the construction of the ‘Separation Barrier’ or the ‘Apartheid Wall’.
This barrier is a network of fences and walls which surround the perimeter of the West Bank ‘Green Line’, however in many areas intrudes into the West Bank to cover many Israeli settlements. It was built for the ‘sole purpose of protecting Israeli citizens who are continued to be targeted by the terrorist campaign’, as explained by the Israeli government.
Although this sentiment resonated strongly with the Israeli public, what has been overlooked throughout intense Israeli propaganda is that the reason these ‘terrorists’ were attacking Israel were because of the oppressive, brutal policies of the Israeli Government, so although the killing of civilians is a great tragedy, the cause of this ‘terrorism’ must be examined. The case for oppressive and even racist policies is reiterated with this ‘Security Wall’ which will leave up to 100,000 Palestinians on the West Side of the wall, 14,000 between the wall and the 1949 armistice Line, and another 20,000 cut off from their lands.
UNWRA called the construction of the wall in 2003 the ‘greatest change in the landscape since 1967’. Just like the other methods by the Israeli Government in the Occupied Territories, the ‘Security Wall’ goes against International law. The UN General Assembly passed resolution ES-10/13 which ‘demands… Israel stop and reverse the construction of the wall in the Occupied Territories’… and is contradiction to relevant provisions of international law’.
The International Court of Justice called the wall ‘contrary to international law’. Combined with the effect of the illegal settlements within the Occupied Territories, the role Israel plays in hindering and stopping the peace movement towards a lasting Palestinian state is yet again highlighted, this time with a system based on institutional racial segregation which aims to establish Israeli domination over the Palestinians, while systematically oppressing them, similar to South African Apartheid.
Whereas the settlements and security wall are an example of a physical and somewhat militaristic manifestation of this hindrance of a peace deal towards a Palestinian state, economic restrictions upon the Palestinian economy are just as destructive to the aims for a fully autonomous state. Bearing the same characteristics as many other occupations throughout history, Israel’s occupation places a massive and constant restrictions upon the lives of Palestinian citizens, and therefore has placed it into major freefall and slowly descending into a major humanitarian crisis.
According to the World Bank, since 2000 ‘average Palestinian incomes have declined by more than one third… more than 600,000 people cannot even afford even the basic necessities for subsistence’. Reports by the UN conference on trade and development also reiterate this developing humanitarian crisis as they explained in a recent study ‘as a result of war and occupation… 72% of households now live beyond the poverty line. What these similar reports show is the nature of the aims of the Israeli’s restrictions upon the economy.
In essence it reflects a developing trend in attempting to turn the Palestinian people into a mere humanitarian problem, not worthy of political status and all but diminishes the hopes of transferring the current Palestinian state which became helpless to the Israeli onslaught, into full independent and sovereign statehood. Carrying on from the effects of occupation on the Palestinian economy, the role of the methods of Closures and Sieges is equally as pivotal in maintaining the Palestinian issue as merely a ‘humanitarian issue’.
What these methods entail is the sealing off of the occupied Territories to movement into Israel, and also sealing off areas within the territories to movement between one another, via an ‘extensive system of roadblocks, curfews and checkpoints’. This as the World Bank identifies, is the ‘proximate cause of years of Palestinian economic distress’. The reason it is so destructive upon the economy is the fact that it eliminates the chance for the free flow of goods, whether imported or exported, as Israel effectively blockaded both of the enclaves, making them essentially open prisons.
It also restricts movement of people to schools, hospitals and places of work. It does in the most euphemized explanation, ‘fragment Palestinian economic and living space’, as the World Bank called it. The motive of these actions and the economic and humanitarian consequences leave only one conclusion that the state of Israel wishes that a Palestinian state will never be able to exist. The common justification for these policies committed by the Israeli state is that of ‘security’. For this to be true there must be a valid threat towards the existence of Israel, by its Arab neighbours.
Indeed there have been several wars fought against its neighbours; however the source of these wars are constantly due to the imperialistic nature of Israeli policy, by the continual illegal acquisition and occupation of Palestinian land. This can also be said the same for the illegal ‘security wall’ and settlements which are also supposed to be there ‘to protect the Israeli people from terrorists’. However, just as Nigel Roberts, the World Bank country director for the West Bank and Gaza noted, the occupation and subsequent actions ‘helps foster an environment in which violent doctrines resonate’.
This is particularly relevant for the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism and the rise of Social-Political movements such as Hamas, which are resistance movements born out of the oppressive actions of the Israeli government which only will gain more support if the current direction of policy continue. What has been shown by the aforementioned examples of Israel’s role in fostering the environment in which a Palestinian state can be created, is that its virtually non-existent.
Instead of complying with the UN and International Law, it has pursued the option of establishing a brutal military occupation born out of the continual denial of the rights of the Palestinians, and therefore the only rational conclusion of the role of Israel is one of a complete obstacle to peace and a Palestinian state. In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the role of the US has become so pivotal that its presence is the determining factor in the manner in which it is lead and sustained.
Its incorporation in this conflict is essentially part of its ongoing, and successful quest to assert their global hegemony through the means of economic and strategic supremacy. The partnership between itself and Israel is one on mutual acceptance that Israel should have enough security to sustain its existence, and in doing so diplomatically makes sure that Israel can do as it wishes if it complies with the US as an American presence in the Middle East. The reason Israel is such an important asset to the US is largely due to its geographic location in the oil rich Middle east.
This region combines the factors necessary for continued US supremacy. Economically, US oil companies are more prosperous than ever, and strategically, control over the oil would give decisive leverage over its partners and potential rivals. As Gilbert Achcar explains ‘you can’t understand what is happening in global politics if you don’t pay attention to the manoeuvres involving Russia, China and the US around the issue of oil’. This quote shows the ‘fundamental reason the US plays a major role in the Middle East’ and what is guiding the nature of its policies in this area.
This gives a vital understanding as to why supporting Israel in its illegal actions is so necessary for its global ambitions, and also why denying a Palestinian state is a result of Israel complying with the demands of the US. Arguably the main reason Israel is able to achieve and sustain such a large-scale occupation is due to the amount of military support it receives off the US. Since the early ’70s, Israel has been the largest recipient of US foreign military assistance, with over $17 billion military aid, for a population of just over 6 million.
This military arsenal amassed through US aid includes 226 F-16 fighter jets which have been used to bomb targets throughout the Gaza Strip and West Bank throughout the First and Second Intifada. 700 M-60 Tanks and 6,000 armoured personnel, and also countless other machinery and artillery. A recent World Policy Institute study from 2006 explained that ‘US arms and aid it provides gives the US substantial leverage’ in Israeli policy. In a sense Israel has become an offshore military base for the US, and through its aid has built up the Israeli army to be the fourth biggest in the world.
Just as the WPI explained in its report, this does give the US significant leverage in pushing for policy change, but through not doing so, it starts to become clear the role the US has played in blocking the attempts for a sovereign Palestinian state. The US has commented that the military aid is to ‘help foster stability in a historically volatile region’ and to ‘support Israel’s multi-gear defence modernisation plans’, however ‘promoting stability’ isn’t usually through supporting a brutal occupation which ironically will only cause only more instability to the region.
It is not just the military support which continues the injustice to the Palestinians, and the complete resistance of any lasting settlement is also shown, but pivotally, the reason it is free from international prosecution is because of the way the US manipulates its global dominance in its diplomacy through international organisations such as the UN. Although this area will be looked at in more detail in how the UN is disregarded and ignored, there are a few striking examples which reiterate this support for Israel and blocking the attempt for Palestinian statehood.
In 2000 the Bush administration vetoed a Security Council Resolution advanced by the EU, which called for implementation of Washington’s Mitchell Plan and efforts to reduce violence by the dispatch of International monitors to reduce Palestinian terror and Israeli repression. It also boycotted a conference in Geneva of the High Contracting Parties of the Geneva convention which reaffirmed applicability of the 4th Geneva Convention to the Occupied Territories, so therefore the US-Israeli actions are war crimes under US law.
This total disregard for international diplomacy and the upholding of International Law, which was set up criminate formally the crimes of the Nazi’s, doesn’t just show the illegality of the joint actions in Palestine, but also the pivotal role the US plays in blocking the attempt for a Palestinian state. This joint venture by the US and Israel was founded upon the aims and goals of the US, but has tragically spilled over into 60 years of illegal Palestinian oppression.
Noam Chomsky correctly described the nature of the relationship, as he explained if Israeli ‘actions conform to the US objectives, it receives the diplomatic, military and economic support that facilitates its takeover of the Occupied Territories’. Therefore through the overriding hegemonic ambitions of the US, it has played a huge role in preventing the creation of a Palestinian state. The United Nations was created in 1945 as the International Governing body, and it was this organisation hat supervised the creation of the state of Israel.
However after the events of the following decades ideally would of meant they played a major part in facilitating peace in the region, however their authority in maintaining international law has been undermined by the actions of predominately the US. One of the fundamental problems with the UN system is the way Security Council members can manipulate the direction and composition of Resolutions and eliminate the chance of unilateral action by the international community.
There are five permanent members (US, UK, France, China and Russia) and are enabled to prevent the adoption of any ‘substantive’ draft council resolution, regardless of the amount of international support it receives. This right was enshrined in Article 27 o the UN Charter, which states each ‘member of the security council shall have one vote’ and ‘decisions in the security council… made by affirmative vote… including concurring votes of permanent members’.
This shows how any resolution blocked by one member completely eliminates any diplomatic hope of affirmative action by the UN, and hinders its role as a body to facilitate and sustain peace and liberty throughout the world. Because of this veto, it becomes incessantly clear how and Security Council member, not just the US, can manipulate UN policy to coincide with its own aims and goals. In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1967, the trend of American vetoing is worth nothing in relation to the ‘flagrant violations’ of international law which occur on a daily basis.
Since 1972, the US has vetoed no fewer than 40 resolutions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, all of which have been in support of Israel. The issues that have been blocked range from a veto in support for a resolution calling for the implementation of Resolution 242 in 1976 to a resolution calling for Israel to uphold the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Territories from 1988. In all of these veto’s, the US have been the sole opposed, bar abstentions by non-permanent members of the Security Council.
It is also worth noting that during the years of the Oslo Accords, the US vetoed resolutions which called for the end of Israeli settlements which Clinton and Rabin had promised the end of. What these consistent trends by the US show is their pivotal role in allowing Israel to not just go undeterred in their illegal actions, but completely undermining and blocking every attempt for a Palestinian state in the last forty years. The logical and legal means of creating a Palestinian state is through the UN, the organisation which sanctioned the creation of the two-state settlement in 1947.
After Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War in 1967, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 242, which was passed several months after the war, and is generally accredited to being the basic diplomatic framework for Palestinian statehood. The resolution described the ‘inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war’ and called for ‘withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in recent conflict’. Also calls for the ‘respect and acknowledgement of sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence… ree from threat or acts of justice’. In essence, it is merely calling for Israel to revert to their pre-1967 borders, which were agreed upon when the Israeli state was created. However this call for legality in this conflict has evidently been too much for the US, as every attempt for its implementation in resolution from has been blocked by them. Another basic resolution that is completely essential to ensuring peace within the conflict is Resolution 194. Passed in December 1948, it calls for the Palestinians to be ensured unconditional ‘right to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours’.
This was in response to the consequences of the ‘Israeli War Of Independence’ in which 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their lands and forced to take refuge in neighbouring Arab countries and in the last remaining enclaves of the former Arab state. This basic right of return would be the first step for statehood, as without citizens, a state would be inconceivable, however as John Pilger explains in his book ‘Freedom Next Time’, this resolution has been re-affirmed by the international community 135 times between 1948-200, but each time it has been merely disregarded by the US and Israel.
What highlighted and reiterated repeatedly by the role the UN plays, is that it is a potentially force of good to facilitate peace within the world, especially the Middle East, however its role has been highly undermined by the US hijacking it for its own hegemonic goals, and tragically the Palestinians have become a mere pawn in this game of power politics. Besides the attempts for a Palestinian state and lasting peace through organisations like the UN, a growing consensus emerged in the late 1970s that international diplomacy must be done between the countries the conflict concerns.
Many have attributed this to the inadequacies and lack of power of the UN, however it has seemed that working outside the confines of international law and diplomacy has allowed the US and Israel to continue blocking the attempts for a Palestinian state, and use the fai?? ade and distraction of meaningful peace treaties to continue the consolidation of Palestinian lands. The first real post-1967 peace offer was from President Anwar El-Sadat of Egypt in 1971.
It merely called for a full Israeli peace treaty in return for Israeli withdrawal from Egyptian territory captured during the Six-Day War. He mentioned nothing about Palestinian rights, or even the Occupies Territory. It was to be a major turning point in Israeli-Arab relations, as possibly it gave the chance for full peace. As Noam Chomsky explains in ‘Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest For Global Dominance’, the choice for Israel was ‘peace and integration’ or ‘confrontation, hence inevitable dependency on US’.
The chance for peace was denied by the Israeli, but ‘not on grounds of security but because of commitment to expansion’. This set a precedent for future peace attempts, and would ensure the total denial of a viable Palestinian state. The first real time that a peace proposal was brokered by the US was the Camp David Accords of 1978 and 1979 between Israel and Egypt. It was aimed at establishing the framework for negotiations to establish an autonomous self-government authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the full implementation of Resolution 242.
The result was the ‘Associated Principles’ which was a declared set of principles that should have been applied to relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours. It also called for The IDF to withdraw armed forces, evacuate 4,500 settlers and restore territory of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. This was touted by the mass media as a huge diplomatic success, but in essence it was a total disaster for the US and Israel. Noam Chomsky explains that ‘what they agreed to in 1978-79 was Sadat’s ’71 offer, but in a harsher form, as now it involved a Palestinian state’.
Chomsky analyses correctly here as he identifies the worst nightmare of the US and Israel, as a state would manifest the contrast to the consolidation of lands in the Six-Day war and developing neo-colonial settlements within Palestine. However ultimately this agreement symbolised the emergence of the long list on proposed, blocked and failed agreements regarding 242, and Palestinian rights and statehood as none of these were adhered to, and in reality the pace at which an environment where a Palestinian sate could never be created was quickly developing.
Fourteen years later and there was a real growing international movement for the plight of the Palestinians and their right to statehood, and out of this seemingly period of compromise, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel entered a series of peace talks between 1993 and 2000, called the ‘Oslo Process’. A series of agreements were reached in the seven years. The first was the ‘Arafat-Rabin Letters’ in September 1993. It reaffirmed the PLO’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist in ‘peace and security’, it support for Resolutions 242 and 338.
Israel recognised the PLO as ‘representatives of the Palestinians’ but fundamentally failed to recognise the right for a Palestinian state. The second agreement was the Oslo Accords, the ‘Declaration Of Principles. This called for Israeli withdrawal from ‘parts’ of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and the creation of the Palestinian Authority, and it also called for an Interim period from when the agreement would be negotiated and lead to a settlement based on 242 and 338. However the first cracks of the fai?? de started to show as Arab Media watch explained ‘decisive questions on settlements, refugee’s and Israeli borders were put off until te interim period was over’. There were several other agreements such as the ‘Protocol On Economic relations’, the ‘Oslo II Interim Agreement’ and the ‘Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum’ . All of these agreements gave the impression of a diplomatic success in the form of a Palestinian state in the near future was now possible, but fundamentally the reality was far removed from this.
The number of settlers illegally living on Palestinian lands had risen in the seven Oslo years from 80,000 to 150,000. In 1994 during the midst of negotiations, Yitzhak Rabin approved the construction of 1000 apartments at settlement of Alfei Menache, and in 1997 a new Jewish colony at Jebel Abu Ghoneim with 3,540 houses housing 25,000 Israeli’s was approved. Undermining further the aims of the accords came the day after ‘final status’ negotiations in 199, when Barak announced about the colony of Ma’ale Aduin, that ‘we will not remove settlement which has 25,000 people… very house is part of Israel’. If any quote gave the true intentions of Israel, it was this. Barak clearly indicated here that land illegally acquisitioned under international law was part of Israel. Chomsky explains that the ‘wording made it clear that they were a mandate for continual Israeli settlement programs’ and this increase in settlement activity ‘proceeded steadily, with full US support’ and all but ‘blows the possibility of resolution of the conflict by peaceful diplomatic means’.
The nature of the agreement and the consequences for a Palestinian state was a classic fai?? ade which hid the true intentions of it. John Pilger called it ‘a classic colonial fix where Arafat… got privileges of power while the mass of people got what an Israeli journalist called the autonomy of a PoW camp’. Tragically this was the case, and the illusion of peace was merely a distraction away from the consolidation of Palestinian land. It was also extremely successful in bypassing the implementation of resolution 242.
As Robert Fisk stated, Whereas ‘242 demanded the withdrawal of Israeli forces from territory captured in 1967, Oslo permitted Israel to decide from which bit of the remaining 22% of Palestine they would withdraw’ and let them ‘renegotiate 242’. The Oslo Accords could have potentially been the heralding of a new era of compromise, with the Palestinian state being a reality, however it was merely manipulated by two nations pressured into conceding something, and if anything made the possibility of a Palestinian state even more unrealistic.
The four areas investigated aimed to explore and understand the extent at which the attempts for a autonomous Palestinian state have been blocked by the roles of the US and Israel, and the results were consistently and brutally coherent. A blend of disregard for international law, the consequences of hegemonic politics, and the intent to deny a people the right to self government have caused sixty years of continual and sustained denial of Palestinian statehood.