Occupying Palestine is rotting Israel from inside. No Gulf peace deal can hide that

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© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPAMore than a quarter of a century after Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn, Israel has managed to turn its occupation of Palestinian territory from a burden into an asset. What was for so long a liability – the flagrant violation of international law – has now become a valued commodity. Understanding this development is key to explaining why the Israelis are making peace with two distant Gulf states but not their closest neighbours, the Palestinians – without whom there can be no real peace.

a group of people walking down the street: Palestinians and Israeli soldiers during protests against an agreement between Israel and the UAE in the West Bank city of Hebron, September 2020.© Photograph: Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA Palestinians and Israeli soldiers during protests against an agreement between Israel and the UAE in the West Bank city of Hebron, September 2020.Related: UAE, Bahrain and Israel sign historic accords at White House event

Israel has learned in recent years how to manage the occupation in perpetuity with minimal cost. But from the very beginning of the occupation in June 1967, Israel has been unwilling to recognise the Palestinian nation or cede control of the Palestinian territory occupied in order to make peace.

The evidence to support this claim is easily found in Israel’s own archives. Two days after the occupation began, Israel passed military order number three, which referred to the fourth Geneva convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war – mandating that military courts apply the provisions of the convention to their proceedings. Four months later, this portion of the order was deleted.

In September 1967, the legal counsel to the Israeli foreign ministry, Theodor Meron, was asked by the prime minister, Levi Eshkol, whether building new settlements in the occupied territories would violate the Geneva convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its civilians into the territory seized in war. He answered in the affirmative. But his advice was rejected and the government proceeded from that moment to establish illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

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