Palestinian Authority affirms its commitment to 1967 borders

Palestinians 'are not backtracking', writes Fatah's foreign relations commissioner Nabeel Shaath. The 1967 border remains a "red line" if the two-state solution is to prevail.

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For a few years, international leaders have voiced concerns about the stalemate in the Middle East peace process. After 20 years of negotiations, we still hear calls to go back to the table for negotiations. At the same time, Israeli bulldozers continue to change Palestine's landscape.

Soon, Occupied East Jerusalem will be fully disconnected from the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory while the occupying power continues the forced displacement of Palestinian Christians and Muslims. Historic cities like Bethlehem and Jerusalem would no longer be connected and our olive trees continue to be replaced with ugly Israeli buildings. The Jordan Valley population is being displaced for the welfare of Israeli businessmen and the Gaza Strip continues to suffer from a draconian siege. Is this the right environment to conduct negotiations?

All Israeli occupation actions have a common goal: to exterminate the idea of the 1967 border by accommodating our land to their demographic needs. In other words, Israel continues to take as much land as possible while pushing Palestinians into isolated cantons. This is what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls "support" for the two-state solution. This is what we call apartheid.

Part of the goal of our statehood bid is to prevent this from happening. We have requested a strong position from the international community to support the two-state solution by recognising Palestine's 1967 borders. Although Israeli officials have urged the world not to "fall into Palestinian preconditions", the 1967 border is not a Palestinian precondition but rather a foundation and a term of reference for Palestinian-Israeli talks since the Madrid Conference. Furthermore, the 1967 borders represent the historic Palestinian compromise of 1988 when the PLO limited its call for statehood to 22 per cent of historic Palestine.

The Palestinian requirement for a meaningful negotiations process is an implementation of past agreements and clear terms of reference. Therefore, a full Israeli settlement freeze and Israel's recognition of the 1967 border are both elements that can make the difference between peace or continuation of the occupation. Palestine cannot be blamed for not engaging in negotiations after having fulfilled all its Road Map obligations and reaffirmed its commitment towards a two-state solution. Palestine will not engage in any negotiations process if it does not conduct a real, comprehensive and just solution. We will not accept any pressure to compromise our national rights for the sake of a meaningless negotiations process.

The National editorial last week, Concession on 1967 borders is last-ditch effort, misrepresented my views by saying that my statement on returning to negotiations with a full settlement freeze implied that we are no longer asking for recognition of the 1967 border. Indeed, as the editorial suggests, we will continue taking the path of international diplomacy and popular non-violent resistance. Our right to self-determination is not based on negotiations and our state on the 1967 borders has been recognised by 132 countries. We are not backtracking.

If Israel does not want to respect international law and implement previous agreements, it cannot be considered a partner for peace. Rather, it has to be held accountable for choosing to perpetuate the occupation and colonisation of our land and our people over a just and lasting peace. Our aim is not to manage the conflict by being involved in a never-ending process. Two states on the 1967 border is our position, which has been endorsed by the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the rest of the international community.

The Palestinian historic compromise of accepting the two-state solution on the 1967 border has two alternatives: either the continuation of the status quo of oppression and racism, which would never be accepted by Palestinians, or to advance towards a one-state solution where Palestinian Christians and Muslims would live as equal citizens in an single democratic state. This would not be accepted by Israeli Jews.

By refusing to accept the 1967 border, Mr Netanyahu is harming on his own country. By not recognising the state of Palestine on the 1967 border, some countries are effectively supporting Israel's plan to erase the 1967 border. By keeping our demand for recognition of our state on the 1967 border, we are calling upon the world to send a strong message against Israel's colonisation and to invest in peace.

The 1967 border, known also as the "green line", remains a "red line" for the two-state solution to prevail.

Dr Nabeel Shaath is Fatah's foreign relations commissioner, a former Palestinian foreign minister and a senior Palestinian negotiator

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