The Palestinian issue lies at the heart of the Arab – Israeli conflict, which has been going on for decades. The Madrid conference offered a historic opportunity for arriving at a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on international legitimacy and the principle of land for peace. Yet, 9 years after Madrid, peace is still far away. Negotiations at the Israeli – Syrian and the Israeli – Lebanese tracks are frozen while the Israeli – Palestinian negotiations are faltering. The Palestinian Authority accepted the Interim Agreement as an interim step towards a final peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians. It is interim in nature and should therefore be applied as such by the concerned parties. That is, “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” Yet, in reality, Israel has and continues to violate and manipulate the Interim Agreement by creating de facto realities on the ground, which have severely fragmented the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This will not only affect the outcome of the final status negotiations, but also will render a future sustainable Palestinian entity unattainable and, more immediately cause intolerable hardship and suffering.
The ongoing fragmentation of Palestinian land and communities into disconnected cantons combined with the frequent collective punishment of closures, house demolitions, withdrawal of identity cards, and the confiscation of private property will only impose a physically unsustainable and brittle peace. A lasting peace can only be based on United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338, in which a fully sovereign Palestinian state will be established on the whole stretch of Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967, neighboring a secure and independent Israeli state. In this respect, the international community is required to secure such an outcome and only then can the currently stalled peace process be set back on track.

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