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Commentary: World community needs to put 2-state facts on the ground and give Palestinians hope

Daoud Kuttab, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Op Eds

Seven months into the man-made disaster in Gaza, very little is being done to deal with the sense of helplessness and fury that Palestinians are feeling.

International efforts to end the war in Gaza, and to ensure a hostage-prisoner exchange, continue to be blocked primarily by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The lead prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has decided to recommend the issuance of a war crimes warrant for him, his defense minister and three top Hamas leaders.

The ICC decision follows a call by the United Nations General Assembly on May 10 for the Security Council to revisit the resolution calling for the recognition of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations. The Biden administration has already announced the United States’ intention to veto such a resolution, insisting that Palestinian statehood must be the result of direct negotiations. But Netanyahu has refused direct talks with Palestinians for more than a decade and has been openly adamant in his rejection of Palestinian statehood.

Pushing and pleading with Israel to participate in a two-state process that its current leadership has no interest in is a waste of time at this juncture. The international community should look for a different way out of this dire situation in which innocent Palestinians are being killed and Israeli hostages as well as thousands of Palestinian political prisoners are suffering.

The closure of all political avenues adds to the hopelessness of Palestinians. Even with a cease-fire in place, without the ability to see serious movement toward an end to the occupation, anger will fester. Beyond a cease-fire, what is needed is a strong message that two independent states living next to each other in peace is possible.

To show that Washington and the international community mean what they say, there are concrete steps that can be taken to drive home this message.

First, an international protection force separating the Palestinians and Israelis would change the paradigm from one of occupation and submission for Palestinians to one of equals, establishing the foundation for a political solution to emerge.

America’s allies, both Western and Arab, should be encouraged to commit to invest in the infrastructure needs of the future Palestinian state, including an airport in the West Bank and an expanded port in Gaza. But the first requirement for any such effort is the presence of the international peace force in both areas. Gulf states have made it clear that they will not make an infrastructure investment until it can be guaranteed to be durable.

Although the U.S. is unwilling now to recognize Palestine, it should use all its influence to ensure that Gaza and the West Bank can function as a unit, that the two territories do not remain separated and that a settlement freeze is implemented. The movement of people and goods between the two Palestinian areas must be guaranteed.

 

A nascent Palestinian state must have the means to sustain itself. Instead of Israel supervising border crossings and collecting taxes and customs — yet refusing, for political and ideological reasons, to deliver to the Palestinians their own earmarked money — borders and customs should be turned over to an international body that would collect the customs on behalf of the Palestinians until the formalities of statehood can be completed.

Likewise, Gaza and the West Bank need energy and water independence from Israel. Palestinians must be able to dig their own wells and drill for oil off the Gaza Strip. In the immediate term, Palestinians could benefit from help in importing their energy needs from their Arab neighbors, Jordan and Egypt, which have peace treaties with Israel. Jordan already supplies electricity to Jericho in the West Bank; that should be expanded.

There are dozens of ways Western and Arab powers could help build facts on the ground to jump-start the two-state solution they claim to support. It will not suddenly appear, full blown, to end the violence and stalemate in the Middle East. The world community, and especially the United States, must prioritize the rights of the Palestinian people in the interim — to begin the end of Israel’s oppressive military occupation, to build and sustain the infrastructure of independence, to make progress toward self-determination.

All that’s required is political will on the part of the Biden administration and America’s allies.

A cease-fire will come. Then and now, the practical work of creating a Palestinian state alongside a defined and secure state of Israel can and should go forward.

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Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist, a former professor of journalism at Princeton University and a columnist with Al-Monitor.


©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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