As PLO member Hanan Ashrawi told me in Pretoria this week: “It seems Trump has left the so-called Ultimate Deal to the arch-Zionists to decide, like his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who supports settlements, David Friedman, the US Ambassador to Israel, and Jason Greenblatt, his lawyer. But there is no deal as there is no recipe for peace.”
When Ashrawi says there is no recipe for peace, she points firstly to the fact that the US has tried to take Jerusalem off the table, but the Palestinians will not compromise on East Jerusalem being the capital of an independent Palestinian state.
She notes that the US has targeted Palestinian refugees by cutting US funding for UNRWA, the UN agency which cares for Palestinian refugees.
Worse than that, the US now wants to redefine what a Palestinian refugee is. Instead of recognising the 5.5million refugees that the UN does, many emanating from 1967, the US now wants to consider only the 1948 refugees, of which Ashrawi says there are only about 40000 left living.
Not only is the US “defunding” the Palestinian hospital in Jerusalem, but also the NGOs in the occupied territories. The PLO office in Washington has been closed by the Trump administration, as has the US consulate in Jerusalem, which has served as a mission to the Palestinians since 1844.
The Trump administration has also refused Palestinian statehood, refused to call Israeli settlements illegal, which they are under international law, and refused to recognise the 1967 borders which the UN has recognised.
“They (the US) are smashing the requirements of peace, there is nothing left to talk about,” Ashrawi says. “Not only are they a partner in occupation, but they try to give Israel international impunity.”
It would seem that the US wants the Palestinians to admit they are defeated, but that would go against the DNA of Palestinians and their struggle.
For Ashrawi, all that is left is to wage an international campaign of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
While Ashrawi wants the international community to push back against attempts by Israel to criminalise the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and equate it with anti-Semitism, she also believes that allies in Israel should not be boycotted as they are crucial. Ashrawi refers to the progressive Israeli organisations which support the Palestinian struggle, such as Rabbis for Human Rights, B’tselem, Committee Against House Demolitions and Combatants for Peace, among others.
Ashrawi believes that South Africa has a critical role to play, within the AU and in BRICS, where it can mobilise support for the Palestinian cause.
“Israel must know there is a price to be paid for their violations of international law,” Ashrawi says.
But even beyond that will be South Africa’s presence on the UN Security Council in 2019/2020 when the Palestinians will rely on courageous voices.
Regarding South Africa’s decision to downgrade its embassy in Tel Aviv, which is informed by the ANC’s 54th conference resolution, Ashrawi believes that the sooner the embassy is downgraded the more effective it will be. “It sends the message that there are still governments that act on principle, which is a very responsible and moral position.”
The Palestinians have also pinned their hopes on the International Criminal Court (ICC), which they had approached over the continued construction of illegal settlements and the killing of civilians, both of which are considered war crimes.“We need the ICC to investigate beyond the preliminary investigation,” Ashrawi says.
The ICC, which is accused of focusing predominantly on human rights violations in Africa, has a chance to prove its mettle by investigating the cases the Palestinian leadership has brought to it.
As for the role and responsibility of the Palestinians themselves, Ashrawi acknowledges that Palestinian unity is crucial and there is still a long way to go.
“Hamas must be part of the PLO and reactivate the democratic system,” Ashrawi says.
It is no secret that the leader of Hamas in the Gaza strip, Mahmoud al-Zahar, was in South Africa this week at the same time as Ashrawi, but there was no interaction or even awareness of each other’s visits, which indicates just how far apart the Palestinian factions remain.
Without Palestinian unity there is little chance of them succeeding in creating a two-state solution.
Ebrahim is Independent Media’s Group Foreign Editor