Counterpunch: The Enclosure of the Palestinians - The Occupation is Forever

Tony Gosling tony at
Fri Aug 8 21:01:37 BST 2014

The Enclosure the Palestinians

The Occupation is Forever

The ‘two-state solution’ is perennially 
misunderstood. The solution envisaged has nothing 
to do with a possible spatio-political division 
of Israel-Palestine and the ending of the 
Occupation. Rather it is a public relations 
device to quell the qualms of those bleeding 
hearts who find the current impasse unsavory, to 
deny the necessity (indeed the inevitability) of 
a ‘one-state solution’, and ultimately to ensure 
the continuation of the Occupation.

Ditto the ‘peace process’.

There is a hierarchy of groupings behind this 
long-time fraud. There are the blackguards – 
those who have formulated the objectives and are 
running the show. There are the flunkeys – those 
who perform the legwork publically for the 
blackguards (the execrable Quartet emissary Tony 
Blair as Exhibit A) or who cravenly bring up the 
rear (Europe); add the complaint media. And there 
are the naïfs who bear the message in their 
breasts, neutering themselves against informed 
interest and involvement in the transformation of the status quo.

There are a small number of people who fall 
outside this hierarchy. They are typically 
sometime consultants/negotiators/bureaucrats who 
have participated in negotiations to end the 
impasse. There is the rare diplomat. They are 
principled, accomplished and well-intentioned. 
But ultimately their efforts have been to no 
avail – to no avail because they took the ‘peace 
process’ seriously and were stymied by a battering ram of blackguardery.

It is surprising that such worthy individuals who 
have confronted at close quarters Israeli 
intransigence, belligerence and mendacity have 
not been heard of (save Richard Falk) during the current slaughter in Gaza.

It is instructive to retrieve reports 
(contemporaneous and mutually reinforcing) from 
two such individuals, reports that provide a 
context and perspective on this latest outrage. 
The authors were Alvaro de Soto, longtime UN 
staffer, and Yeshid Sayigh, longtime 
adviser/negotiator for Palestinian authorities. 
de Soto’s May 2007 report was written at the 
culmination of his (truncated) two-year stint as 
representative for the UN Secretary-General 
during the Quartet ‘roadmap’ negotiations. 
Thereport by Sayigh, ‘Inducing a Failed State in 
Palestine’, was published in Autumn 2007. The 
detail provides insight into the state of play 
seven years prior the current imbroglio, 
representative insight which has been forgotten 
in the current reportage – as if the whole 
conflict only began the day before yesterday.

Both reports are detailed and sober, as befits 
their authors’ formal role, status and 
experience. Extensive quotations from the reports are appropriate.

‘The international community’s attempt [via the 
Quartet and its ‘roadmap’] in late 2005 to 
promote Palestinian economic recovery reflected a 
long-standing assumption that economic 
development is crucial to the peace process and 
to prevent backsliding into conflict. Starting 
with the first international donor conference in 
October 1993, foreign aid was intended to 
demonstrate tangible peace dividends to the 
Palestinians as well as provide economic 
reconstruction and development to build public 
support for continued diplomacy. The Oslo 
agreement embodied an open-ended, incremental 
process with no prior agreement on Palestinian 
statehood, let alone on the so-called ‘permanent 
status’ issues: Israeli settlements, Jerusalem, 
borders, refugees, security and water. Rather 
than lever the parties into accepting specific 
final outcomes, the international community 
eschewed direct political intervention, and 
instead facilitated the process by underwriting 
practicalities and providing aid and other inducements.’ (Sayigh, 9)

‘The roadmap, still the only diplomatic 
instrument formally upheld by the Quartet, was at 
best stillborn, at worst “a way to consolidate 
the new status quo of no negotiations” [citing 
Barnea & Kastner, 2006]. 
 In its statement of 20 
September 2005, commenting on the recent Israeli 
disengagement from Gaza, the Quartet promised to 
“support sustainable growth of the Palestinian 
economy and to strengthen the overall capacities 
of the PA to assume its responsibilities through 
an aggressive pursuit of state building and 
democratic reform efforts”. It has failed to do 
any of this, if not worked to opposite effect.’ (Sayigh, 28)

‘The Quartet designated James Wolfensohn to act 
as Quartet Special Envoy for Gaza disengagement 
In the event, Wolfensohn’s mission began to run 
aground after his attempts to broker an agreement 
on access and movement were intercepted – some 
would say hijacked – at the last minute by US 
envoys and ultimately [Secretary of State 
Condoleezza] Rice herself. While the Agreement on 
Movement and Access of 15 November 2005 was 
painstakingly cobbled together by Wolfensohn and 
his high-powered team in the previous months, key 
alterations were made at the eleventh hour and he 
was virtually elbowed aside at the crowning moment.’ (de Soto, pars.9/13)

‘The international community sought to build on 
the momentum generated by the Israeli 
disengagement by restoring the conditions for 
accelerated economic growth in the occupied 
territories, but subsequently allowed this 
strategy to be nullified by the Israeli 
government’s refusal to implement its formal 
undertakings – a failure by omission. In 
contrast, the United States actively sought to 
induce ‘controlled’ state failure – the inability 
of the central authority to perform basic 
functions and provide essential public goods, 
including security – in the Hamas-led Palestinian 
Authority after [Hamas’ electoral victory in] January 2006. (Sayigh, 8/9)

 hence the undesirably punitive-sounding tone 
of the [US-dictated] 30 January statement [Hamas 
to renounce violence, no comparable demand on 
Israel; Hamas to recognize Israel, with undefined 
borders] from which we have not succeeded in 
distancing ourselves to this day, and which 
effectively transformed the Quartet from a 
negotiation-promoting foursome guided by a common 
document (The Road Map) into a body that was 
all-but imposing sanctions on a freely elected 
government of a people under occupation as well 
as setting unattainable preconditions for dialogue.’ (de Soto, par.50)

‘The failure of these two responses [Israeli and 
US intransigence] is part of the wider context of 
the international community’s role in overseeing 
the slide into state failure and humanitarian crisis.’ (Sayigh, 9)

‘[citing the World Bank, 2004] 
 the precipitator 
of this economic crisis has been “closure” – a 
multi-faceted system of restrictions on the 
movement of goods and people designed to protect 
Israelis in Israel itself and in the settlements. 
Closures have cut through the web of Palestinian 
economic transactions, raising the costs of doing 
business and disrupting the predictability needed 
for orderly economic life. Any sustained 
Palestinian economic recovery will ultimately 
require the dismantling of the closure system.’ (Sayigh, 9)

‘In the [Agreement on Movement and Access], the 
Israeli government committed itself to a number 
of measures [continuous crossing openings, 
facilitation of truck movements for trade and 
construction materials, etc.]. 
 Yet by July 
2007, none of this had happened. Indeed, the 
agreement was a dead letter by mid January 2006.’ (Sayigh, 10/11)

‘The defeat of the regime-change strategy and the 
continuing inability of the international 
community to ensure Israeli implementation of the 
Agreement on Movement and Access reveal its 
deeper failure to define realistic strategic 
goals or anticipate the long-term consequences of 
its policy choices. This is evident in its 
response to two main challenges: Israeli policies 
and measures that have continuously created new 
facts on the ground and, consequently, altered 
the parameters for any eventual resolution of conflict; 

‘In the first instance, the international 
community has repeatedly avoided confronting 
Israel, let alone penalising it, over unilateral 
measures that have transformed the landscape of 
the occupied territories since 2000, if not 1993. 
This is most evident in relation to the continued 
expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank 
and East Jerusalem and their associated 
infrastructure – over 1,200km of roads have been 
wholly or partially reserved for exclusive use by 
Israelis – despite the Oslo understandings and 
the explicit requirement for a ‘settlement freeze’ in the Quartet’s roadmap.

In parallel, the international community has 
adapted itself continuously to the constantly 
changing physical and administrative restrictions 
imposed by the Israeli Military Government and 
attached Civil Administration on movement and 
access in the occupied territories. These apply 
not only to Palestinians – who are additionally 
circumscribed by military orders, permit rules 
and residency requirements that often vary 
without notice or explanation, or are announced 
verbally – but also to international diplomatic 
and aid-agency personnel, technical experts and 
locally hired project staff.’ (Sayigh, 21/22)

‘By autumn [2006] it was evident that the 
cumulative impacts were making Gaza ungovernable, 
prompting UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan 
Egeland to describe it as ‘a ticking time bomb. 
the result was a sharp increase in the number of 
Palestinians suffering extreme poverty 
 By May 
2007, the UN was providing food aid to 1.1m in 
Gaza out of a population of 1.4m. 
’ (Sayigh, 26)

‘The devastating consequences of the Quartet 
position have been well documented, including in 
UN Security Council briefings. 
 The precipitous 
decline of the standard of living of 
Palestinians, particularly but by no means 
exclusively in Gaza, has been disastrous, both in 
humanitarian terms and in the perilous weakening 
of Palestinian institutions. International 
assistance, which had been gradually shifting to 
development and institutional reform, has 
reverted largely to the humanitarian. 
 Thus the 
steps taken by the international community with 
the presumed purpose of bringing about a 
Palestinian entity that will live in peace with 
its neighbour Israel have had precisely the opposite effect.’ (de Soto, par.51)

‘Furthermore, the Palestinian economy has adapted 
to siege conditions by restructuring in 
problematic ways. ’Internal fragmentation’ and 
the ‘compression of socio-economic space’ in the 
West Bank since 2001 have broken down economic 
relations between geographic areas and actors – 
between districts, rural and urban communities, 
employers and employees, producers and markets – 
and severely heightened social disparities. 
cantonisation, localisation, and deformalisation 
of the Palestinian economy since 2000 are 
long-term trends, as producers adapted to 
territorial fragmentation and market compression 
by confining themselves to smaller geographical 
areas, moving away from manufacturing and 
agriculture, and shifting to payment-in-kind and 
unpaid family labour.’ (Sayigh, 26/28)

‘Beyond the damage wrought in terms of 
international assistance 
 there is that which 
has been inflicted by Israel, notwithstanding its 
responsibilities to the population, under 
international law, as occupying power: not just 
the killings of hundreds of civilians in 
sustained heavy incursions and the [wanton] 
destruction of infrastructure 
; also the 
cessation of transfer to the PA, since February 
2006, of the VAT and customs duties which Israel 
collects, under the Paris Protocol signed with 
the PLO pursuant to the Oslo Accords, on behalf 
of the Palestinians. This is money collected from 
Palestinian exporters and importers.  It is 
Palestinian money. In normal circumstances it 
adds up to a full one third of Palestinian income. 

‘One wonders whether it is credible to judge the 
ability of a government to deliver when it is 
being deprived of its largest source of income, 
to which it is indubitably entitled by virtue of 
an agreement endorsed by the Security Council, by 
the State which largely controls the capacity of 
that government and its people to generate 
income. In fact, the PA government is being 
expected to deliver without having make-or-break 
attributes of sovereignty such as control of its 
borders, the monopoly over the use of force, or 
access to natural resources, let along regular 
tax receipts.’ (de Soto, pars.52/53)

‘I should make clear that I do not for a 
nanosecond condone the failings of the 
Palestinian side, notably its incapacity or 
unwillingness to comply with its obligations 
under the Road Map. 
 But it is also true that 
Israeli policies, whether this is intended or 
not, seem frequently perversely designed to 
encourage the continued action by Palestinian militants.’ (de Soto, pars.74/75)

‘In truth, the PLO is an entitled to ask of 
Israel whether it is a partner as Israel 
regularly asks of the PLO and PA.’ (de Soto, pars.21/22)

‘It is worth being aware that the combination of 
PA institutional decline and Israeli settlement 
expansion is creating a growing conviction among 
Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, as well as some 
Jews on the far left in Israel, that the two 
State solution’s best days are behind it. Given 
that a Palestinian State requires both a 
territory and a government, and the basis for 
both is being systematically undermined, they 
believe the only long-term way to end the 
conflict will be to abandon the idea of dividing 
the land and, instead, simply insist on respect 
for the civil, political and national rights of 
the two peoples, Jews and Arabs, who populate the 
land, in one State. The so-called “one State 
solution” is gaining ground. 
 In the meantime, 
Israel has sought refuge in, and locked itself 
into, an essentially rejectionist stance with 
respect to dealing with the Palestinians, by 
insisting on preconditions which they must know 
are unachievable.’ (de Soto, pars.128/131)

Sayigh and de Soto demonstrate that the Quartet’s 
roadmap was a farce. Elaborate in structure, 
hollow in substance. Israel was never going to 
make any concessions (consistent with its 
intransigence since the 1993 Oslo Accords). And 
the US was ensuring that Israel’s intransigence came up trumps.

Sayigh diplomatically refers to ‘the 
international community’, but the US was and is 
dictating subservience to Israel’s agenda. Europe 
remained and remains abjectly obedient and 
Russia, briefly formally involved, remained 
indifferent and preoccupied elsewhere.

But exposed behind the bureaucratic language of 
de Soto and Sayigh is the fact that Israel/US and 
its satraps have been strategically engaged over 
an extended period in ethnic cleansing of a 
subject people. This is an unspeakable crime, yet 
all authoritative organizations not directly 
responsible for the crime without exception blame 
the victims or look the other way.

The UN itself and its organizations have de facto 
legitimized the ongoing crime. This, in spite of 
the fact that billions of dollars of UN funds 
have been devoted to compensating for the 
devastation wreaked by Israel – propping up 
crippled Palestinian institutions, provisioning 
desperate populations and replacing destroyed 
infrastructure (including UN infrastructure) 
while Israel has continued to treat the UN with contempt.

Let us confront what the major powers and the 
international bodies were asking of Palestinian 
leadership in the Quartet roadmap. It (meaning 
Fatah, Hamas excluded by edict) was meant to 
clean up its inefficient and corrupt 
administrative structure and enforce security 
against Israel-directed violence. In return, 
funds would be disbursed with the hope of 
improving the Palestinian economy which in turn 
was intended to generate civility and pacificity amongst ‘the natives’.

The Occupation, supposedly condemned at 
international law, is legitimized. The 
fundamental flaws of Oslo – ‘no prior agreement 
on Palestinian statehood, let alone on the 
so-called “permanent status” issues’ – are 
reinforced. It is demanded of the victims that 
they further debase themselves. And Israel is 
permitted, carte blanche, to defy what minor 
obligations it has and to cherish as indelible 
its systemic crimes against the Palestinians.

As Sayigh (23) notes:

‘The international community has consistently 
misjudged the extent to which the Palestinian 
Authority is “less than a state, yet expected to 
act like a state”. 
 the authority lacked 
effective, let alone sovereign, control over many 
of the policy levers and tools it needed to fulfil the tasks set for it.’

Elementary, my Dear Watson. The absurdity 
couldn’t have been missed by its proponents. Not 
least when Israel perennially engages in sweeping 
arrests of those seeking to exercise authority, 
as it did during this vital period in 2005-06.

Both Sayigh and de Soto criticise the manifest 
failings of the factions that control and vie for 
control of the Palestinian leadership. But even 
political structures and its personnel in nation 
states with sovereignty and functioning 
governmental apparatuses are prone to 
incompetence and corruption. Here, it is demanded 
that those seeking leadership roles function as 
if in possession of sovereign powers, rights and 
attendant institutional capacities while forced, 
through deprivation of those powers and 
capacities, to remain as Quislings. That is, if 
they’re not languishing in an Israeli prison.

The script is laughable, raw material for Opera 
buffa. But it has been written by sadists, 
unrepentant racists in an era when racism has 
been universally renounced as passé, and its consequences have been diabolical.

Nothing asked of the Palestinians could possibly 
be expected to work in their interests.

Thus we have the sustained Mengelian laboratory 
experiment in the Occupied Territories of 
sustained deprivation of liberty, livelihood and 
humanity. Thus we have the mass murders in Gaza 
(have I missed any?) of 2006, 2008-09, 2012, and 
at present. More will come as night follows day. 
This is the Israeli revenge against Palestinians 
for persisting audaciously to inhabit land 
mandated exclusively to its rightful inhabitants 
presently thwarted from its possession in toto.

de Soto’s report attracted a little media 
attention at the time. The report was mentioned 
in the British Guardian, 13 June 2007. The author 
notes: ‘The highest ranking UN official in Israel 
has warned that American pressure has “pummelled 
into submission” the UN’s role as an impartial 
Middle East negotiator in a damning confidential 
report.’ Quite, although the article neglects to 
bring out de Soto’s implicit condemnation of the 
West’s complicity with and guardianship over Israel’s crimes.

However, an article on Inter Press Service, 15 
June, articulates accurately the tenor of the de 
Soto report and its implications. Not merely did 
de Soto condemn the US’ partisanry (which 
included funding the defeated Fatah to engage 
militarily with Hamas personnel) but he accused 
the then Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, of 
failing to ensure the independence and leverage 
of UN personnel in the pursuit of just 
resolutions. And, notes the article, incoming 
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proved to be more 
concerned over the disclosure of the confidential 
report than over the shocking implications of its contents.

The significant reports of de Soto and Sayigh 
disappeared into the ether. Within a year, the 
Gaza Strip had been completely and indefinitely 
closed off, putting the Gazans on a starvation 
diet that they have endured until this day. The 
blackguards duly arranged a purported 
resurrection of the roadmap at Annapolis in 
November 2007, at which the hapless Abu Mazen 
presented his wish list with ambitions for a 
speedy resolution within a year. Mazen was then 
instructed to suck eggs and the Israeli/US 
agenda, naturally, has since prevailed.

Israel’s ‘security concerns’ is code for Israel’s 
lebensraum, its idée fixe. Israel commands the 
cycle of repression and killing as integral to 
its ongoing land grab, which naturally invites 
resistance, which threatens Israel’s security, 
which results in more repression and killing and more land grabs.

Two-state solution my arse. Is there any reason 
to expect an extinguishment of Israel’s ‘security 
concerns’ until the Palestinians have themselves 
been extinguished from the terrain? None 
whatsoever. Then Israel can start work full-time on its neighbors.

Evan Jones is a retired political economist from 
the University of Sydney. He can be reached 
at:<>evan.jones at

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