Meir Margalit is a Jerusalem City Councilman representing the Meretz party. He is also a founder and coordinator of ICAHD: Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (of Palestinian Homes)
In an interview he explains that there will be national elections in January, in which only Israelis vote, and Municipal elections in September, in which the Palestinians of East Jerusalem are also entitled to vote, but they boycott them because participation would legitimize the occupation. The idea would be to invite the Palestinians of Jerusalem to vote for Meretz. There are Palestinians candidates on the list, but the boycott does not help. Urban planning is the responsibility of the politicians of the City Council, if there were Palestinians in the urban planning committee they would not approve the settlements, boycotting the elections benefits the project of the right.
However, we ask, with the UN recognition formalising East Jerusalem as an occupied territory according to the 1967 line, would it possible to change the point of view?
Possibly, yes. The turn to the right we observe has to do with old fears, ghosts, panic and terror, and manipulation of fear. The Holocaust was in 1945. The State of Israel was created in 1948. You can not normalize this traumatic experience so fast, it is still acting in the country, Ahmadinejad works as a reminder. The solutions sought are violent, ‘the Holocaust happened because we did not have s a strong country and a great army to defend us.” When you have a hammer in your hand all the problems look like nails. Developing a liking for might is like a swamp. The question is how to present to people a humanist and non-militaristic alternative. It also needs the help of our enemies; Hamas‘ discourse is full of venom, ‘not negotiable’. But such speeches do not come out of nowhere.
What is the significance of the UN resolution on Palestine?
Nothing changes in the short term, it is symbolic, but long term they are afraid. There are more countries recognizing Palestine: 138, more than Israel, with less than 100. It changes the position when sitting down to negotiate; the world recognizes the ’67 borders. It is possible to take Israelis to the ICC (International Criminal Court) for war crimes, according to the Rome Convention, no one knows if they will. But in Palestine there is also a certain fear of becoming an independent country.
The UN Resolution entitles Palestine to have ambassadors, not just representatives. But it renounces historic Palestine. By accepting the ’67 borders it recognizes Israel with 78% of the original territory of Palestine. It virtually gives up the right to return. There is little or no action.
Meir Margalit wrote to the legal advisor of the municipality, to clarify whether the destruction of houses is a war crime under the Rome Statute and to what extent the municipal employees involved are complicit. Legal counsel does not know what to say, ‘We’re thinking about it!” A copy has been sent to the municipal inspectors. “Perhaps the Palestinians will not denounce them but if my letter creates concern then that is progress”
Netanyahu spoke of building settlements in a place that cuts through Palestine (reducing the possibility of an independent state) in retaliation for UN recognition, which is a casus belli (justification for war), but neither USA nor Europe want him to build in there, but in other areas it is possible. (That is why is so important to have Palestinian elected Council representatives, to be able to refuse planning permission).
The Israeli foreign minister says Europe is as silent as during the Holocaust. “Europeans are anti-Semitic like in the ’40”. Europe produced a critical report but nothing concrete. Consensus creates paralysis; the right to veto does not allow anything concrete to be done. More than one European country says it has no right to put sanctions on Israel after what they did. Another generation to think otherwise? The Palestinians do not have time; this is going to end badly. If people really cared about Israel, they should help end the occupation, as Israel’s existence is justified by its ethical and moral pillars, and if they vanish the country is going to crumble because it is meaningless. This affects the foundation of its creation; a slippery slope that ends in a precipice.
This is not a local conflict and each explosion sends shrapnel further away. Cristina F de Kirchner, President of Argentina, received a delegation enthusiastically to get into the subject, Morsi also asked her to be involved in the Middle East, transforming the quartet into a quintet with the Mercosur. But for now it is only declamatory.
It is necessary that observers from Europe and Latin America are involved in the issue of human rights in Israel/Palestine, observers should come.
Many no longer work for the resolution of conflict but in terms of ‘management’ of the conflict, “there is no solution, we handle it the best we can”. Barak said: “there is no partner with whom to negotiate.” It has become something that is taken for granted without question.
Asked about the role of Qatar, which appears to have become involved in the latest escalation of the conflict: The fear of the Emirates is the Islamic revolution, and they try to prevent it through investment.
The humanist proposal as we face the growth of violence is that the right will eventually weaken, and we must be prepared for when it happens, there is a common proposal on the left, but not on whether two states or a binational state. Federation or confederation?
The common denominator is to end the occupation. The left has suffered in the economic crisis. There is a basic coordination of progressive Jewish movements, but still no spring, we are in the middle of winter. We need help to build an international team, and find donors.
In Jerusalem 10% of the population vote for my party, Meretz, I am standing again and also as party leader. People understand that we are good servants for the population; people who do not vote for us also receive the benefits.
The Palestinian Diaspora may also positively influence from outside.