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For Palestinians, Israeli elections signal deepening occupation (By Dr. Hanan Ashrawi)

For Palestinians, Israeli elections signal deepening occupation (By Dr. Hanan Ashrawi)

22 January 2013 in 2013

Over and again, the Palestinian leadership has been asked: What are our expectations of the Israeli elections? Our answer: Peace is nowhere in sight.

Predictably, over the past few weeks Israeli and foreign media have been hounding us for our expectations of the Israeli elections, and whether there will be any chance of a future breakthrough. Our answer is that the likely outcome does not bode well for the chances of peace.

It is just a matter of reviewing the platforms of the various Israeli political parties: Almost every single Zionist party has promised to continue with the policies of colonial expansion, to tighten the isolation of Occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of Palestine, and to focus on “managing” the occupation rather than on making peace. This formula is a sure recipe for disaster for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Most Israeli political parties have simply chosen to ignore the fact that they have systemically denied the Palestinian people their most basic rights. It is Israel that occupies four million people in the State of Palestine. It is Israel that has condemned more than five million Palestinians to exile. It is the Israeli occupation of Palestine that constitutes the main source of violence and instability in the region.

Justice seems to have no meaning in the Israeli political lexicon unless it is in relation to Israeli Jewish citizens. This fact can be attested to by the 1.5 million Christian and Muslim Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship and yet face institutionalized discrimination within Israel itself. Incitement against Palestinians is on the rise.

This culture of hate and exclusion is demonstrably evident throughout most of the Israeli electoral campaigns. An Israeli candidate calls for blowing up the Al Aqsa mosque in Occupied East Jerusalem and then simply justifies it by saying that it was a “joke.” Is it like those “jokes” carried out by Israeli terrorists against Muslim and Christian holy sites in Palestine over the course of 2012?

One member of a party advocates a policy offering financial incentives for Palestinians to emigrate, as a way to achieve an overall goal of ethnic cleansing in Palestine. Nothing seems to change. Some of the party heads have campaigned in settlements on the promise that the settlements will never be removed, although they are all illegal under international law. At the same time, they cheer when Israeli occupation forces remove Palestinians from their own land, either by stripping them of residency rights or by using force against courageous non-violent activists who have rightfully decided to protect their land from Israeli colonialism through establishing new Palestinian villages such as Bab Al Shams and Bab Al Karama.

Forty five years of Israeli occupation and colonization of another nation have taken their toll on the Israeli public. Despite the conventional wisdom that there is support for a two-state solution among Israelis, it is precisely this public that is being drawn into voting for those who offer a regional war agenda rather than a regional peace agenda.

In many elections, politicians are accused of stealing public resources. In Israel, in addition to stealing Palestinian land and natural resources, most Israeli politicians are bent on confiscating the last hope for a two-state solution. Most Israeli political parties are guilty of the deliberate omission of peace from their agenda. They talk about negotiations when they mean dictation. They talk about “managing” the occupation rather than putting an end to it. While there is a global consensus for a two-state solution, the main Israeli electoral lists see no room in historic Palestine for two states. This is despite over 60 UN resolutions, international humanitarian law and the most basic moral imperatives.

Unlike some Israeli politicians, we do not interfere in the elections of other countries. We accept the democratic choice of the people, even though in this case the outcome has a direct impact on our lives. Some Israeli politicians use the power of the occupier to undermine Palestinian rights and the chances of peace by creating an apartheid system and by trading away Palestinian rights.

Sooner or later the Israeli public should come to the realization that the longevity, security and legitimacy of their state are dependent on their treatment of the Palestinian people and their commitment to peace and justice, not to the subjugation of a whole nation.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi is a member of the PLO Executive Committee.

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