"Despite the denials issued by [senior PLO officials] Sa'eb 'Ereikat, Mahmoud al-'Aloul, Ahmad Majdalani and the Palestinian ambassador to Cairo, and their insistence that the draft resolution on Palestine that will be discussed at the Arab summit was adopted at least two weeks ago, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmad Abulgheit has once again insisted that PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas will propose a new political initiative at the Dead Sea summit; but he failed to clarify what this initiative will contain," writes Hani al-Masri on the Palestinian website www.masarat.ps.
This led an unidentified Palestinian official to totally deny Abulgheit words, portraying them as part of an attempt by the Arab League secretary-general and certain states that have a strong say at the summit, to tamper with its resolutions on Palestine. The aim, the official said, is to placate the U.S. and Israel and exert pressure and blackmail the Palestinian leadership on behalf of some neighboring countries in the hope of marketing themselves with the new U.S. administration.
The Palestinian official added that this was all meant to please U.S. President Donald Trump at the expense of the Palestinian people's legitimate rights. Moreover, he added, these [Arab] parties are engaged in a self-evident ploy, trying to convince the Palestinian leadership to put forward ideas that are consistent with Netanyahu's views of a regional solution for the Palestinian problem.
Naturally, these attempts to amend the Arab Peace Initiative in a manner that opens the gate to a regional solution cannot succeed unless they secure Palestinian cover. And such cover is not available, so far at least. For while it is true that the Palestinian leadership's concern is to ensure that the wheel of the political [peace] process continues to spin based on the assumed recognition of a Palestinian [PA/PLO] partner since this ensures the [PA/PLO] leadership’s survival and its ability to continue to play a political role, this leadership does not seem ready to accept Israel’s terms for a solution. This is because the leadership cannot convince its public of such a solution to begin with, especially since it includes recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and effectively abandons Jerusalem and the right of return.
Israel’s solution rests on gradual annexation, which it is preparing to turn into legal annexation under the cover of a political process. This process can take the shape of declaring a provisional Palestinian state on little less or more than half of the West Bank; or any other shape that provides cover for what is happening on the ground – namely, the creation of isolated Palestinian enclaves and Bantustans as a final status solution. But this cannot be sold to the Palestinians, even if it is presented as a new interim solution. After all, after the experience of the Oslo Accords everyone knows that any solution that claims to be transitional is in fact final. Therefore, there is no room for falling victim to such a deception or to new illusions now.
If even after the [Palestinian] ‘state-minus' that Netanyahu is proposing is established, Israel will maintain control of most of the region from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, and if this represents a final status resolution, what is the gateway that would lead to this new catastrophe?
The gateway is that of a resumption of negotiations without preconditions – except those that Israel imposes by building on its racist occupation and settlement facts, focusing on so-called Palestinian 'incitement,' an end to the [PLO] subsidies to the families of martyrs and prisoners, and by failing to abide by clear and binding terms of reference for the negotiations, especially those that include recognition of the Palestinian rights. And this means that the negotiations will be for negotiations' sake, where the stronger side will prevail over the weaker party with no outside intervention– as Trump has said more than once.
The bait that will be offered to the Palestinian side to lure it into the trap that is more dangerous than before has to do with the U.S. administration's attempt to convince Netanyahu's government to reduce or limit settlement activities, without affecting them much in Jerusalem and in the so-called 'settlement blocs.'
What is happening is clear as daylight, but there has been no Palestinian and Arab protest for fear of angering the Trump administration. There are urgent American attempts to reach an agreement with Israel over settlements and bilateral [U.S./Israeli] efforts to impose this on the Palestinians afterwards. I repeat: The efforts are to impose the agreement and not hold negotiations over it.
The Palestinians’ positions should have been clear and resounding, rejecting the effort to reach a U.S./Israeli agreement first, since this predetermines the issues under negotiations in the absence of the Palestinian side.
We should also attend to the renewed effort to bypass the Arab Peace Initiative, which Israel has not accepted despite its faults and the Arab impotence that it implies. For the aim is to have the Arab summit amend this initiative under the banner of 'adjusting it' or 'developing it,' or 'reformulating it' in a manner that diminishes its reference to the refugees' issue, and overturns its priorities, giving normalization precedence over Israeli withdrawal – which, in that case, would never occur.
And if the initiative is not amended, then the goal is to allow it to be bypassed at least after the summit, by providing Arab cover for entering negotiations that this time aim at imposing Israel’s terms by changing its name to 'the regional solution.'
This is the solution that Netanyahu has reinvented and is promoting day and night. It is based on replacing the international framework for negotiation and resolving the Palestinian problem – which is grounded in international law and international legitimacy's resolutions, or is connected to them at least-- with a regional framework that bypasses international restrictions and focuses on fighting terrorism, confronting the so-called 'Iranian threat,' the economic dimension, normalizing relations with Israel, and the involvement of the Arabs (or those among them who accept this) to sponsor the negotiations and provide cover or exert pressure on the Palestinian side to accept talks based on preconditions that seek to secure an Israeli solution and establish an Arab/Israeli/American alliance.
Despite the serious nature of the above design and the strength of the powers working to achieve it, we should not surrender to it or believe that the road before it is open. Had that been true, there would have been no need to seek the revival of Palestinian/Israeli negotiations whereas they used to insist that the Palestinian issue is no longer a central one, and that the Arabs have established the best and deepest secret, and sometimes public, relations with Israel.
The return to reviving the Palestinian file stems from the realization that the Arabs will not ally themselves with Israel, as it is demanding, without securing a Palestinian cover that claims that there is a fair or acceptable or possible solution for the Palestinian problem.
A Palestinian policy that gives priority to recognizing the leadership as a partner, but not to the recognition of Palestinian rights, and that does not achieve unity so as to confront the occupation and its project – which is clearer, more determined, and expansionist than ever before – would be unable to stand its ground for long before the various pressures that it is being subjected to. As a result, the leadership will submit to these pressures and diktats either totally or partially, either at one go or gradually; or face isolation and a growing ability to bypass it in light of the fragmentation on the Palestinian arena.
The Palestinian leadership must come up with a new initiative, but not one that offers new concessions. This new initiative must pave a new road that can mobilize the Palestinian people's abilities, resources, forces, and individuals, uniting all, and making use of the Arab, Islamic and international elements of power in favor of realizing the goals of the Palestinian cause.
What was once useful is useless today. What led to catastrophes in the past cannot now be promoted again by returning to the vortex of futile negotiations whose danger is not confined to wasting time and achieving nothing.
"For these negotiations will be used as a cover for losing everything," concludes Masri.