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A dangerous moment for Palestine

Johannes Hautaviita is a journalist and a columnist for Helsinki Times. He specialises in international politics, in particular the Middle East. His commentaries and analyses on international affairs are regularly published in the Finnish, Swedish and English-language media.

Twenty years after the signing of the Oslo agreement, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced, yet again, new rounds of peace talks intended, ostensibly, to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Kerry's efforts are universally hailed as a genuine attempt to achieve a two-state solution. The critical end of the spectrum concedes that the process has 'failed'.

There is one glaringly obvious aspect of the 'peace process', which amazingly is never addressed: The 'peace process' is not and was never intended to create a viable Palestinian state. Rather, to pull the wool over the eyes of the world while the US and Israel proceed to deny the Palestinians their inalienable rights under international law and eventually impose Israel's desired outcome on the indigenous population.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest judicial body in the world, gave its advisory opinion on the question of the legality of Israel's wall on the West Bank. An advisory opinion provides the definitive legal interpretation of the issue at hand and the ruling is adopted into the corpus of customary international law.

As it happens, the ICJ also ruled on all but one of the major issues of the 'peace process'. According to the ICJ, Israel has no claim to any of the West Bank and East-Jerusalem, which it defined as "occupied Palestinian territories" (oPt). Every single Israeli settlement and part of the wall inside the West Bank have to be dismantled, ruled the World Court, calling on Israel to immediately withdraw from the oPt.

The ICJ decision reflects the international consensus for solving the conflict. Since 1989, the UN General Assembly has annually voted on a two-state settlement to the conflict. The quid pro quo of the resolution is an Israeli withdrawal from the oPt, the dismantling of the Israeli settlements and a just resolution to the refugee question in return for a guarantee to all states in the region of their right to live in peace and security with their neighbours.

Every year the whole world votes in favor of the resolution while Israel, the US and some of its allies and dependencies vote against. In 1989, the vote was 151 to 3 (the US, Israel and the Dominican Republic). Come 2012, the vote was 174 to six (the US, Israel, Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau).

The 'peace process', brokered by Washington, flatly rejects international law and the international consensus. The 'peace process' provides diplomatic cover for Israel's continuing illegal annexation of the major settlement blocs on the West Bank. In 2002, Israel began the construction of the West Bank wall, which incorporates the major settlement blocs into Israel proper. The wall, which annexes roughly nine percent of the West Bank, is intended to unilaterally redraw the borders between the Israeli and the future Palestinian state. As the diplomatic history of the 'peace process' evinces, the route of the wall is the border Israel has wanted all along. "One does not have to be a genius to see that the fence will have implications for the future border", in the words of Tzipi Livni, Israel's Minister of Justice.

Talk of the 'failure' of the 'peace process' is dangerously misleading. Quite the contrary, the 'peace process' has been a major success. It has successfully deflected the world's attention from the international consensus and relieved the pressure on Israel for solving the conflict.

The Kerry 'peace plan' is expected to give Israel what it wants, that is to deny Palestinian refugees their right to return and allow Israel to keep the settlement blocs annexed by the wall. In addition to being a "flagrant violation" of international humanitarian law, the Israeli settlement enterprise "constitutes a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East", in the wording of the UN Security Council.

Should Kerry succeed it could effectively mark a death knell for Palestinian self-determination.

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