The Middle East is the home of the Palestinians, too

Although Lapid committed himself to a two-state solution, he retracted his earlier message, declaring that a peace agreement with the Palestinians is unfeasible. The writer is chairman of the Policy Working Group and a Zulat board member. He previously served as Israel’s ambassador to South Africa.
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Two weeks ago, at the inauguration of the UAE Embassy in Tel Aviv, new President Isaac Herzog said in self-admiration that “we did the impossible.”

 
A few days earlier, at the inauguration of the Israeli Embassy in the UAE, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid stated: “Israel is interested in peace with all its neighbors. We’re not going anywhere. The Middle East is our home.”
 
Nevertheless, two weeks later, in a meeting with the EU foreign ministers in Brussels as the guest of Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Lapid stated the opposite. Although he committed himself to a two-state solution, he retracted his earlier message, declaring that a peace agreement with the Palestinians is unfeasible during the tenure of the current government.
 
It is no secret that Israel’s relations with Europe have dangerously cooled down in the Netanyahu era. The EU-Israel Association Council did not hold its annual meeting for nine consecutive years. Contrary to popular belief in Israel, Europeans are not only driven by interests but have guiding principles, too. Systematic violation of human rights and disregard for international law, two matters of principle for the EU, are ignored by Israel when it comes to the Palestinians and the occupation.
 
The Europeans are suspicious. Summing up the meeting with Lapid, Borrell stated thereafter in a press conference that Israel is important to Europe, but it would have to demonstrate a substantial change in its policy on the Palestinian issue if it wants to see a change in European openness toward it.
 
Significant changes with regard to Israel are occurring in the United States too. Lately Ben & Jerry’s, the Vermont ice cream maker, announced that it was planning to stop selling its products in the settlements. Lapid hysterically described the move as “antisemitic,” as if the boycott was targeting Jews for being Jews rather than settlers who chose to live in the occupied territories in violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions.
 
Following the signing of the Abraham Accords, Zulat published a position paper titled “Fake Peace,” whose main argument was that former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was gift-wrapping Israel’s rule over the Palestinians.  No one claims that Israel shouldn’t have diplomatic, commercial, cultural or strategic relations with the Gulf states, but they were never at war with Israel. These were normalization rather than peace agreements, at the cost – inspired by US president Donald Trump – of removing the Palestinian case from the table.
 
Lapid told Borrell that Israel shares the values of democracy, equality and human rights with the EU, but the Europeans know very well that none of these exist in the occupied territories, which is subject to an aggressive and intrusive Israeli dictatorship. Israel will not be free and its democracy will be blemished as long as human rights in the areas under its control are violated and millions of people are at the mercy of a government they did not choose and which does not represent them at all. It’s impossible to talk about equality in the face of oppression of the Palestinian Jerusalemites by settlers and the police in East Jerusalem. That is just phony speak.
 
To our chagrin, Israel’s reputation as a liberal democracy is in peril. A recent survey of American Jews shows that 25%, even more among the young, believe that Israel is an apartheid state; 10% went even further saying they did not believe in Israel’s right to exist.
 
We are here, and so are the Palestinians. We have no time to wait for the Lapid-Bennett government to deign treating them as partners in a peace process. The clock is ticking and the government is ignoring it: PA head Mahmoud Abbas is already 85. His stepping-down should be expected anytime soon and prepared for, as it might be threatening to severely destabilize the Palestinian Authority and the region. Our government must lead us to a peace process without further delay.
 
This Op-ed was first published on the Jerusalem Post
 
The writer is chairman of the Policy Working Group and a Zulat board member. He previously served as Israel’s ambassador to South Africa.

]ilan Baruch

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Dr. Maha Sabbah Karkabi

 

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Tel Aviv University (2015), a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London (2015-2016), a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University (2016-2017), and a postdoctoral fellowship Ph.D. at the Humphrey Institute for Social Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2018-2020).
Dr. Maha Karbahi’s areas of interest focus on the connection between social change, family behavior, and gender inequality in societies in the process of change and specifically in Palestinian Arab society in Israel. Her research draws attention to the study of family life and employment, using a combined “ethnic lens” and “gender lens” and paying attention to the perspective of Palestinian Arab women, a group characterized by intersections between multiple marginal locations, which over the years has remained hidden from the research eye. Dr. Karkabi-Sabah’s research is published in professional journals and chapters in scientific books that are considered pioneers in family research, work, and gender equality.

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Prof. Frances Raday

Professor Emeritus in the Lieberman Chair in Labor Law, in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University and serves as a full professor in the College of Management’s academic track, where she also serves as chair of the graduate program and as honorary president of the Concord Center for International Law Absorption. Radai was a member of a working group of the UN Human Rights Council on discrimination against women. In addition, she is a prominent and feminist human rights activist.

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Dr. Rawia Aburabia 

Faculty member of Sapir Academic College’s School of Law, received her PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research deals with the interface between law, gender, minorities, and human rights. Has published in leading journals on the subject of the matrimonial laws pertaining to Muslim women in Israel. Her book Under the Law, Outside Justice: Polygamy, Gendered Citizenship, and Colonialism in Israeli Law is expected to be published as part of the Gender Series of Kibbutz Meuhad Publishing House.

Dr. Aburabia has extensive experience in international human rights and public law. She has worked as a jurist for the Association for Civil Right and has been invited as a specialist to address such international forums as the United Nations and the European Parliament on the subject of indigenous communities and minority rights. She has interned with Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, and has been a member of the executive board of Amnesty International. In 2018, she was selected by the magazine Globes as one of the 40 most promising young persons in Israel under the age of 40.

 

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Ron Kessler

With over two decades of experience in the field of digital content, Ron has participated in numerous political and social campaigns. He helped run the digital activity of senior public officials, and worked in various NGOs. Ron is a fundamentally optimistic man, who believes that Israel can be changed and so can people. Lives in Tel Aviv.