by Osama Radi, Omer Othmani
For the Palestinians marking the 48th anniversary of the Arab-Israeli war in 1967, a two-state solution seems still beyond their reach due to continued Israeli occupation of their territories, Gaza blockade, as well as settlement expansion, analysts said.
In the 1967 war, Israel defeated Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights of Syria and the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt.
The Palestinians approved the two-state principle right after Oslo Accords was signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel in 1993. Under the accords, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was formed as an autonomous authority to rule the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Jamal al-Omleh, director of the center for land protection in the West Bank, told Xinhua that Oslo Accords and the peace talks “had completely failed to prevent Israel from tightening its grip and expanding its settlements on the Palestinian territories.”
“Before Oslo Accords was signed, the number of settlers in the West bank was less than 150,000, and now there are 600,000 settlers,” Omleh said, adding that the area of settlements increased after Oslo Accords from six to 40 percent of the West Bank lands.
As for the Gaza Strip, Israel in 2005 unilaterally pulled out from the coastal enclave and evacuated around 20 settlements. Since 2007, the strip has been completely controlled by the Islamic Hamas movement and isolated from the West Bank.
Direct U.S.-sponsored peace talks, which lasted for nine months between Israel and the Palestinians, were suspended in April 2014 due to deep disputes over the issue of settlement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently proposed a resumption of talks on annexing big settlements in the West Bank to Israel, but the Palestinians immediately rejected it and insisted that the resumption of any future peace talks must be based on the principle of recognizing the 1967 borders of the Palestinian state and stopping settlement building.
Samih Shbeib, West Bank political analyst, told Xinhua that the current government of Israel is a fully right-wing administration and the main reason for the stalemate in the Middle East peace process is the right-wing strategy based on settlement expansion on the Palestinian territories.
“Netanyahu’s proposal to negotiate on annexing big settlements in the West Bank to Israel was an attempt to emptying the peace talks from its political contents. He wanted to talk with the Palestinians on the issue of settlement first to legalize the illegal issue of settlement,” said Shbeib.
In order to face the ongoing stalemate in the peace process, the Palestinians launched a diplomatic campaign four-year ago. One of its fruits was upgrading Palestine as a UN non-member observer state in 2012 and joining the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague early this year.
However, Hani al-Masri, director of the Ramallah-based Badil Center for Studies, told Xinhua that the Palestinian moves and activities are so far unable to oblige Israel to halt settlement expansion and do not help support the efforts of establishing an independent state of Palestine.
“While the Palestinians are seeking more diplomatic achievements, the Israelis are becoming more extreme and this was significant in the results of the last parliamentary elections held in Israel last March, and this is obvious that the possibility of reaching a real peace has become impossible,” said al-Masri. Enditem