This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War which enabled Israel to capture Syria’s Golan Heights, Egypt’s Gaza Strip, and Jordan’s West Bank, including the East Jerusalem, in 1967. This war essentially established Israel’s military superiority in the Middle East. Precisely a century ago, the British conceived the idea of creating an independent Jewish state in the heart of Middle East through the Balfour Declaration. Finally, the state of Israel was establish in 1948 in consequence of a partition plan formally adopted by the UN. Now almost 70 years have passed since the controversial birth of Israel but the so-called Middle East peace process is still in the middle of nowhere. So are the hapless and helpless Palestinians and their long-aspired ‘state of Palestine’.

The disillusioned Palestinians have been keenly looking for getting a sovereign independent state since the initiation of Oslo Peace Process in 1993. However, they have yet not get their ‘promised land’ under this so-called land for peace plan. Instead of seriously and sincerely discussing the nitty-gritty of the bilateral issues with Palestinians to reach a ‘final status agreement’, Israel is gradually moving away from the original peace plan, which was essentially based on the so-called two-state solution. Noticeably, it has readily revived its ‘single state plan’ after backtracking on its earlier commitment to adhere to the two-state plan. During his election campaign in 2015, the incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly announced that there would be no Palestinian state at all if he got elected.

The suffering and miseries of the long-persecuted Palestinians are multiplying with the passage of time. Israel has long been enjoying the unequivocal and unqualified support by the US and Western countries despite openly defying various peace accords and international law. On the other hand, Palestinians are constantly losing their conventional moral and material support base in the world. This fact was observed during the 2014 Gaza-Israel conflict when no one came forward to save helpless Gazans against the unabated Israeli incursions. So they were simply left in the lurch. At present, the Palestinian cause is not actively supported by any multi-lateral agency, including the UN, OIC, and the Arab League. Moreover, countries like Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which have been standing by the Palestinians in the past, now look reluctant in extending any active support to Palestinians. Similarly, pro-Palestinian organisations, namely the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and Hamas, have been marginalised in the post 9/11 era.

Following their shocking defeat in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the Arab countries got united against the state of Israel. A multilateral Muslim forum like OIC was formed primarily to safeguard the interests of Arab states as well as Palestinians in the Middle East. Similarly, The Arab League is another organisation of Arab countries which has been raising its voice for the Palestinians’ rights. It proactively tried to end the Arab-Israeli conflict through its 2002 Arab Peace Initiative which was aimed at normalising relations between Arab countries and Israel, in exchange for a full withdrawal by Israel from the occupied territories and the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state.

In the late 1960s, besides other visionary Muslim leaders, the King Faisal of Saudi Arabia played an active role in establishing the OIC. But sadly, later, his Saudi successors became instrumental in rendering the OIC an inoperative and toothless Muslim body. They have readily transformed the very concept of ‘Pan Islamism’ into ‘Pan-Gulfism’ by replacing the OIC and Arab League with the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council). However, now the current Qatar-Saudi Arabia standoff has put the future of GCC too at stake. Currently, Qatar, an important member of the GCC, is being targeted by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf satellite countries for allegedly supporting pro-Palestinian organisations Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

Over a period of time, Saudi Arabia has developed a fierce rivalry and enmity with Iran. In its hate and antagonism for Iran, it has gone to an extent that now it feels no hesitation at all to join hands with a Zionist state like Israel to harm Iran. Therefore, sharing a common enemy – Iran – both Saudi Arabia and Israel have become strategic allies in the Middle East. This is the very reason both countries strongly and aggressively opposed the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal Framework brokered by so-called P5+1 countries.

The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran was an important event which substantially influenced politics in the Middle East. Post-revolution Iran took a hardline position against the Jewish state and the imperialist policies of the US in the world. Iran also actively raised a voice for Palestinians rights and their freedom. To express solidarity with the Palestinian people, the last Friday of the Holy month of Ramadan is observed as the Al-Quds Day in Iran each year. Palestinians are predominately Sunni Arabs. It is a great paradox that an Ajam (Non-Arab) has become the strongest proponent for purely an Arab cause while most of these Arab countries are standing with Israel to oppose Iran. Iran has also paid a heavy price for its anti-Israel and anti-US stance. It has been fighting a bloody war with Iraq for almost eight years. It has also been facing the worst type of economic sanctions for many years.

The 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war was another crucial event in this region. It was an asymmetrical war in which a small militia comprised of few thousands fighters inflicted a humiliating defeat on the greatest military power in this region. Consequently, the Israeli Chief of Staff had to resign over this. It should not be forgotten that all the Arab countries were jointly defeated by Israel in just six days in 1967, but Hezbollah could not be defeated by Israel in this 34 day long war. As Hezbollah is a pro-Iran Shia militant outfit, therefore the Iran-Israel confrontation was substantially escalated after this war. Therefore, now Israel considers Iran and all pro-Iran elements in the Middle East as the greatest threat to its very existence

The 9/11 incident has adversely affected the Palestinian cause. This single incident readily transformed freedom activists in conflict areas like Palestinian and Kashmir into terrorists. Israel has also refused to accede to the two-state solution on the pretext of ‘Islamic terrorism’ in the Middle East. Therefore, now there is almost no prospect for any other ‘Intifada’ in Israel. Hamas, a Palestinian resistance movement, has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the US and the EU. Regrettably, the world community has failed in defining and explaining the phenomenon of ‘state terrorism’.

Since the question of Palestinian refugees has not been decided in accordance with the Oslo Peace Process, therefore millions of Palestinian refugees are not being allowed to return to their native land. On the other hand, the ‘Law of Return’ was enacted by the Israeli Parliament in 1950, whereby Jews from all over the world were given the right to live in Israel and gain Israeli citizenship. Ironically, unlike the Israelis, the Palestinians neither have the ‘right to exist’ nor the ‘right to return’ to their own territory. In fact, the so-called two state solution is the only viable and just solution to minimise the Palestinians’ woes after ending the current Palestinian-Israeli standoff. This solution has not only been frequently endorsed by the UN through its various resolutions but also the Israel has acknowledged it through various peace treaties in the past. Similarly, the Muslim World, including the Arab states, have also approved and support this plan at times. Therefore, Israel alone cannot be allowed to sabotage the Middle East peace process through its unilateral and arbitrary actions. The world community should exert maximum pressure on Israel to make him grant Palestinians their due rights and status. Indeed the single state plan, which is based on the principle of “peace without land”, should not be an option for Israel.

 

n             The writer is a lawyer and columnist

based in Lahore.