Palestine Consultations

On 10-11 November 2019 Pugwash held a number of small consultations with Palestinian officials, academics, and civil society concerning the situation in the West Bank and Gaza.

  • The general situation in the day-to-day lives of Palestinians was considered to have worsened during 2019: Israel’s policy of expanding settlements throughout the West Bank has accelerated, and many Palestinians consider this “colonization program” to be spurred on by a complicit and eager US Administration.
  • In particular, the current US Administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was seen as contradictory to the role of the US as guarantor and signatory of the Oslo Accords, in which the status of Jerusalem was listed as a negotiable issue. This move led directly to the Palestinian decision to boycott relations with the Trump Administration.
  • The retaliatory end of US funding to UNWRA as well as other humanitarian aid, coupled with the Israeli withholding of tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority, was seen as having a deep impact economically as well as threatening security in the West Bank.
  • Furthermore, the economic pressure being applied against the Palestinian territories was understood be a form of “ethnic cleansing” in which predominately young and educated Palestinians are forced to seek employment outside of the West Bank and Gaza. Increasing hardship against Palestinians was viewed to be simply “part of the US approach” to changing facts on the ground.
  • Palestinians understand that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been seeking a ‘regional track’ of political outreach to Gulf States for normalization of relations, that would then lead toward peace with the Palestinians. They view this as the complete opposite approach to that in the past, and a further way in which Israel is seeking to weaken Palestinian rights.
  • Nonetheless, they believe that talk of rapprochement and normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia is “overblown,” while other Arab States, notably Kuwait, were viewed to be against normalization.
  • More generally, Palestinians see that both Iran and Turkey are seriously challenging Saudi Arabia on leadership of the Islamic world. They believe that neither Saudi Arabia nor Jordan can be induced to give up Palestinian sovereignty of East Jerusalem as part of the Kushner plan.
  • Overall, it was said that the new generation of Palestinians is not interested in dialogue with Israelis – indeed, they understood that the same was true of Israelis, and that there is a mutual recognition of no peace camp with which to engage.
  • Palestinians see that the two-state solution is the only acceptable way forward in addressing Palestinian problem. Palestinians saw that there is only one political position left inside Israel and that is in favour of control over Palestinian territory. Further, they believe that there is no pressure inside or outside of Israel in favour of a two-state solution, given that Israel does not consider a democratic one-state solution a viable option.
  • Internally, Palestinians were positive toward the likelihood of Parliamentary and subsequently Presidential elections, which would provide a fresh re-democratization of society toward the goal of Palestinian unity. There is desire within Palestine to reduce the separation between the West Bank and Gaza and thereby pursue a unified political system.
  • Internationally, it was made clear that Palestinians have no trust in the US and rather look to Europe – however, they continue to be greatly disappointed by the empty rhetoric against the US approach and lack of concrete actions besides ongoing funding.
  • The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is generally considered positively by Palestinians.
  • There have been some meetings involving Palestinians and Israelis. This suggests that joint Israeli-Palestinian meetings can still happen.
  • A possible meeting of this type should be considered by Pugwash to discuss the general situation of the Middle East and its increasing problems and conflicts.