"Fatah Central Committee member [and former PLO UN ambassador] Nasser al-Qidwa has offered his view of the significance and implications of Donald Trump's administration's moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
The vision includes proposals worthy of attention and on which it is possible to build and formulate a comprehensive plan whose adoption by the Palestinian leadership can contribute to reducing the likelihood that the embassy may be moved, or to counter the effects of such a move should it occur and prevent other states from moving their embassies, or at least establishing a broad Palestinian front that is able to deal with the new situation seriously.
Regarding the likelihood that the embassy would be moved, Qidwa said: 'We cannot unequivocally confirm that that may happen. But we must be fully prepared to deal with all possibilities by coming up with a detailed Palestinian position that we should put to paper and present to the Palestinians, the Arabs, and the entire world. This should include a clarification of the significance and grave consequences of moving the embassy.' And he added: 'We need joint action with the Arab states, especially with Egypt and Jordan, as well as the other blocs.'
Qidwa's proposals included the following:
- First, we need to know the details of moving the embassy without going along with attempts to take us for fools with talk of moving the ambassador while keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv, or moving the embassy to West Jerusalem. We need to know what would be the fate of the consulate that has been in Jerusalem for 140 years now, and that takes care of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinians' affairs.
- Second, moving the embassy is a serious violation of international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions that the U.S. took part in adopting (most recently UNSCR 2334); it is also a violation of the International Court of Justice's legal opinion.
- Third, such a step would represent an abandonment of the international agreements to which the U.S. is a party, including the  Oslo Accords. It abandons former guarantees, including the letter of guarantees addressed to the Palestinian side by the  Madrid Conference.
- Fourth, moving the embassy would represent a stark attack on Muslims and Christian rights and on Palestinian national rights. It also will harm Hashemite [Jordanian] jurisdiction over the holy sites in Jerusalem.
- Fifth, and in political terms, moving the embassy would put paid to the negotiation process that began with the signing of the Oslo Accords. In effect, it would cancel out a political solution and possibly destroy the two-state solution to be reached via negotiations.
The consequences of moving the embassy include: First, a blow to international norms, international law, and the numerous international interests in Jerusalem. Second, a blow to the possibility of achieving peace via a political settlement. And third, it would mean that the U.S. can no longer be a mediator, and would instead be a party to the conflict hostile to the Arabs and the Muslims and that threatens international security and peace.
In response to the question as to what should be done if the U.S. were to act by moving the embassy, Qidwa recommended the following:
- First, making all the above clear to everyone.
- Second, severing Palestinian relations with the cadre of the U.S. embassy that is moved to Jerusalem. This would have the consequence of shutting down the Representative Office of Palestine in Washington, D.C. This, says Qidwa, is something 'I do not take lightly; I am aware of the U.S.’s importance, but if it takes this step, there is no alternative but to deal with it on this basis,'
- Third, the Palestinians should announce that they are not willing to cooperate with the U.S. as a mediator – neither directly nor within the framework of the International Quartet. This should be coupled with their stressing their readiness to speak and cooperate with the U.S. when it takes counter-steps.
- Fourth, to lodge a complaint with the UN Security Council against one of its permanent members for its direct violation of the Council's resolutions, and to urge this member to retract its decision. This has happened in the past with other states. In this regard, Article 27 of the UN's Charter says: '… in decisions under Chapter VI, and under paragraph 3 of Article 52, a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting.' And this means that there is a better than 60% of success at the Security Council if the Palestinian side knows how to act on this issue. As for legal action, such as resort to the International Court of Justice, even if the Palestinians do not succeed there – despite the fact that the legal basis for the complaint is very clear – this would still be important insofar as it would erect a barrier for others who may learn the lesson and realize what awaits them if they were to take such a step.
- Fifth, to act with the Palestinians' brothers and friends to seek new mechanisms for the political process, and adopt collective positions in the various international forums and with each state separately, urging them all to take steps no matter how small.
- Sixth, preparing for what is worse and for the likelihood of taking steps that will seem logical in light of the change in the U.S. position, or at least in light of the fact that the Israeli government would view this change as a historic opportunity to annexing its [West Bank] colonies or entire areas.
- Seventh, persisting in deeming the main battle to be that against settler colonialism, and in mobilizing all Palestinian forces and resources against this threat.
- Eighth, to use the available legal channels for calling on all states to abide by and implement their contractual commitments to the Geneva Agreement and other such agreements concerning colonies and the individuals and bodies operating in them.
What distinguishes Qidwa's proposals is that they are practical, specific, and focused on punishing the party that will take the step of moving its embassy, namely, the U.S. This makes them different from other proposals in this regard that talk of 'opening the gates of hell,' revoking the Palestinians' recognition of Israel, implementing the PLO Central Committee's resolutions, having the Arab countries' close their embassies in Washington, and freezing Israel's membership in the UN. These are all important steps; but they are either not specific enough or unrealistic, or have been recommended by previous Central Committee resolutions but remain unimplemented. In other words, they can be explained as a sort of attempt to evade finding the required response to moving the embassy.
The threat cannot be reduced to that of moving of the embassy; for what can happen even without such a movement is no less grave. We have already detected this in the Israeli government's decision to lift all restrictions on settlement expansion, as if there were any such restrictions worth mentioning to begin with.
And this means that we are facing two scenarios each of which is worse than the other: 'Legal' or creeping annexation of territories along with moving the embassy, or unqualified support for Israel without moving the embassy by insisting on bilateral [Palestinian/Israeli] negotiations without any intervention, which would bestow legitimacy on the current racist occupation status quo that Israel has established and impose a solution that would liquidate the Palestinian cause.
Qidwa's proposals should be put up for discussion at the table of an all-inclusive national dialogue in order to develop and shape them; and then be presented to the Palestinian leadership for adoption. In addition to what Qidwa has proposed, great importance should be attached to the formulation of a comprehensive vision from which a new political track must emerge based on wagering on the Palestinian people.
The Palestinians inside and outside the homeland must be mobilized to stage the most widespread popular actions against the occupation and settler colonialism, and to confront the movement of the embassy and any other Israeli steps– such as the annexation of colonies or [West Bank] areas to Israel –that are likely to enjoy the Trump administration's support. This is because taking such a step and others like it would totally alter the rules of the game, requiring the Palestinians to respond in ways that rise to the level of the threats and challenges facing them, including changing their track, policies, plans, and leading figures. Adopting the same policies, or amending them slightly, and relying on the same players who have been consumed by the old game, would be futile. It is confrontation that will dominate the coming scene.
What can be achieved in these circumstances is to keep the cause alive and maintain an effective Palestinian role. It is possible to consolidate the factors that serve Palestinian steadfastness and their demographic presence on Palestine's land, rehabilitating the option of resistance and boycott, in addition to political, diplomatic, and legal action on the path towards altering the balance of power in a manner that allows for defeating the occupation and achieving Palestinian national rights.
Based on the above, action to end the occupation and regain unity becomes enormously important. But this is to be achieved by placing it within the context of rehabilitating the Palestinian cause as a national liberation issue, and rebuilding the PLO's institutions on national and democratic foundations based on accord and full political participation.
"In addition, the PA's relationship with the Palestinian national project and the PLO must be specified in a manner that changes its structure, mission, and commitments and that serves the achievement of Palestinian national rights," concludes Masri.