Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

The Palestinian – Israeli Negotiations: A difficult experience

The Israeli - Palestian negotiations
A Palestinian man, wearing a protective mask, rides his motorised scooter in the West Bank city of Nablus on June 21, 2020. Photo: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP

Majed Kayali

Palestinians have had a very long, complicated and exhausting negotiations’ experience. In 1993, the Oslo Accord was signed. It has been provided with security and economic appendix. Nevertheless, negotiations did not provide a solution for issues that still exist between the two contested parties. This accord has divided negotiations into two phases. The first phase was a transitional one where the two parties negotiated establishing a Palestinian state on parts of the Palestinian occupied lands in 1967. After that, there was supposed to be a final solution negotiations’ phase. In this phase, solutions for topics like refugees, Jerusalem, borders, settlements and security measures should to be tackled. Yet both sides have not been able to accept a solution related to the previous issues. Even more, Israel did not fulfil the obligations required from it in the transitional phase.

The negotiations’ experience shows Israel’s refusal to include any other party while dealing with the Palestinians. The list includes powers like the United Nation and Europe. In fact, Israel believes that the UN and Europe are not in line with its interests. In all cases, Palestinians were left alone to face Israel and to be subjugated to its extortion. That came as a result to the fact that Israel has the authority to decide what to give and what to not give. Moreover, Israel decides what to include and what not in the negotiations. Such an approach is based on the fact that there is no global or legal reference for Israeli’s actions.

Being obsessed with negotiations’ details, Israel managed to turn the negotiation process into a maze where it is difficult to move through or to come out of. This looks obvious in the accord that was supposed to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. To clarify issues tackled in this accord, it was a must to have hundreds of pages of agreements, memorandums and protocols. Moreover, this process needed hundreds of negotiators and holding long bilateral, multilateral or global negotiation sessions.

For example, the West Bank has been divided into 3 territories (A, B, C) in Oslo Agreement (1993). Each territory has had a protocol. In some of these territories, Israel has security, religious and water interests. When it comes to the Israeli settlements, we also see many classifications: settlement blocks, security settlements, random settlement, legal and illegal settlements! This came without even tackling the issues that seems impossible to solve such as Jerusalem, refugees and borders.

Israel kept prolonging negotiations by creating endless partial agreements, memorandums and protocols when dealing with any case. Meanwhile, Israel acts as if the occupation will last forever in these territories. Such a mentality is reflected in increasing the number of settlements and settlers in the West Bank, especially in Jerusalem. This approach will be evident if you see how Israel works on changing the shape of these territories through making round and security roads. The same applies to establishing crossing points and building the barrier that surrounds Palestinian territories and isolates them.

Although the process has been unfair to the Palestinians and their rights, Israel has been the side hindering the process and evading from its dues. This is contrary to the general impression in the Arab sphere claiming that Israel is the one who is longing to reach an agreement.

Throughout history, negotiation experiences tell us that signing accords can’t be reached by begging. Rather, certain circumstances or conditions are needed to make an accord. The list includes having a balance of power between the concerned parties (and this balance is not only related to military power). In addition, such a thing needs global and regional powers that can put pressure on different sides and broker the settlement process. Moreover, reaching an accord requires a societal state that pushes the concerned parties towards sealing an agreement. This comes as a result of many considerations such as the high cost of hostilities (on ethical, economic, political levels and not just the humanistic level). Such a societal state is needed to convince a colonizing community to free itself from its connection to occupation. This development might come as a result of a change in this community’s political and ethical culture or due to consequences that might have backfired on them. This is how accords were signed after the first and second world wars. The same applies to the cold war. It is also quite interesting to know that this is the manner by which colonial regimes have ended in Asia and Africa. The same happened when the “Apartheid” regime has been terminated in South Africa.

If we return back to the Palestinian – Israeli negotiations’ experience, we will find that it lacks all the previous mentioned factors. As a matter of fact, there is no balance of power between Palestinians and Israelis. Moreover, the global and regional powers needed to put pressure on Israel to reach an accord based on international resolutions do not exist (although these resolutions contain some unfair items to Palestinians)

It is obvious that the Palestinian leadership managed to convince a large swath of Palestinians with the settlement conditions. Furthermore, the Palestinian National Movement helped somehow in creating a more “comfortable occupation” by transforming itself from a liberation movement to an authority. President Mahmoud Abbas himself has been quoted saying that this turned the Israeli occupation into the least expensive one throughout history. Israel became an occupation power without carrying any occupational burdens. On the other side, it became evident that the Israeli society (with its all political currents) didn’t accept this reality to a large extent. This is despite the exceptional opportunity these negotiations offer to legitimize the existence of Israel in the region. On the contrary, the Israeli society has leaned towards extremism. As a result, Israelis insist on building settlements in the West Bank. They also adopt racist practices against Palestinians with the claim of protecting The Jewishness of Israel.

This means that the “comfortable occupation” and the Palestinian tendency to reach a settlement didn’t create the necessary conditions to spread a compromising culture between the Majority of Israelis. On Contrary, this encouraged them to adopt a more extreme nationalist and religious ideologies to implement colonial, racial and suppressive policies against the Palestinians.

To sum it up, what we see is not a negotiation process. Rather, the process leans to look like giving dictations between unequal parties. This comes as a result of not linking this process to two important elements: truth and justice. Therefore, the current negotiations are merely supposed to reach a temporary and superficial accord. That’s why it is difficult to achieve a fair, comprehensive and sustainable peace depending on these conditions.


The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.

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