Jpost – Arab-Israeli Conflict
All political agreements between Israel and the Palestinian leadership would collapse, if the hope of establishing a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital was lost, a senior Palestinian official has said.
Dr. Husam Zomlot, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s adviser for Strategic Affairs, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that the peace process and its accomplishments, including mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO and the establishment of the PA, would become obsolete, if hope to realize a two-state solution was destroyed by unilateral measures such as settlement expansion and the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“There are legal, political and institutional foundations of the peace process, all of which rely on the commitment of Israel, Palestine and the international community. The legal foundation is that the Palestinian territories east of the Green Line are occupied. The political foundations are the agreements between us and the Israelis. And the institutional foundations are all the frameworks of security, economic, civil and other cooperation between us and the Israelis,” Zomlot said.
“We cannot maintain the institutional foundations, the limbs of the peace process, if the legal and political foundations, the heart of the peace process, are totally undercut, which is why moving the US Embassy is such a destructive move for us.”
The Palestinian leadership and Israel agreed to an interim arrangement known as the Oslo Accords in 1993, which created the PA and defined the economic, security and civil relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.
Zomlot clarified that Palestinian leadership can back the peace process and the institutions it has created only insofar as it can tell its people that there is hope of achieving independence and statehood.
“We are preserving the institutions of the PA and its security, economic and civil cooperation with Israel, because we believe that it will lead to the establishment of a state with east Jerusalem as its capital. However, if the US and Israel deny us this hope, declaring that we will not be able establish our capital in Jerusalem, there is no reason for us to continue all of this cooperation and process.”
Zomlot said that while the Palestinians have no plans of leaving their homeland, they would return responsibility for the six million Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem to Israel.
“We would go. I personally would go back to Bir Zeit University [north of Ramallah] and teach there. It would then be Israel’s responsibility to deal with all of our needs,” Zomlot said. “Does Israel really think it can leave six million Palestinians in legal and political, institutional and services limbo? Who is going to collect garbage? Who is going to issue passports? Who is going to run schools? Who will be the new political representatives? Does Israel really think that a group of Palestinian political representatives who can accept the idea of annexation and subjugation will ever exist?”
Palestinian leadership has previously said that it would dissolve the PA, if there is no political horizon. However, Zomlot said that the difference in the coming period is that the United States could provide Israel with backing for changes to the status quo, undoing any hope for the future of the peace process.
“If the US affirms these Israeli policies that are destroying the two-state solution on the ground, it would be the lethal silver bullet that kills the peace process. We have always maintained our hope that we can still achieve statehood and our historic legitimate rights, but we cannot continue to function if we are deprived of our souls and lack legitimacy. Jerusalem and the two-state solution are our soul and our legitimacy.”
US administrations have historically supported the two-state solution based on pre-1967 lines. Nonetheless, President Donald Trump has yet to state his position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since assuming office, and he has made a number of campaign promises that contradict previous US policy.
For now, Zomlot said he hopes that Trump will take immediate action to confirm his support for international law and signed agreements.
“We expect President Trump to stick by long-held US policy and reaffirm the legal and political foundations of the stalled peace process. Restarting peace talks requires a firm commitment to the two-state solution with east Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine. As Israel has long-since annexed east Jerusalem in defiance of international and US law, moving the US Embassy to any part of the city is ipso facto a recognition of the illegal annexation,” Zomlot said.
The top Palestinian official concluded, however, saying that Palestinian leadership would be open to changes in Jerusalem, if they included the recognition of the Palestinians’ right to the city’s eastern parts.
“Should Israel de-annex and recognize east Jerusalem as an occupied city, and should president Trump fulfill his promise to help both sides reach a final agreement, then two US embassies are needed, one in west Jerusalem for Israel and one in east Jerusalem for Palestine,” he said.