Instead of building on those two achievements by moving quickly to restore national unity as part of a process to rebuild the Palestinian national movement and revitalize the PLO in order to enable the Palestinian people to confront present and future threats by learning the lessons of the past as well as from more recent developments in Palestine, the region, and the world as a whole, the Palestinian leadership is apparently preparing to launch an initiative designed to get the stalled peace talks rolling again.
It is as if twenty years of talks was not enough to realize the futility of the 'peace process,' especially with all the catastrophic results of that process on all levels.
Hamas is still busy consolidating its hold on Gaza by seeking Arab and international recognition of the regime it installed there. This is Hamas' first priority, not completing its long overdue internal elections, the results of which will have important effects on many issues including that of reconciliation. On the latter issue, Hamas has only said that it is for reconciliation, and that the ball is in President Abbas' court – although that ball is supposed to be in the court of all responsible circles for whom the national interest takes precedence over narrower factional and private interests.
What makes matters worse is that reconciliation efforts are being postponed in favor of efforts to resume peace talks with Israel in Jordan next February immediately after the [January] Israeli general election. In fact, the Palestinians could well heed the advice of [former leading U.S. diplomat] Dennis Ross, and resume talks with Israel even before the election. Ross, if any of us need reminding, is the person who devised the theory of 'managing the conflict' rather than settling it. In other words, it is enough – in his opinion – to have a peace process even if no peace would come out of it.
In addition, the idea of a confederation with Jordan has been revived. Despite denials from both the Jordanians and Palestinians, trusted sources say that the idea has been floated to test the waters, and that it is a failed attempt to resume the so-called peace process and to prepare for the next phase, which is expected to witness fevered efforts to redraw the map of the Middle East by exploiting the new realities created by the Arab Spring.
Floating the idea of a confederation now is an attempt to strengthen those parties that fear the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has enjoyed a revival in a Sunni project sponsored by Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, and others, designed to counter a Shiite axis comprising Iran, Iraq, Assad's Syria, and parts of Lebanon.
Yet the idea of a confederation is doomed to failure simply because Israel cannot tolerate the existence of a Palestinian entity, whether independent or in association with Jordan. This being the case, toying with the idea of a confederation is the surest way to sow sedition between Palestinians and Jordanians as well as between Jordanians and their compatriots of Palestinian origin. Needless to say, this would not be conducive either to ending the occupation or founding an independent Palestinian state.
Therefore, the idea must be discounted at once, because it could destroy Jordan. Setting up a confederation can be discussed after the occupation is ended, because doing so now absolves the Israelis of all responsibility and gives the impression that the problem is one of the Arabs' making – despite the long list of concessions the Palestinians made in the futile peace process. After recognizing Israel (the Israelis did not reciprocate by recognizing even the bare minimum of Palestinian rights), ceasing resistance, suppressing resistance fighters, and tabling the Arab peace initiative, the Palestinians had a change of leadership.
After Yasser Arafat was assassinated, the Palestinians embarked on a process of institution building in order to prove themselves worthy of statehood – as if the victims were somehow responsible for the continuation of the occupation. Now that the process of institution building has served its purpose, something else must be found to preoccupy the Palestinian people and divert their attention away from their main task of bringing together all the elements of strength and pressure necessary to change the balance of power such that the occupation becomes unbearably costly for the Israelis. Hence the renewed interest in peace talks and confederacy.
Resuming the futile peace process with a weak hand and under the shadow of disunity is not only a mistake, but also an unforgivable sin. Yet there is a way that can change the catastrophic reality the Palestinians find themselves in, a way that can transform the Gaza and UN achievements into assets rather than liabilities.
The recent call by PM Salam Fayyad to boycott Israeli goods could be part of a new strategy, as could the call for mass resistance. Israel must be boycotted at all levels and in all local, regional, Arab, and international arenas. The Israelis must be pursued through the courts for the crimes they have committed. This must be a sustained and serious effort, and not mere rhetoric or as a reaction to a particular Israeli action. What is needed is a new strategy that can mobilize all Palestinian resources, abilities, and energies and direct them towards the goal of ending the occupation and achieving independence.
Diplomacy can only reap what resistance sows. And he who does not sow cannot reap.
This article would be incomplete without mentioning the plight of the inhabitants of the Yarmuk refugee camp south of Damascus, which was recently bombed by the Syrian air force. Nothing justifies bombing civilians. All parties to the Syrian conflict must ensure that the Palestinians are kept out of the war raging in that country. For its part, the Palestinian leadership must shoulder the responsibility of protecting its citizens in Syria and condemning the factions that seek to involve them in the Syrian civil war.
Also, the Palestinian leadership must ascertain whether there really are more than 400 Palestinians incarcerated in Iraqi jails – in addition of course to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. While those Palestinians were languishing in its jails, the Iraqi government was hosting a conference to express solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
Needless to say, no mention was made in the conference of the 400 or so Palestinians.