As the Palestinian-Israeli conflict awaits Israeli elections, a number of important local and international developments are taking place that could have a long-reach effect on it.
Israeli elections, set for March 17, have all but frozen all efforts to move the stalled peace process. U.S. officials, as well as their European counterparts, have made clear that they will not allow any endeavour at the UN or at any other international forum until the Israeli public makes up its mind about whether it wants Benjamin Netanyahu to continue as its leader.
Netanyahu is embroiled in an unprecedented public conflict with the White House in regard to the Iranian negotiations, which are also due to reach their climax by the end of March.
In the absence of political developments, a number of important processes are taking place with which whoever is elected in Israel will need to deal. Two major changes being cooked behind the scenes have to do with the boycott movement and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The efforts to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) Israel received a number of big prizes recently. More than 700 UK-based artists have signed a petition announcing that they will boycott Israel and Israeli cultural events. In the U.S., students at the prestigious Stanford University voted 10-1-4 to initiate BDS against Israel.
The BDS movement received what its organizers might find surprising, namely a decision by the Ramallah-based government to boycott six major Israeli companies and refuse to allow their products to be sold in the Palestinian areas. BDS leaders often consider the Palestinian government as closely cooperating with the occupier, largely because of the decision to continue the security cooperation with the Israeli army.
At international level, a major milestone is expected to take place on April 1 when Palestine becomes an official member of the ICC, which is based on the 1998 Rome Statute that aims to investigate and hold accountable individuals accused of war crimes.
Israeli army soldiers and officers could very well be accused of war crimes and, therefore, liable to arrest and prosecution if they travel to any of the countries that are signatories to the statute. Palestinians have also been stepping up other nonviolent activities against the Israeli occupation, even if those actions rarely make headlines.
The ninth effort, dubbed Abwab Al Quds (Gates of Jerusalem), to create a Palestinian village in areas that the Israelis prevent building has given attention to the illegitimate Israeli actions of preventing Palestinians from building on their own lands, in violation of international humanitarian law. Israeli troops destroyed the makeshift houses that were set up by young Palestinians.
The Swedish government's recognition of the state of Palestine has also raised the profile of Palestinian statehood efforts. President Mahmoud Abbas attended the upgrading of the Palestinian embassy in Stockholm and has been urging other European capitals to follow the example of Sweden.The so-called war on terror has pulled the rug from the Middle East's leading issue. Palestinians are not only forced to wait until after the Israeli elections, but their conflict has been largely eclipsed by the growing extremist movement Daesh that has rattled Egypt and Denmark, and has provoked unprecedented attention from the Security Council.
As Palestinians wait, it is important that this time be put to good use.
The need to bring attention back to Palestine will require not only time but also unified Palestinian and Arab efforts. The Gaza reconstruction is still delayed because of absence of any agreement between Fatah and Hamas. Palestinian nationalists are also waiting for the convening of the seventh Fatah congress, which might, for the first time, introduce the position of vice president, setting the stage for a generational change in the Palestinian liberation movement. The coming months might not see much outward change, but it would be the perfect time to resolve internal issues and be ready to present a strong and unified Palestinian position.