Democratic referendum across Palestine, the key to peace

Alwaght– The Palestinian cause has been one of the most challenging regional crises over the past decades. It has been extensive and bearing grave impacts on the sensitive West Asia region, to an extent that it stands as an origin to the eruption of many crises, wars, and bloodsheds. The central culprit here has been the Israeli regime. Tel Aviv so far directly engaged in nearly 10 regional wars against the Arab states. It seized the Palestinian lands and displaced millions of them to the neighboring countries.

The Israeli regime bears all hallmarks of a terror state with its massacres of Palestinians in Palestinian Deir Yasin and Qafar Qasim villages in 1948. Moreover, the Israeli military slaughtered the Palestinian children and women at Sabra and Shatila camp in Lebanon in September 1982. And, to date, the Israeli soldiers continue systematically killing of the Palestinians. Tel Aviv also occupies the Syrian territory Golan Heights, as well as Lebanon’s Shaba Farms. The Israelis also have a long hand in fueling regional sectarianism, supporting terrorism in Syria and Iraq, and also intervening in the crisis-hit nations to perpetuate the conflicts. This is a shortlist of the Israeli regime’s destructive role in the regional developments in the seven decades of its life.

That gives a clear idea: The most important crisis in West Asia that needs a solution is the Israeli regime’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Once the problem is solved, the region and the world can be optimistic about the return of political and economic stability as the chaos and conflicts wind down in crucial West Asia.

But how this deep-rooted occupation should be ended is a very important question. The question gained significance afresh recently after an Arab-proposed initiative to settle the Palestinian cause was killed off by the US President Donald Trump’s recognition of al-Quds (Jerusalem) as Israeli regime’s capital and relocation of its embassy to the ancient city.

The Arab states, headed by Egypt, for several decades insisted on the Pan-Arabism-powered military confrontation with Israeli regime as the sole viable way to retake the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories and thus get rid of a foe in the heart of the Arab world. But the West- backed Israeli military inflicted heavy defeats on the allied Arab armies. The failure on the battleground encouraged compromising approach and Arabs, mainly Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, embarked on a process of diplomatic normalization with Tel Aviv. The three actors were hopeful that their compromises will lead to the formation of a Palestinian state beside an Israeli state in response to Muslim and Arab public’s demands for urgent actions to force-stop massacring of the Palestinians. They also set eyes on the military, diplomatic, and economic interests as a result of saving the alliance with the West as an unwavering backer of Tel Aviv.

This view underpinned the Oslo agreement, backed by the Arab states and the West and signed by then leader of Palestinian Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat, and the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1993. The accord was followed in 2002 by the Saudi-sponsored Arab initiative.

Despite the fact that in next years Tel Aviv showed no respect to the agreements and commitments and pressed ahead with the old policy of occupying further Palestinian lands and expanding its illegal settlement projects, the Arab sides preserved the so-called peace negotiations as their fixed line of policy to end the decades-long dispute. Simultaneously, more Palestinians were killed and more Israeli sentiments were built. The Israelis destroyed more Palestinian houses and thus more people were displaced. Turning a blind eye to the international resolutions, the Israeli officials have turned to their Knesset bills to fully eliminate a historical state of Palestine from the map.

But Trump’s assumption of the power at the White House and his biased, unconditional support for Tel Aviv, especially recognition of the occupation of Palestinian territories which were supposed to return to their real owners via dialogue, officially left the Arab initiative in the lurch. Seeking a solution to yet another impasse, the top initiative proposers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates now press the Palestinians to accede to al-Quds sale to the Israelis in what many call the Saudi-encouraged “deal of the century.” Many other Arab states are living in indecision on the issue, on the other side.

In a quandary like this, to obtain peace and end the historical conflict in an internationally acceptable and violence-evading fashion, a return to the democratic mechanisms like holding referendum bears a solution. A referendum in Palestine is a proposal made by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei in 2000 and was reiterated on 10 June 2018.the Supreme Leader called for a plebiscite covering the whole Palestinian territories and all native Palestinians from all religions, including those who were forced to leave their homeland. The solution that in case of realization could lead to a unified Palestinian state across the Palestinian territories that included all native Muslims, Christians, and Jews. The initiative was recognized by the United Nations.

The proposal in practice guarantees the Muslim world’s exit from the current political uncertainty on Palestine. A Muslim world’s unified voice calling for a democratic poll with participation of the native people of Palestine (Muslims, Jews, Christians, and other religious and ethnic groups) for a self-determination can, on the one hand, gain various Palestinian groups’ support and, on the other hand, put strains on the Israelis and their Western backers, which always trumpet pro-human rights slogans, to bow to a democratic process. In fact, once the Muslim world supports the initiative, the Western governments, strong opponents of the solution, will find themselves in an awkward position of having to answer why democracy and self-determination is a bad idea when it comes to their allies.

For a long time, the Israelis and the West abused the rights of the Palestinians under the ruse of threats posed by their foreign backers. But a reference to the people’s votes under a healthy referendum discloses the reality of the Israelis’ fear of democracy that could lead to the Israeli regime’s collapse from inside.

The refugee crisis is also dealt with in referendum initiative. The Palestinian refugees’ fate has been the main challenging issue in any viable peace proposal presented by various sides. But the referendum idea can resolve it with an emphasis on the formation of a united Palestinian state for original Palestinians regardless of their religion.