Judging Israeli-Palestinian Demands

Neither side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict wants to accept a return to the status quo prior to the latest bloodshed, but there are differences between the reasonableness of the conflicting demands and how the world should see them, as John V. Whitbeck explains.

By John V. Whitbeck

After the breakdown in the six-day “pause” to permit negotiations on a long-term Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire and the resumption of Israel’s onslaught against the caged people of Gaza, concerned people everywhere are wondering how the conflicting demands of the two sides can possibly be reconciled when each side feels a compelling need to achieve some gain to justify its sacrifices.

On the Palestinian side, there are over 2,000 dead, over 10,000 wounded and massive destruction of homes and infrastructure and, on the Israeli side, 64 dead soldiers and two dead civilians. Neither side wants to agree to anything that its own people could view as accepting failure or defeat.

The Gaza Strip is a tightly cordoned-off area of only 139 square miles where some 1.8 million Palestinians are essentially trapped. (Photo from Wikipedia)

The Gaza Strip is a tightly cordoned-off area of only 139 square miles where some 1.8 million Palestinians are essentially trapped. (Photo from Wikipedia)

Considering the reasonableness or unreasonableness of the respective demands may assist any foreign governments which are genuinely interested in ending the infernal cycle of violence and making progress toward a durable peace with some measure of justice to decide which side they should be seeking to convince or compel to be reasonable.

Is it unreasonable to demand, as Palestine does, that residents of Gaza be permitted to leave their cage; to build a proper port; to rebuild their airport (destroyed by Israel in 2002); to farm their fields, even within three kilometers of their border with Israel; to fish their waters more than three nautical miles offshore; to export their produce and to import basic necessities?

Additionally, is it unreasonable to demand that the 61 Palestinians released in the Shalit prison swap and effectively kidnapped by Israel soon after the kidnapping in the West Bank of three young settlers be re-released?

This is all that Palestine has been demanding. To what other people could such modest demands be denied, as they have been throughout seven years of siege and blockade?

On the other hand, is it reasonable to demand, as Israel does, that, prior to any definitive agreement ending the occupation, Gaza be completely “demilitarized”, thereby stripping its people of any means of resisting their 47-year-long occupation (a right of resistance to foreign occupation being recognized by international law) or even of reminding a world which has preferred to ignore them of their miserable existence.

A high degree of “demilitarization” of the State of Palestine might well be agreed to in a definitive agreement ending the occupation, since Palestinians would not wish to give Israel any future excuse to re-invade and re-occupy Palestine, but what is needed now is not acquiescence in the occupation but the end of the occupation.

For the Israeli government, the best result that it can now realistically hope for is to maintain the status quo ante (including the siege of Gaza) and to again get away with murder, and, with Western powers exerting enormous pressures on Palestine not to join the International Criminal Court or otherwise seek recourse to international law to protect the Palestinian people, Israel should be able to achieve this simply by not agreeing to anything with the Palestinians. Such a result would clearly be unjust and unsatisfactory for Palestine and ensure yet another round of death and destruction in the near future.

Only serious and principled outside pressure on Israel to accede to most of the reasonable Palestinian demands, accompanied by credible threats of meaningful adverse consequences for Israeli obstinacy, would offer any hope of achieving a win-win result which could make yet another replay of this latest onslaught unlikely. Unfortunately, with the United States, the major European states and Egypt all firmly aligned on Israel’s side, any such serious and principled pressure is difficult to imagine in the absence of some game-changing Palestinian initiative.

With a view to saving Israeli face while ending the siege of Gaza (and subsequently the occupation of the entire State of Palestine), the Palestinian leadership should publicly request the deployment of UN, U.S. or NATO troops to both Gaza and the West Bank to protect both Israelis and Palestinians from further violence pending a full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied State of Palestine.

Neither Israelis nor Palestinians will have peace or security until the occupation ends on either a decent two-state or a democratic one-state basis, and the current round of Gaza massacres may have produced a moment when even Western governments, notwithstanding their knee-jerk pro-Israel public pronouncements, are conscious of this reality and could, if given a significant prod and incentive to act on this consciousness, actually do so.

John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.

7 comments for “Judging Israeli-Palestinian Demands

  1. James Moriarty
    August 30, 2014 at 07:53

    …”Nobody over there cares what the rest of the world thinks.”…. – And thank God for that. With all the venomous crap that has been pouring from the multitude of mouths around the world it is just as well that they stay strong and protect themselves from the organisation whose sole purpose for existence is the destruction of their little homeland. And it is just as well that they are not giving in to the demands to the uncontrollable transportation ports for Gaza through which the weapons and weapon materials have been delivered in the past. “But.. but… it is concrete for hospitals and schools!” – AS IF! It is concrete for the infiltration tunnels so Hamas can carry out their primary objective. So I plead with Israel to keep not caring about what the rest of the world thinks and maintain the only bright spark of civilization in that barbarian cesspit.

  2. Zachary Smith
    August 23, 2014 at 22:25

    Neither Israelis nor Palestinians will have peace or security until the occupation ends on either a decent two-state or a democratic one-state basis…

    I disagree with this statement. Israel is very secure, and has all the ‘peace’ it wants. A certain level of agitation is needed to keep the citizens of that shitty little state from thinking rational or decent thoughts.

    Nobody over there cares what the rest of the world thinks. Possibly that could change when the cold weather comes and conditions in Gaza get even worse – if the news media covered the story at all. (think about Ukraine!) But I doubt if anyone who matters would be bothered the least bit. Remember the Zionist Madeleine Albright? Sacrificing half a million Iraqi kids on the altar of imaginary WMDs didn’t bother her a bit.

    Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

    Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.

    There are no signs that anybody of any consequence in the Christian West will do any more than wring their hands if a mass dieoff from hunger or disease happens in Gaza.

    The most likely result would be that life for ordinary ‘Joe Sixpack’ Jews in Europe and South America will become a little more difficult. Unfortunately, there are plausible scenarios where such an outcome would be desirable for Israel.

  3. John J
    August 23, 2014 at 14:12

    Well said Hillary. Also in support, Israeli passports don’t say Israeli, but state whether one is a Jew or and Arab or whatever. Also Israel is the only western country that hasn’t and probably won’t define its borders until it has gained what it considers their dream, Greater Israel.
    I am pleased to see that many younger Jews are not buying the Zionist line, and many silent Jews are beginning to speak out for justice. I hope this is a sign of internationalism in their thinking, a walk away from the Zionist entrapment used to instill fear in them.

  4. Hillary
    August 23, 2014 at 12:53

    The “facts on the ground” have long been the tactics of the Zionists.

    All the agreements before and after the creation of Israel made by the Zionist Jewish leaders were never intended to be kept by them as indicated in their available published correspondence.
    The UK & US backed their agenda and then without a vote by the UN Security Council they declared their “statehood” in 1948 in contravention of the UN Charter.
    Their true colors became evident soon after as the brutal ethnic cleansing began in earnest.
    The solution as Helen Thomas said is for them all to return home to their countries in Europe.
    The Root Cause of the Never-Ending Conflict in Palestine; and How to Fix It
    By a Dutch Jewish WWII Survivor

    • August 25, 2014 at 13:04

      What am I missing here. The UN Genaral Assembly on the 29th Nov. 1947 authorised tha establishment of an Arab State and an Israeli state in the area known as the Bristish manddate of Palestine.
      The British mandate expired on May 14th 1948, and the Israeli state was declared shortly thereafter.
      The Arabs not only refused to accept the decision but the powers controlling the Arab portion of the British mandate of Palestine, Egypt for Gaza and Trans Jordan for the West Bank refused to allow an independent Arab state to be formed. In fact they continued to ignore the UN General Resolution while attemtpting to create their owm facts on the ground and wiping out the Israeli state twice before losing control over the areas.
      So how were the Zionist being defiant or are you creating new facts on the ground?

      • John J
        August 26, 2014 at 12:37

        The UN General Assembly vote was only a proposal for partition. For the final product to be law both sides had to accept it and it had to be passed by the Security Council. The Palestinians refused because most of the land and the best land was apportioned to the Jewish minority.
        Israel then declared an independent state, they had gathered all the intelligence on each Arab town, and proceeded to displace Palestinians. The other Arab countries didn’t take the issue seriously and supplied few under equipped soldiers who fought in an uncoordinated war. Israelis were never out manned or out gunned as many Zionist texts say. Read ‘Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem” by Benny Morris, and “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” by Ilan Pappe.
        The vote in the General Assembly was bought by Zionist interests. Still it never passed the Security Council.

        • postroadf
          August 30, 2014 at 09:03

          ah, citez dund3er head pappe
          Israel accepted what was offered. the 5 arab neighbors atrtacked, invaded to destroy. that is the first fact on the ground

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