Is a demilitarised Palestinian state a viable option?

An Israeli policeman scuffles with a Palestinian man

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has envisioned a future Palestinian state to be one that is demilitarised and accepts the Jewishness of the state of Israel but Palestinian of­ficials said that such demands are meant to serve as another obstacle to resuming the stalled peace pro­cess.
Appearing on the BBC’s “The Andrew Marr Show” ahead of his return to Israel following a trip to London to mark the 100th anni­versary of the Balfour Declaration, Netanyahu explained his vision of a demilitarised future Palestinian state.
“No, I don’t want a one-state so­lution, I’ll be clear about that and I’m unabashed about saying that,” Netanyahu said, “but I want to make sure that what we have next to us is something that will not threaten our lives. It really makes a difference what the other state is. Is it Costa Rica or is it North Korea? Is it another mini-Iran or is it Luxem­bourg?”
“The other state, if it’s not demili­tarised, if it doesn’t recognise the state of Israel, which the Palestin­ians still refuse to do, then it merely becomes a platform for continu­ing the war against the one Jewish state. Therefore, I think you have to be more specific and say no, what we want is the recognition, finally, after a hundred years, after the Balfour Declaration, finally recog­nise the Jewish state,” Netanyahu added.
Former Palestinian Ambassador to India, Algeria and Romania Adli Shaban Hasan Sadeq said that such Israeli statements are meant to serve as stumbling blocks to com­plicate and impede any potential peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
“What Netanyahu said has noth­ing to do with a two-state solution or any kind of peace settlement, in fact he doesn’t want a peace settle­ment, he wants to place obstacles throughout the peace process,” said Sadeq.
“However, any state is in need of an army and defence force and any state has its obligations and com­mitments. If we are going to talk about who is committed and who is not, we must point the finger at Israel. We had an agreement with them but when their government changed so did their commitment to the agreement.”
At an open session at the Chatham House think-tank in London during his November visit, Netanyahu said that, before establishing a Palestin­ian state, “it’s time we reassessed whether the modern model we have of sovereignty and unfettered sovereignty, is applicable every­where in the world.”
In January, Netanyahu’s cabinet ministers were told that the most he was willing to give the Palestin­ians is a “state minus.” In 2015, the Likud party leader vowed that a Palestinian state would not be es­tablished on his watch, should he be re-elected.
“The Likud party has always been against the peace process, ever since the very beginning. The international community is against recognising Israel as a Jewish state. Even the Israeli people do not want a Jewish state. Putting this condi­tion is another obstacle to the peace process. Netanyahu put forward this condition because he knew that Palestinians would never agree to it,” Sadeq said.
Netanyahu first suggested a de­militarised Palestinian state this in 2009 when he announced he would back an independent Palestinian state but only if it were completely demilitarised and the Palestinians recognised Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
In a key policy speech that same year, Netanyahu said a Palestinian state must have no army, no control of its air space and no way of smug­gling weapons. “Israel cannot agree to a Palestinian state unless it gets guarantees it is demilitarised,” Ne­tanyahu said at Bar-Ilan University.
“If we receive this guarantee re­garding demilitarisation and Isra­el’s security needs and if the Pales­tinians recognise Israel as the state of the Jewish people, we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a de­militarised Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state,” he said.
The language that Netanyahu used regarding the demilitarisation of a future Palestinian state is simi­lar to the rhetoric uttered by Pales­tinian President Mahmoud Abbas regarding Hamas’s weapons.
“Even [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas is echoing Netan­yahu’s suggestion of a demilitarised Palestinian state. Why? Because weapons are associated with terror­ism,” Sadeq said.
Abbas demanded that all weap­ons, including those in Hamas’s hands, must be under the control of the rule of law of the Palestinian Authority if any lasting reconcilia­tion between Fatah and Hamas is to be reached.
“Is there no other option than de­militarisation to reach a peace set­tlement? Why are both Netanyahu and Abbas setting demilitarisation as a condition for peace? They are placing obstacles to peace,” said Sadeq. Razan Shamallakh is a master’s degree candidate in Conflict Resolution in Divided Societies at King’s College London.

This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.