By Toufic Haddad

If the prisoner exchange deal announced on 11 October 2011 between Hamas and the Israeli government is fully implemented without major hitches, there is little question who 'won' this five-year war of wills: the deal will constitute a major victory for Hamas and the resistance-oriented political forces in Palestinian society, while simultaneously representing a significant retreat for Israel and its historical doctrines of forceful coercion and rejectionism vis-à-vis the Palestinian people and their rights.

By Saleh Naami

Israel’s current onslaught against Gaza is the third largest military confrontation between the Israel and Palestinian resistance movements in the enclave since Hamas became the sole ruler of the Gaza Strip in July 2007. The battle was launched in the aftermath of drastic transformations in the regional landscape, distinguishing it different from Israel’s November 2012 ‘Operation Pillar of Cloud’. This is likely to affect its outcomes.

The dispute over Palestine is a political one but it is conducted within a legal framework. From the outset – the notorious Partition Plan contained in General Assembly Resolution 181(II) - international law has played an important role in the dispute. Today, the dispute is probably more characterized by legal argument than at any time before. It is, therefore, appropriate to consider the dispute in legal terms, as we shall be doing in this Conference.

Since the declaration of the state of Israel over sixty years ago Israel has consistently been in violation of international law. Over the years it has violated – and is still violating- some of the most fundamental norms of international law. It has been held to be in violation of international law by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, human rights treaty monitoring bodies and the International Court of Justice. In this respect it resembles apartheid South Africa which for over forty years violated international law by practicing racial discrimination, engaging in political repression, manufacturing nuclear weapons and carrying out military offensives against its neighbours. But there the similarity ends.

Summary

The continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank seems to have finally locked in the permanence of Israel's colonial project. Israel has crossed the threshold from the Middle East's only democracy to the only "apartheid regime" in the Western world. But outside intervention may offer the last hope for a reversal of the settlement enterprise and the achievement of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Since the US is no longer the likely agent of that intervention, it is up to the Europeans and to the Palestinians themselves to fashion the path to selfdetermination in the occupied territories. Essential to the success of these efforts is setting aright the chronic imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians. If left to their own devices – including, as some have proposed, to reconcile their conflicting historical "narratives" – the further usurpation of Palestinian lands, and the disappearance of the two state option, is all but ensured.

By Chas Freeman

Below is a presentation by Chas Freeman to staff of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and, separately, to the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. The presentation was made on the 1 September 2010, the day before US-sponsored talks between Israelis and the Palestinian Authority began in Washington.

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