Image Credit: Guillermo Munro/©Gulf News

The Palestinians have been brought to the negotiating table with the Israelis countless times over the past six decades. The net result has been more usurpation of their land and territory along with civilian casualties to boot.

In another round of such a twisted and diabolical diplomatic game being played on the hapless Palestinians, the Israeli Interior Ministry announced last week that it has released final approval for the construction of 1,600 apartments in Occupied East Jerusalem and are set to grant approval for the construction of 2,700 more apartments in days.

This is just one more nail in the coffin against a people whose land is being systematically stolen from under their noses while the world looks on. While the decision by the Israeli Interior Ministry drew immediate condemnation from the Palestinians, and also from Israel's leading anti-colonist group, there was hardly a murmur from the western powers that for decades have been supporting Israeli expansion on stolen lands against the very democratic principles on which their countries stand for. Palestinian official Saeb Erekat accused Israel of deliberately acting to sabotage the fragile peace. "We call upon the US administration to support our endeavour at the UN because the only way to preserve the two-state solution now is the admittance of the state of Palestine," he said.

The Israelis have been accused by the protest groups of using the recent protests over housing costs as a smoke screen to promote the expansion of their territories into Palestinian land. According to the Interior Ministry, the prime minister is well aware of the plans to go ahead with this blatant move. One must not forget that an earlier approval for the 1,600-apartment project discomfited Netanyahu and created a short lived diplomatic tiff with the US because the announcement was timed perfectly to coincide with a visit to Israel by US Vice- President Joe Biden.

Palestinians have long opposed all Israeli incursions and construction of colonies in Occupied East Jerusalem. It is their land and their dream is to establish that area as the capital of their future state. Israel seized Occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and over 500,000 Jews have moved into that territory including the West Bank since then. The Israeli government does not consider the Jewish neighbourhoods it has built there to be colonies even though the international community makes no such distinction and does not recognise Occupied Jerusalem's annexation. The potential for political tension is in full swing as the Palestinians move ahead with their plan for a symbolic endorsement of statehood by the United Nations in September. They are to organise peaceful marches to coincide with the UN General Assembly in September, and their leaders have drawn up a plan to stage rallies that would enhance their efforts for UN recognition. The aim is to ensure that the demonstrations will be peaceful. The plan allows for marches and rallies inside West Bank cities, but confines them to city limits. Demonstrators will be kept away from flashpoints like Jewish colonies and military checkpoints. Palestinian police would ring West Bank cities to keep protesters far from Israelis.

Palestinians adopted the UN recognition tactic and rallies because they have lost faith in peace talks with Israel. Those negotiations in the past have yielded nothing except more concessions to Israel and have been frozen for most of the past three years and there is no sign the two sides can agree on conditions to resume them. Israel opposes the UN recognition drive and insists, along with the US and several key European countries, that the only way to set up a Palestinian state is through negotiations.

Washington, which opposes the Palestinians' statehood bid and, like Israel, parrots that negotiations on Occupied Jerusalem and other core issues are the only way forward, is trying to persuade the Palestinians to abandon their statehood bid and enter into negotiations with Israel instead. Occupied Jerusalem's fate "needs to be negotiated between the two parties," said US Embassy spokesman Kurt Hoyer. "Unilateral actions on either side that appear to prejudice the outcome of those negotiations we find counterproductive."

The Palestinians refuse to negotiate with the Netanyahu government as long as it continues its policy of stealing lands and constructing illegal colonies in the West Bank and Occupied East Jerusalem, territories that are set to be the core of their future independent state.

Palestinians have only lost more land to Israel through 20 years of negotiations, and there does not seem to be any peaceful wind on the horizon for change.


Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.