Palestine-Israel and the so called “peace process:  Interviews with Dr. Jeff Handmaker, and Guido van Leemput

On 31 March 2015, one day before
Palestine Authority became an official member of the International Criminal
Court (ICC), Dr. Al-Malki, Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority, was
invited by the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) to give a lecture entitled: “
Palestine,
the International Criminal Court and the General Election in Israel: Prospects
for a Just Peace
”. 

Lucia was prompted to write this
piece after hearing some of the debates that emerged there and amongst the
Academy students after the event. 

Among the attendees to the lecture, the
presence of Embassies and Academic institutions were the most notable. Dr.
Al-Malki emphasized the importance of seeking justice in light of the official
admission of Palestine to the ICC: “discrimination against Palestine should
find an end, and now is time for the ICC to conduct preliminary examinations
with the aim to consider whether war crimes have been committed in the occupied
Palestine territories”.

Credit: Caglecartoons.com

The peace process for Palestine and Israel
might still be in its initial stages. Since the 1990s, when the Oslo accords
were signed, Palestine has waited more than twenty years to ‘fulfil’ the right
of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Palestinians should not spend more
time to seek justice. Palestinians have deserved justice since more than two
decades ago.

Since January 7th 2015, with Palestine’s
formal accession to the ICC has begun to examine whether or not there is
reasonable evidence to proceed with full investigations in the ongoing conflict
between Israel and Palestine. But as Dr. Al-Malki mentioned in his lecture in
The Hague, preliminary examinations might take a long time. And if politics
change only in words, and not in implementation, we might see another
opportunity lost.

To know more about the “peace process”
between Palestine and Israel, I have interviewed two relevant insiders on this
topic.

Dr. Jeff
Handmaker
, Senior Lecturer in Law, Human Rights and Development at the
Institute of Social Studies (ISS), and Guido van Leemput for United Civilians for Peace, provided
their insights on Palestine’s adhesion to the ICC, and what a peace process
should entail between Palestine and Israel.

In conversation with Dr. Jeff Handmaker

Photo Credit:  www.anjameulenbelt.nl

Do you think the accession of Palestine
to the ICC will have a positive/negative impact on the peace process?
 

To answer this question it is important to
be cognisant of the context in which this accession and the so-called peace
process have taken place. Palestinians have historically been presented with a
limited number of choices, and it is important to know the roots of this complicated
situation.

One should note that in complex conflicts
such as this one there is nearly always a tension between the imperatives of justice
and peace, and there can be a whole wide range of variations and levels in preparing
a response. Many of those who wish to achieve either of these imperatives wish
it at all costs.

If you focus only on the symptoms of the conflict you can miss an opportunity to
understand its context. I actually think that it is more fundamental to
understand the longstanding impasse
that exists between the State of Israel and the Palestinians. Unlike the Jewish
residents of Israel-Palestine, the non-Jewish residents have never been afforded
the opportunity for self determination. They should have had that opportunity
in 1948, but both the British and the United Nations failed to realise their legal
obligations and put together a plan to address the future for all of those who
were living in the territory, regardless of their nationality and/or religion.

Since Israel’s declaration of independence
in 1948 and its refusal to recognise the full and equal rights of all
non-Jewish residents (including those who had been forcibly removed or
otherwise compelled to flee violence and seek temporary refuge in neighbouring
countries), Palestinians have been pushed to the margins. Also within Israel’s
1948 borders there is subjugation of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship; Israeli
nationality does not exist, only nationality based on ethnicity and religion. The
expansion of illegal settlements, and Israel’s administration of gas,
electricity and water resources in the territories of Gaza and West bank under
the control of Israel are further examples of this.

Further, there has been impunity for
numerous international crimes committed by Israel’s civilian authorities and
military, not least its allowing of illegal settlements as well as torture,
indefinite detention without trial and extrajudicial killings. This brings me
to Palestine’s accession to the ICC.

In general, I think the adhesion of
Palestine to the ICC will have a resounding positive impact on the peace
process. Indeed, I believe it is already changing the geo-political rules of
the game. But again, we need to critically question what kind of “peace process”
we are talking about.

Do you think justice can be achieved
considering that the Israeli settlements might be permanent in the West
Bank? 

If a party can be permitted to conduct itself
with impunity, there are absolutely no limits to what they can do. The behavior
of the Israel government, military and of certain Palestinian militants has been
increasingly violent, particularly in terms of how civilians and civilian areas
have been treated as legitimate targets, with hardly any perceived limitation. Israeli
military personnel and security officials have even targeted children. By their
open admission they want to “break the bones” (and will) of the next
generation, to prevent children from resisting the occupation by the Israeli
authorities. Further, it must be remembered that the vast majority of residents
in Gaza are refugees; after 1948, Gaza became very densely populated as result
of Palestinians having been pushed out and not permitted by Israel to return to
their homes and livelihoods after the cessation of violence.

The only thing that was achieved through
the Oslo accords was to preserve the status quo, and in doing that the
so-called accords paved the way for a massive construction of settlements. With
the accession of Palestine to the ICC, there is for the first time, in a long
time, the possibility of consequences for Israel and its position of impunity.
As a consequence, the possibilities of achieving justice and peace have to my
mind increased since ICC has become part of the formal process.  

What do you consider are the elements
(ingredients) that should be included in the Palestine – Israel’s peace
process?

ICC has now become part of the peace
process, and it is a very significant party because it is specifically mandated
to look at issues around justice. Justice is of course interlinked with peace. I
remain sceptical whether a meaningful peace process has ever existed between
Israel and the Palestinians.  Nevertheless,
as a result of ICC’s involvement and the possibility of consequences for Israel
as well as certain Palestinian leaders and individuals involved in military operations
that violated international humanitarian law, both sides are operating on more
equal terms than they ever have before.

Hence, the possibilities for aiming peace
have increased. But again, I do not believe that any peace process will ever
succeed if it does not take into consideration the core reasons why there is
conflict, or rather the reasons why there is an impasse, including both the
major narratives of historical dispossession and persecution over several
decades.

We need to look impartially at the demands
of all people who have been occupied and subjugated by others, and that is why
I consider the ICC an important element that should be included in the peace
process.

In conversation with Guido van Leemput

Do you think the accession of Palestine
to the ICC will have a positive/negative impact on the peace process? 

I suppose the accession of Palestine will
have positive effects on the diplomatic position of the Palestinian Authority
in relation to Israel and USA. At last, there will be new negotiations
necessary. Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Al-Malki gave 4 conditions before negotiations
can be restored. A third party is a necessity in new negotiations; and there
should be terms of reference and a defining time table with a clear goal.

Do you think justice can be achieved
considering that the Israeli settlements might be permanent in the West Bank?

It is up to the Palestinians how to deal
with settlements in a free Palestine. Up till now negotiations there has been
talk about “land swaps’ which might imply that settlements would be part of the
state of Israel in return of Israeli land (of the same quality) to the state of
Palestine. However if a ring of settlements is built around Jerusalem a viable
state would not be possible.

What are your thoughts in the last
conference that took place at ISS by Dr. Al-Malki?

It was interesting that Dr. Al-Malki gave
four conditions before starting negotiations again. We have to wait and see
what comes from (international) developments. Of course there will be a new
Israeli government, and then American proposals/reactions and European
reactions will be very important. Al-Malki’s speech strengthens Palestinian
self-confidence. I hope that this collective feeling will further develop.

What do you consider are the elements
(ingredients) that should be included in the Palestine – Israel’s peace
process?

Of course some negotiation is needed,
although an (announced or unilateral) withdrawal process by Israel would be
theoretically possible too, but not likely at all. So the four official
conditions brought up by the Palestinian Authority, as was done by Dr. Al-Malki,
are quite important. The Israeli left, the ones who are in favor of a two state
solution, analyze that the Israeli government is unwilling. The Palestinian
Authority is merely too weak to demand very much of it and so pressure has to
come from abroad (e.g. EU, USA or from international citizenship putting
pressure on Israel.)

Of course a viable and sovereign
Palestinian state will be very hard to obtain, consisting of two pieces (Gaza
and West Bank) which have to be interconnected by air, road and/or railroad.

I suppose all the relevant issues have been
negotiated already in the past 20 years; it is now about political will and
building confidence. So, we will see.

 Note: The views of the interviewers do not
necessarily represent the opinions of the organizations and any errors remain
those of the autho
r.

Some interesting articles to read
Palestine-Israel and the so called “peace process”, and in relation to this
blog, please check out the following:

http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/politics/2015/1/18/palestine-and-the-icc-will-there-be-an-investigation

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/03/palestine-icc-entry-shake-peace-process-150331085009541.html

http://www.liberties.eu/en/news/will-joining-the-icc-finally-lead-to-justice

http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/politics/2015/1/18/palestine-and-the-icc-will-there-be-an-investigation

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/03/palestine-icc-entry-shake-peace-process-150331085009541.html

 http://www.liberties.eu/en/news/will-joining-the-icc-finally-lead-to-justice

Lucia Lopez Pineda

Lucia is currently working on
Corporate Accountability mechanisms and the Behind the Brands Campaign at Oxfam
Novib. She is born and raised in Mexico but has a strong affinity to everything
Chinese.

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