PRAWER SHALL NOT PASS
“The Palestinian people’s unity inside and outside the occupied homeland was embodied by the banner: ‘Prawer shall not pass’,” writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam and Al-Safir which publishes in Lebanon.
But before anything, we should first talk about the Prawer Plan. The story began with passage of the Knesset’s first reading on June 24th of a law to deport the inhabitants of tens of Bedouin villages in the Negev, and that requires their resettlement in what were referred to as ‘concentration municipalities.’ The Prawer Committee was formed for this purpose, and the law will be finally ratified in the coming weeks.
The scheme aims to steal what remains of the Negev people’s land. Around 800 thousand dunams– half the land that remains for them after the  Nakba– will be confiscated; with between 40 thousand and 70 thousand people being forcefully deported from 34 villages. These are villages that Israel has refused to recognize ever since its establishment. It has thereby deprived their inhabitants from their most basic individual and collective rights, as well as the elemental necessities of life, such as electricity, water, sewage systems, building permits, education, and other similar services.
In other words, the Prawer Plan means that the Arabs, who constitute 30% of the people of the Negev, will have to live on around 1% of its land.
Protests and demonstrations against this scheme were organized on July 15th, August 1st, and on the ‘Day of Anger’ – Negev’s international day on November 30th. And the struggle will continue to topple the scheme. To let it pass would constitute a new Nakba for the people of the Negev. It will open the door wide to other deportation schemes against our people in the Galilee, Jerusalem, or other areas in the West Bank. That will be a continuation of the occupation regime based on confiscation and ‘Judaization’ of the land, the expulsion of its inhabitants, and racial control and discrimination aiming to establish the Greater Israel, without having to assume responsibility for the land’s indigenous people.
Israel’s reaction to the Palestinian Day of Anger was extremely violent, because the government had not expected popular reaction to the Prawer scheme on such a scale. This is why it took exceptionally repressive measures against the demonstrators in Haifa, the Negev, Ramallah and elsewhere. Its aim was to prevent this day from turning into a sweeping popular intifada that would start in the Palestinian lands occupied in 1948 this time around, and be joined by the rest of the Palestinians wherever they may happen to be.
It is as if history is repeating itself. The most wide-scale Palestinian popular action in the territories occupied in 1948 after the Nakba was ‘Land Day’ on March 30th 1976. The Palestinians rose to defend their land and lost a number of martyrs in the process. Land Day is celebrated as an annual occasion in which the Palestinian people renew their commitment to their land and their determination to defend it regardless of the sacrifices and no matter how long it takes.
Netanyahu threatened the demonstrators and stressed his government’s commitment to legalize the Prawer Law for deportation. Meanwhile, [Israeli FM] Lieberman accused the Palestinian Bedouins of stealing ‘the Jewish people’s land.’ For his part, Israel’s interior minister, undertook to pursue Arab demonstrators across the entire country and to punish each and every one of them individually.
The day after the ‘Day of Anger’, the Knesset ratified a new law that forces any future Israeli government to secure the support of 80 Knesset members – an absolute majority – when ratifying any agreement that includes withdrawal from any lands that have been annexed to Israel. That was a reference to Israel’s refusal to withdraw from occupied Jerusalem, which was declared the united and eternal capital of Israel some decades ago.
Meanwhile, reports from reliable sources indicate that the Israeli PM tricked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when he announced a freeze on the decision by the Israeli housing minister to build 20 thousand new settlement units. The Israeli Housing Ministry’s webpage indicates that this decision is still in place, and that the tenders regarding this scheme are being implemented.
Given this, will the Palestinian leadership implement its threat to withdraw from the negotiations now that it has become clear that this vast settlement scheme is still active?
Israeli measures in the Negev, like other measures against our people in the lands occupied in 1948 and those being implemented in Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, are all one and the same. They do not distinguish between Israel and the territories occupied in 1967. And this confirms in a deeper manner, the unity of the Palestinian people’s struggle and the fact that their battle inside the territories occupied in 1967 and the territories occupied in 1948 is one and the same. The people are one; the land is one; the cause is one; and the enemy is one.
And that enemy is not sending a single signal that it is ready to conclude a historical reconciliation that ends the struggle that began in 1948 or reach a political settlement that ends the occupation of the territories occupied in 1967. The most that the influential parties in Israel are ready to accept is to grant the Palestinian inhabitants some form of self-rule in the heavily populated areas, but without recognizing a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, or only recognizing a state without sovereignty, without Jerusalem, without resolving the refugee issue, and without allowing the Palestinians to control their airspace, borders, waters, and natural resources.
This reality highlights the fact that a genuine sovereign Palestinian state is not around the corner or a stone’s throw away, and that the most that the current Israeli government can accept is a new interim solution with the aim of turning into a final status settlement, and that the most there is room for is ‘a state with provisional borders’ on part of the land occupied in 1967 either by agreement with the Palestinians, or by imposing this via a unilateral solution.
The above does not mean that the Palestinians should rush to renege on their program of establishing a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and adopt the program of a single state. After all, no one in the entire world recognizes Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and they all demand that it should withdraw from them. But it is Israel that has destroyed the possibility of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders by rejecting any solution, and by annexing and preparing to annex all the land it needs and it deems part of ‘Israel’s land promised to the Jews.’ It will therefore have to bear responsibility for putting paid to the two-state solution instead of providing it with a pretext to burden the Palestinians with that responsibility.
The Palestinians should realize that whoever can prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state could also thwart the establishment of a single state, especially since the latter is opposed by a majority in Israel that is larger than that that opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The terrible imbalance of power in favor of Israel and those who support it and are allied to it – headed by the U.S. –has enabled Israel to come into being, survive, and expand, and play a role much greater than its true size.
“This means that our priority and concentration should be focused on everything that can gradually change the balance of power, until we reach a new balance that allows for a solution that upholds Palestinian rights,” concludes Masri.