Maltese protesters ‘play dead’ on the steps of City Gate in Valletta to show their opposition to the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier
VALLETTA, Malta — In the course of a joint endeavor between the Maltese Foreign Ministry and the University of Malta, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki gave a public lecture at the Old University in Valletta, Malta, on May 8, in which he discussed the two-state paradigm and Palestine’s recent accession to the International Criminal Court.
The theme, “Developments in the Middle East Peace Process in relation to the region,” introduced by al-Maliki is defined by “waiting.” Ever since he entered into politics, al-Maliki said, waiting has constituted a major part of the peace process. Palestinians have been “asked to wait, and to keep waiting, hoping that the future will be better than it is today.”
Al-Maliki described this tactic — which has been enforced most notably by Israel and the United States, and which has clearly contributed to the fragmentation and colonization of Palestine — as an “interesting approach” imposed by the international community upon the weakest element of the equation, Palestinians. Meanwhile, al-Maliki affirmed that the “interesting approach,” with reference to the waiting game, manifests itself in visible changes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that prevent “an emerging, viable independent State of Palestine.”
Giving an overview of the peace negotiations that commenced in July 2013 and continued until April 2014, during which the Palestinian Authority engaged in discussions with Israel and the U.S., al-Maliki described how the initial nine-month time frame was used as a premise to further extend the talks. “The U.S. asked us to wait until they can visualise and derive a conclusion,” he asserted.
It was then, according to al-Maliki, that the PA sought recognition from the U.N. Security Council through repeated submissions of draft resolutions to end the Israeli occupation. During that same period, al-Maliki says the U.S. instructed Palestinians to “wait until Israeli elections, and then we were asked to wait until the formation of the Israeli government. We were told not to think about submitting another draft resolution before June 30 to allow time for the Iran and the P5+1 nuclear agreement.”
Al-Maliki continued: “No one asked Israel to wait while they changed realities on the ground through settlement expansion. So the Palestinian Authority decided it wouldn’t wait any more, or listen to waiting discourse.”
The ICC: A double-edged sword
Speaking about the draft resolutions submitted by the PA to the Security Council, al-Maliki explained that the U.S. pressured other Security Council members to withdraw their support for the draft resolution.=
“Nigeria, a non-permanent member of the UNSC, could not resist the pressure,” he said. “With Boko Haram overtaking the army and continuing to take hostages, Nigeria is dependent upon military security advisers from the U.S. and Israel.”
He continued, explained that Nigeria was threatened by both the U.S. and Israel, which asserted that the PA’s draft resolution would result in the withdrawal of security advisers, leaving Nigeria to deal with Boko Haram alone.
Any future draft resolution to be submitted to the Security Council — the latest being an endeavor embarked upon by France — should be based upon three elements, which al-Maliki identified as: “defined parameters, mechanisms to implement the defined parameters and a date by which to end the Israeli occupation.”
Meanwhile, he described the new Israeli coalition government as “a government of the right wing focused upon the settlement enterprise” and characterized by three particular elements: instability due to the coalition winning 61 seats out of 120, united in an anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian approach, and unwilling to provide Palestinians with an opportunity to negotiate within the parameters of the two-state hypothesis.
Discussion of Palestine’s accession to the ICC on April 1 was characterized by al-Maliki as Palestine “utilizing available legal means” which led Palestinians to sign 35 international treaties with the intention of bringing Palestine closer to international law and provide protection through membership in the signed treaties. Further, he described Palestine as “the only country in the world signing treaties without reservations.” Affirming the need for other countries’ support, al-Maliki stated that the University of Malta will be helping the PA in preparing statements and drafting reports related to conventions signed.
Yet he also described Palestine’s accession to the ICC as a double-edged sword, saying: “If justice is not delivered through the UNSC which has failed Palestine, then we have the right to pursue justice through the ICC.” Expressing “pride” about the decision taken, he noted that the preliminary investigations will focus on Gaza and settlement expansion — the latter of which allows “penetration of the enemy through the military, political and security aspects.”
Al-Maliki’s talk reflected the elimination of anti-colonial struggle which is synonymous with the PA. The focus on “occupation” as opposed to colonization was also reflected in al-Maliki’s concluding remarks on the ICC: “We know we will not get full justice — we know we will get partial justice.”
“The future is bleak”
During al-Maliki’s visit to the island, Malta and Palestine signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation between small and mid-sized businesses. The agreement, signed by al-Maliki and Maltese Foreign Minister Dr. George Vella, took place even as Malta announced the details for two scholarships for Palestinian post-graduate students at the University of Malta. For 20 years, Malta has offered educational opportunities for Palestinians studying diplomacy through the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies (MEDAC).
The scholarships in “Conservation and Management of Built Heritage” and a master’s degree program in Humanitarian Action are framed within the context of the two-state paradigm. As the call for application states: “The main objective of the international community’s engagement in Palestine is the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the state of Israel.”
In comments to MintPress News on whether the subject areas can provide a challenge to anti-colonial struggle, Vella stated that the call for scholarships in both subject areas was demanded by the Palestinians themselves. “The course in Conservation and Management of Built Heritage was specifically requested by Palestinians themselves,” he said. “They asked for two more scholarships to strengthen that area. I cannot tell what the assessment as regards outcome will be on their end.”
“When we are speaking about heritage, it is important to also include Palestinian villages and culture, rather than restrict the interpretation to conventional historical heritage. Israel is destroying Palestinian villages, embarking upon a process of oblivion through settlement expansion. But it is the up to the Palestinians themselves to determine how to utilize the course in their circumstances.”
He also discussed Malta’s support for the “two-state solution” as stipulated by the international community, which diverges from the anti-colonial struggle. “Malta is one of the countries at the helm of offering support for Palestine. In fact, during our meetings with al-Maliki we discussed ways of strengthening the European Union’s support for Palestine,” he said, adding:
“However, it is not possible to negate the fact that Israel has tremendous power through relations with the U.S. and other European countries such as Germany and the Czech Republic. We have conducted visits — I have visited Gaza twice. We are chairing the Committee on Palestinian Rights at the United Nations.
We have also issued various statements condemning settlement expansion. It is an anti-colonial struggle, but what else can Malta do? Settlement expansion goes against international law, but in the meantime, what is going to stop Israel? All criticism of Israel is vetoed and no one implements the resolutions. In my last meeting with former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman I specifically told him that they should be ashamed of themselves for the murder of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”
The newly-formed Israeli coalition government, which boasts of ministers such as Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, who head education and justice, respectively, is expected to escalate colonial violence against Palestinians.
“This government is made up of extremely rightist individuals who will further oppress Palestinians. Netanyahu has kept the foreign ministry to himself for now — many think the idea is to lure Herzog or Livni into the coalition. Despite resigning from his position as foreign minister, Lieberman still has the power to influence political decisions,” Vella explained.
“I told al-Maliki the future is bleak. If Israel continues to expand, there is going to be no land left for a two-state solution. There are volumes of condemnation but no concrete action against Israel.”