الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   19 تشرين الثاني 2015

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ALMOST WITHOUT NOTICE
هاني المصري

 "The 27th anniversary of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence came and went, and had it not been for the official holiday and some modest celebrations and statements, the occasion would have passed without attracting any attention," notes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.

But this was only natural, since the 'Declaration of Independence' which became possible thanks to the December 1987 popular intifada, was based on the view that independence was getting close and that the Palestinian state was just a ‘stone's throw away’.

I was one of those who supported this Declaration but with no illusions that independence was within reach. The question now after so many years is this: Is that Declaration still effective, or has it lost its importance and rationale?

What compels us to ask this question is Israel's imposition of occupation, settlement and racist acts, and the death of the so-called 'peace process,' both of which render the establishment of the Palestinian state almost impossible, in the short-run at least.

The very different Palestinian, Israeli, regional, and international conditions and circumstances compared to what they were like when independence was declared, raises this issue for discussion. For we were in a much better condition then than we are today, against the background of the Cold War and the conflict between the socialist bloc that supported nations and the capitalist bloc that was hostile to them. These were also the days of Arab solidarity, when the PLO was the Palestinians’ national entity that represented them all.

After that experience and the facts it exposed and created we need to ask: Was it right to raise the slogan of a Palestinian state and proclaim our Declaration of Independence, or was it a mistake to begin with? Or was it correct, but the policy and tools used to achieve it mistaken? Or is it that such a program could only have produced such results?

Those who argue that the slogan was mistaken to begin with believe that those who proposed the program that calls for 'the establishment of a state, the right of return, and the right to self-determination' knew that they were about to engage in a trade-off between such a state and the right of return because Israel would never agree to the establishment of a state on the territories occupied in 1967 and agree to the return of refugees at the same time. This is because it views itself as a Jewish state, while the inflow of millions or even hundreds-of-thousands of [Palestinian] refugees would strip it off its 'Jewish' character as a state within a few years.

While it is difficult to be absolutely sure that the Palestinian leadership knew that it was about to engage in such a trade-off from the very start, what is certain that this is what it ended up doing. In fact, it ended up receiving even less in the proposed trade-off.

All this happened against the background of Israel reneging on the [1993] Oslo Accords that from the dominant Israeli point of view, and despite their terrible shortcomings, offered the Palestinians much more than they deserved or could otherwise get. This point of view emerged clearly after Rabin's [1995] assassination and after successive Israeli governments came to power, all of which refused to implement the Hebrew state's commitments to Oslo.

The Palestinian leadership believed that it would be able to deal with this issue by offering more concessions. But this led to the exact opposite. It merely whetted Israel's appetite and led it to demand more. In addition, Israel set conditions that are impossible to satisfy in order to justify why it has offered nothing to the Palestinians, such as recognizing Israel as a 'Jewish' state.

If we were to survey the most important junctures and phases of the concessions offered by the Palestinians, we would find that these began with recognizing Israel's right to exist; renouncing 'violence and terrorism' (even in a retroactive manner), the commitment to implementing agreements reached with Israel even if this was one-sided; and leniency towards Israel's failure to honor its commitments during the transitional phase on the assumption that what we cannot get piecemeal during the transitional phase we will be able to get wholesale in a final status agreement.

The result was that the Palestinian leadership reached the end of the transitional phase without Israel’s commitments being implemented, without clinging to the agreed timetable for reaching a final status agreement [by 1999], and all while deeming passing that deadline as the start of a new phase that was radically different from the previous one. The Palestinian leadership clung to the extension of the interim phase for one additional year to start with, and then accepted its extension indefinitely.

During that period, we saw further Palestinian concessions, with the acceptance of the [2000] ‘Clinton parameters’ for resolving the refugee issue in a manner that totally denuded that issue of its content. Then came the Palestinian acceptance of the [2002/2007] Arab Peace Initiative, including its call for an ‘agreed-upon solution’ for the refugee issue. But this flexibility did not pay off, despite the Palestinian acceptance of the principle of 'land-swaps' that allows Israel to annex the settlement blocs and most of the settlements built in East Jerusalem, while the city’s Arab neighborhoods would be annexed to the Palestinian state.

The so-called 'peace process' ended in wholesale and piecemeal Palestinian concessions, while Israel headed towards greater extremism – so much so, that some current Israeli ministers do not even recognize the existence of a Palestinian nation or its right to establish any political entity, even if less than a state and no more than a limited or expanded self-rule system.

The above poses the need for an extensive and comprehensive review, including that of the program that calls for 'the establishment of a state, the right of return, and the right to self-determination.' Such a review is necessary in order to determine whether this program was right or not, or whether it was the right course but has been overtaken by events, or whether it is still valid but the strategy pursued to achieve it – that based on negotiations, diplomatic action, demonstrating good will and capability, and building state institutions under occupation – is a mistaken one. Moreover, it raises the question as to whether the international community and the UN recognition of Israel without recognizing its occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip allows the Palestinians to produce a program that aims to liberate these areas in a manner that precedes reaching a radical and historic solution for the Palestinian issue.

What has prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and the implementation of the right to self-determination and return, is the stark imbalance of power. It is the fact that the occupation is profitable to Israel, and together with that imbalance, this also prevents the establishment of a single state of whatever form. Israel opposed the establishment of a Palestinian state, and it will oppose the establishment of a unitary state even more strongly.

As for those who claim that the one-state already exists, and that the Palestinian state is just a stone's throw away, we say: Hold on! It seems we live in different worlds and different countries! For Israel is a state with two regimes, and it gives the Palestinians under occupation none of their rights, even those required by international law and the four Geneva conventions.

"And it will not withdraw or become a democratic state except after the defeat of the racist, settler, colonial project to a degree that allows for the establishment of either of these two aims [a withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967 or a single democratic state]," concludes Masri.

Ends…

 

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