This Time Next Year?


President George Bush, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have committed themselves to give the world a new year’s gift in 2009: an independent state of Palestine. After decades of war and homelessness, oppression and occupation, settlements and walls, this is a welcome move. However, much needs to be accomplished in 2008 for this vision — unlike previous ones — to become a reality.

Despite skepticism, various pieces of the Palestinian statehood puzzle are falling into place. The Bush Administration has countered the pro-Israel lobby and spoken of the strategic importance of Palestinian statehood for the United States. Standing next to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah last October, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the creation of a Palestinian state is in the national interest of the United States. US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley was then sent to the region as proof that the issue has now taken on a national security priority. And now, President Bush has made his first trip as president to the occupied Palestinian territories.

For his part, Mahmoud Abbas has shown determination to negotiate a peace agreement, despite the daily pressures on the Palestinian people created by ongoing Israeli military attacks, movement restrictions and expansion of Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called for “a significant change of the reality” Israel created in our region in 1967 when it occupied Palestinian and Arab lands. Though he did not mention his name, he confirmed President Carter’s apartheid fears when he told journalists that long-term Israeli survival is jeopardized if the two-state solution doesn’t become a reality. Otherwise the Palestinian struggle “would become a South African like apartheid struggle,” he said. The world community has also dug deep into its pockets and pledged a record 7.4 billion dollars in assistance to the nascent Palestinian state.

But for Palestinians, whether living in East Jerusalem, Hebron, Jenin, Rafah or Gaza, everything is meaningless unless they see a true reversal of the negative results of Israel’s 40-year-old occupation. Exclusive Jewish settlement activities declared illegal and rejected by the world community have been the single greatest impediment to Palestinian freedom and the necessary contiguity for any sovereign state. When President Bush’s convoy travels to Bethlehem, he will no doubt see Israel’s Har Homa settlement built on the Palestinian lands of Jabel Abu Ghnem, part of which is owned by Palestinian Christians who live in the very fields where shepherds heard the good news of the birth of Jesus. The U.S. has called on Israel to cease all settlement activity. But just days after Annapolis, Israel announced plans to build another 300 homes in Har Homa. While Israeli settlers have freedom of travel, the Palestinian land owners and millions of other Palestinians can’t travel to nearby Jerusalem to visit holy places, go to work or school, or visit their families.

In reaching Bethlehem or Jericho, President Bush’s convoy was dwarfed by the eight-foot wall Israel has built deep in the Palestinian West Bank. The wall, along with all Israeli settlements, has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice at The Hague. It is a constant reminder to Palestinians of the prison in which they find themselves — whether behind bars in brick and mortar jails or hemmed in by the wall, checkpoints and border closures. The result is perhaps the longest and most severe collective punishment in modern history. More than ten thousand Palestinian political prisoners languish in Israeli jails, many without charge or trial. Hundreds of checkpoints set up in the West Bank since 2000 have not been removed despite the Israeli human rights group B’tselem’s recent report, which noted that the security situation improved for Israel in 2007. Even in Gaza where Israeli settlements and army checkpoints were removed, Israel continues to curtail the movement of people and goods. There is no justification for the continued punishment of Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinians, no matter what political movement exercises nominal control there. In fact, Hamas has made explicit offers for a ceasefire, but Israel has rejected them.

An independent Palestinian state living alongside a secure state of Israel requires political will and an environment that will produce public support for peace. These elements are essential for negotiations in 2008 to succeed. Nothing would provide public support for peace talks more than an end to Israeli settlement activity and the release of Palestinian political prisoners. We can only hope that President Bush toured the West Bank with eyes open to the daily suffering of Palestinian life, and that he matches his commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state with the resolve necessary to hold Israel to its commitments.

Daoud Kuttab is an award winning Palestinian journalist. He is a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. His e-mail is Read other articles by Daoud, or visit Daoud's website.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. jaime said on January 18th, 2008 at 9:56am #

    “…There is no justification for the continued punishment of Gaza’s 1.5 million palestinians…”

    Friday January 18, 2008,,2243085,00.html

    ” southern Israeli towns near Gaza saw an increase in Palestinian rocket attacks over recent weeks.”

    “The violence has weakened the likelihood of a peace deal being reached by the end of the year”

    “Today, four rockets fell on Israel, with one hitting the town of Ashkelon, population 120,000.

    “In Sderot, a southern Israeli town that is a target for Gaza militants, a rocket fell near a day care centre, damaging the building.”

    “Hamas and other groups had fired more than 150 rockets and mortars since Tuesday.

  2. Mulga Mumblebrain said on January 18th, 2008 at 9:34pm #

    As ever jaime’s one-dimensional worldview leaves out the scores of Palestinians slaughtered by Israeli aircraft, helicopter gunships and tanks, in recent weeks. Only Jewish suffering, thankfully not including any deaths, is of concern to jaime, and his racial supremacist ilk. Palestinian lives are worth nothing. We all know from whence comes this peculiar ‘morality’. As Rabbi Kook the Elder, Godfather of the colonial settlers movement, said,
    ‘There is a greater difference between the soul of a Jew and a non-Jew than there is between the soul of a non-Jew and an animal’.
    Now that’s blunt. Further evidence of Judeofascist racism is easy to find. Take for instance this gem, from Mordechai Eliyahu former chief Sephardic Rabbi. As reported in The Jerusalem Post May 30,2007.
    ‘All civilians living in Gaza are collectively guilty for Kassam attacks on Sderot, former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliayahu, has written in a letter to…Olmert.
    Eliyahu ruled that there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians.
    The former chief Rabbi also said it was forbidden to risk the lives of Jews in Sderot or lives of IDF soldiers for fear of injuring or killing Palestinian non-combatants living in Gaza.
    ….Eliyahu’s son, Shmuel Eliyahu, who is chief rabbi of Safed, said his father…advocated carpet bombing the general area from which the Kassams were launched, regardless of the price in Palestinian lives.
    ‘If they do not stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand.’ said Shmuel Eliyahu ‘And if they do not stop after a thousand, then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes….’
    And they have the nerve to feign outrage when the similarity between this ideology of murderous race hatred is compared to Nazism! As ever we see the complete contempt for International Law that is the hallmark of this vicious, racist, theocratic state. Israeli ‘religious law’ that sees all non-Jews as closer to animals, drives the unceasing murder of defenseless civilians, and the unending theft of their land. Even more worrying is the reality that this ultra-chauvinist state, which defies all restraints on the killing of civilians, is armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, and the missile launching submarines to deliver them anywhere. To paraphrase Shmuel Eliyahu, ‘..we must kill..even a million, even ten million. Whatever it takes..’

  3. jaime said on January 20th, 2008 at 1:28pm #

    Hey Mulga,
    I know…but some of your best friends are Jewish…right?

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain said on January 21st, 2008 at 1:34am #

    Yes indeed, jaime. If a Jew is a decent human being, as I feel were and are Yehudi Menuhin, Einstein, Chomsky, Oistrakh, Marx, Freud,Mendelssohn and countless others unknown to fame or celebrity, they have my admiration. Not becoming a shit proves difficult for many, many people, Jew or Gentile. But if a Jew is a bully, racist and liar, as I fear many are, then I have a low opinion of them. Not because they are Jews, but because their behaviour and actions are, in my opinion, wicked. There is nothing in their Jewishness that prevents them recognising the error of their ways and ceasing their bullying, lying and racism. Actually the whole Jew, non-Jew, Christian, non-Christian, Moslem, non-Moslem thing gives me the horrors. The Abrahamic religions are all so much patriarchal, psychotic nonsense, in my opinion. I only take the side of the Palestinians against the Judeofascists, as it is my opinion that they are the victims of infamous wickedness and cruelty. I expect better of the Jews, particularly given their own recent tragic history of oppression. The fact that the Israelis and their apologists behave so badly is evidence of human, not Jewish, wickedness, although the cruelty does have definite Jewish characteristics, just as the Khmer Rouge were evil people, but in a peculiarly Khmer fashion. I hope that elucidates my position for you jaime.

  5. Phil said on January 21st, 2008 at 10:48am #

    Smoke and mirrors, as always. Israel will never agree to the one thing necessary for a solution (ceasing their constant terrorism against others and supporting basic human rights for all without discrimination), Dumbya will continue his puppet dance whenever AIPAC pulls the strings, and anyone who expects any future US prez or Israeli PM to break that pattern is kidding themselves.