The Palestinian Authority’s recent, and unusual, response to the EU’s statement condemning Israel’s latest settlement expansion would have been welcomed if it came from a consistent political position. In the wake of Israel’s impending annexation, it seems that the PA has caught up with the ramifications of territorial loss. Then again, even in this instance, the PA sabotaged the opportunity to clarify Palestinian demands, with its refusal to address the spectre of the two-state compromise.
In response to settlement expansion, the EU issued a statement which said in part, ” The EU recalls its firm opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in that context, such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes, which it sees as illegal under international law and as an impediment to a viable two-state solution.”
Unlike previous occasions where the PA merely thanked external actors for illusory support, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry declared the statement to be insufficient in terms of failing to address Israeli violations. It also highlighted Israel’s expansion as a “colonial settlement”.
Had the PA implemented a strategy that was in line with Palestinian demands, and not the international designation of what Palestine should be, its recent statement could have clarified the Palestinian definition of Palestine. Instead, the PA opposed the insufficient response while tacitly agreeing with it, both by referring to the non-binding UN Resolution 2334 on the illegality of settlements and overlooking the role of the two-state politics in Israeli settler-colonialism.
Israel has resisted the settler-colonial label in the international arena, unlike in the earlier days of Zionist colonial expansion, where forced transfer and settlements were considered to be permanent tactics to establish a colonial state in Palestine. Settler-colonialism is a process of uprooting and substitution, both of which have been mellowed by the UN’s focus on settlement buildings. Meanwhile, the end result from the Palestinian experience – forced displacement – has been normalised through humanitarian programmes that are inadequately funded and unable to keep up with growing Palestinian demands as a result of Israel’s systematic deprivation of basic essentials.
If the PA is to adopt an approach that calls out Israeli settler-colonialism, it should also modify its perception of the two-state compromise, which leaves the colonial structure intact. This is particularly important now that such a paradigm cannot be implemented, and Israel is clearly on the way to de-facto annexation of more territory. The PA should thus be rejecting the two-state “solution” as the only option — and a non-existent one at that — for an independent Palestinian state to come into being.
Anything less is complacency, and the PA has proved its expertise in this regard. International responses are indeed insufficient, but so is the PA’s wavering between statements, international peace conferences and, so far, the absence of a unified effort to call out Israel’s settler-colonialism persistently. If the PA had to define Palestine away from the two-state compromise, it would have no choice but to address the Israeli settler-colonial process. Quite unlike the PA’s allegiance to foreign donors propping it up, if the elections do take place and the authority “wins” some legitimacy, it will play a major role in wiping out any prospects of Palestinian independence. All in the name of the two-state politics, of course.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.