April 26: Young Palestinian activists from Ramallah and East Jerusalem provided a diverse Israeli audience with insights into the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on Palestinian politics, society, and support for cooperation with Israel. The end of the discussion turned to the looming threat of annexation, and how it would impact Palestinians. Ayed Atmawi, program director for the Palestinian Peace Coalition-Geneva Initiative, offered the following insight:
“Even if they annex 5 dunams here or there, to us Palestinians, it’s more than just the end of the negotiations process. It’s the end of hope.
It would have a similar effect to what happened when Netanyahu repeatedly insisted that Jerusalem belongs only to Israel as a capital, and the situation that followed the American declaration about moving the embassy. These blows had a huge impact on the Palestinian position and Palestinian attitudes toward the two-state solution. And it’s getting worse with time.
We are concerned, not just that the Israeli government might annex the areas they said they would annex, but even part of those areas. Because that would actually discredit the Palestinian leadership that’s trying to make peace with Israel, and it would also discredit and undermine us, the people who are working for peace, advocating for the two-state solution, advocating for reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis, for cooperation, etc. etc. We are at the phase where we have been disarmed. We had weapons to counter radicalism and extremism and extreme agendas on the Palestinian side. Nowadays, we do not have these weapons, thanks to Bibi and to Trump. And we don’t want an additional catastrophe, namely annexation. If annexation occurs, even partially, the impact on us and our ability to recruit people to the peace camp, our ability to return to the negotiation table, would not simply be minimized. It might vanish.
I don’t like the narrative that Abu Mazin is the last hope for peace. I don’t like to be pessimistic. I believe that both sides will always eventually find ways to solve their problems, because ultimately, neither side is going anywhere. But what I fear is that people will really lose hope about the possibility of returning to the negotiating table, which means perpetuating the conflict for another 20 years. Which means my kids are going to live through the same situation that I live. Again and again.”