Palestinians are right to reject Kushner's plan. A gilded cage is still a cage
This familiar claim was repeated this week in Bahrain, when Palestinian political leaders boycotted an economic "workshop" where Jared Kushner and Donald Trump's Peace to Prosperity plan was unveiled.
The plan suggested investing $50 billion in the infrastructure of the West Bank and Gaza as a means of economic development for Palestinians.
Palestinians rejected it - not because they don't want peace or prosperity - but because this, along with every other "peace deal" over the last 25 years, is simply an attempt to buy a Palestinian surrender of their struggle and rights.
The word "occupation" does not appear at all in Kushner's Bahrain document. At the summit, guests talked about Palestinian economic development without mentioning what actually prevented it for over 50 years: Israel's occupation.
One of the most enduring myths about the 25-year old peace process is that Palestinians have repeatedly rejected Israel's "generous" offers.
Palestinian demands have always been based on international law: A fully sovereign, independent state in all of the West Bank and Gaza based on 1967 borders, the removal of all illegal Israeli settlements, East Jerusalem as its capital and the return of Palestinian refugees. In return, Israel has offered Palestinians a Bantustan.
At Camp David in 2000, Ehud Barak's proposal for a Palestinian state based on 91 percent of the West Bank sounded substantive, but a closer look at Barak's map showed the West Bank carved into three chunks, surrounded by Israeli troops and settlers, without direct access to its own international borders.
|Guests talked about Palestinian economic development without mentioning what actually prevented it for over 50 years: Israel's occupation
A land swap that was supposed to compensate the Palestinians for the loss of prime agricultural land in the West Bank merely added insult to injury.
The only territory offered to Palestinian negotiators consisted of stretches of desert adjacent to the Gaza Strip that Israel currently uses for toxic waste dumping.
The proposals on East Jerusalem permitted the Palestinians control of a few scattered fragments of what had been theirs before 1967. Israel also insisted that it would retain absolute control over the land connecting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It could sever the link between the two main parts of a future Palestinian state whenever it chose to.
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Palestinians were being offered a Bantustan, and rightly rejected it.
Yasser Arafat's rejection of the Camp David Accords is often identified as the cause of the second intifiada. But the intifada had little to do with Camp David.
Ongoing land expropriation, settlement construction, unfair water allocation, Palestinian frustration at seven years of fruitless negotiations, combined with Ariel Sharon's provocative visit to the sacred Al-Aqsa Mosque on 28 September 2000, sparked the second intifada.
In September 2008, Ehud Olmert privately offered Mahmoud Abbas 93 percent of the West Bank and the whole of the Gaza Strip, with road access connecting the two areas that would make up the Palestinian "state".
|One of the most enduring myths about the 25-year old peace process is that Palestinians have repeatedly rejected Israel's 'generous' offers
There was to be a 6.6 percent land swap of Israeli land. The Palestinian capital could be in East Jerusalem, and holy sites in Jerusalem would come under international control. Five thousand Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return - just 0.6 percent of the 750,000 Palestinians displaced after Israel's creation in 1948.
Olmert famously sketched the borders of the proposal on the back of a napkin.
Abbas said that he couldn't decide immediately and that he needed time to consult with his leadership. Olmert then issued an ultimatum to Abbas: Sign the agreement now, or the deal would be called off.
Olmert did not allow Abbas to keep a copy of the map, nor was he allowed to show the map to the rest of the Palestinian negotiating team. Olmert never formally released the map to the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams. Abbas refused to sign Olmert's agreement without consulting his leadership first.
Addressing the media after meeting with President FW De Klerk in the early 1990s, Nelson Mandela said: "If you are negotiating you must do so in a spirit of reconciliation, not from the point of view of issuing ultimatums."
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Israel, however, has ignored Mandela's advice, and has never gone into any peace talks in the last two decades to actually negotiate with the Palestinians.
Diana Buttu, the former adviser to the negotiating team of the Palestine Liberation Organization says that the peace talks have been futile.
"Palestinian delegates needed permits to enter Israel to participate in talks, and were routinely held up at Israeli checkpoints. When we spoke of international law and the illegality of settlements, Israeli negotiators laughed in our faces. Power is everything, they would say, and you have none," says Buttu.
So, let's not fool ourselves into believing that Israel is engaging in sincere negotiations on equal footing with the Palestinians. There is no balance of power. Israel is demanding that Palestinians surrender their rights. When Palestinians refuse to do so, they are accused of rejecting peace.
Far from making generous offers or painful concessions, Israel has offered Palestinians a 'mini-state' with its major cities cut off from each other, its government unable to control its own water resources, develop its agriculture, or manage its trade with neighbouring states. A gilded cage is still a cage.
For 25 years, Palestinians have not been rejecting peace, they are demanding justice.
Suraya Dadoo is a South African writer and author focussing on Israel's occupation of Palestine.
Follow her on Twitter: @Suraya_Dadoo
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.