And since achieving Palestinian national goals is almost impossible, given the wide disparity in strength (because of Palestinian division and disunity as well as Arab weakness), the only available option is to provide for the people's livelihoods, enhance steadfastness thru the building of national institutions, and prove trustworthiness (as well as demonstrate good will) by carrying out all political, economic and security commitments unilaterally. This point of view believes that the economic factor is the most important, and is the doorway to peace.
There is no major flaw in this point of view – if the option of resistance is also preserved (resistance is after all the only element that distinguishes it from Netanyahu's ‘economic peace’) – and if it were part of an overall strategy designed to preserve what we already have, not to make more free concessions, or to embark on risky new adventures at an inopportune time.
The problem is that the aforementioned view encourages acceptance of what Israel gives us (because it is the best available), even if that entails opening channels of communication with Israelis of all stripes and hues, including right-wingers, settlers, and extremists in an attempt to convince them of the feasibility of Palestinian statehood – even if that were to be accomplished at the expense of the rights of Palestinian refugees, and at the expense of having a disarmed state whose main function in life would be to ensure Israel's security.
In this context, normalization of ties with Israel (especially in the economic sphere) becomes the main – if not the only – avenue for dealing with the Israelis.
Normalization is being promoted as an alternative to struggle. It is unimportant whether the Israelis concerned are supportive of Palestinian rights or whether they are pro- or anti-occupation. Contacts with the Israelis are essential to convince them of Palestinian rights, even if that eventually leads to the liquidation of those very same rights (or at least putting them off until a suitable Israeli interlocutor appears).
This viewpoint began to be (partially) applied since Oslo was signed, and it gained momentum ten years ago after the Palestinian leadership agreed to implement the Roadmap, a document that prioritized Israel's security over everything else. At that point, the nature of the conflict changed to become one over land, or a struggle between two equals over the nature and shape of peace, or one over arrangements to be agreed upon, or a conflict between moderates and extremists in either camp, or one between terror and those against it. What was required of the ‘new Palestinians’ was to prove their complete opposition to terror (also known as resistance).
But why can ensuring a dignified life not be compatible with continuing the struggle for upholding legitimate rights? Simple: because prioritizing livelihoods over rights led to the liquidation of those rights – not to mention not providing decent livelihoods. By contrast, struggle would have achieved both.
In this context, it is natural to see proponents of 'rampant normalization' supporting an unconditional resumption of peace talks. Their excuse is that resuming talks would embarrass Israel and show the world (the United States in particular) that the Israelis are the real impediments to peace. As if the world does not already know this twenty years after Oslo. What a resumption of talks would really do is open the door to ‘economic peace’ that would enrich them and enhance their own influence.
The proponents of normalization were also the ones who rejected the Palestinian plan to go to the UN, because they feared that that would lead to a confrontation with the United States. Those who supported the plan only did so as a tactical move designed to apply pressure on Israel to force it to return to the negotiating table under sole American stewardship – and not to find an alternative to talks.
The proponents of normalization have been dealing in a similar manner with the process of Palestinian reconciliation, resistance, and settlements, all of which are being used as tactical tools designed to press for a resumption of peace talks – despite the fact that everyone now understands that talks cannot lead to an acceptable settlement. Yet a resumption of talks is desirable for many if only to prevent a confrontation that would make the occupation more costly for Israel than it is at the moment.
We should not be surprised by this bitter result. Oslo not only delivered a powerful blow to the unity of the Palestinian cause, the Palestinian people, and Palestinian land, and led to the abandonment of the Palestinian struggle; it also led to the creation of a socioeconomic structure in which certain individuals (from both within and without the PA) grew richer and more influential while the vast majority of the Palestinian people were impoverished.
Supporters of the aforementioned point of view try to justify their position by saying that it would provide job opportunities for the Palestinians. Something is better than nothing, they say, especially with the economy steadily deteriorating.
Actually, such a policy could never lead to an economic solution, but what those supporters are doing is to pave the way for John Kerry, who, having failed to achieve any political progress, has promised economic support. They hope that this bribe (which would only benefit a few) would persuade the Palestinians to abandon the path of struggle once and for all.
Yes, Palestinians are in need of jobs, education, healthcare, etc., but they also need to struggle against occupation, especially after the abject failure of the so-called 'peace process.' It is wrong to force the Palestinians to choose between a decent life and their legitimate rights. Those trying to force this choice on the Palestinians are – consciously or otherwise – justifying the occupation and the idea of coexisting with it under the slogan of interacting with the Israelis to try to win them over.
The Israeli peace camp has not grown larger despite 20 years of normalization. In fact, Israel has become much more extreme and hard line during this period. He who wishes to influence the enemy has to be capable of exerting influence in the first place. And in order to be able to exert influence, he must be prepared to struggle and sacrifice.
Politics is nothing more than intensified economics; they are two sides of the same coin. In order for the Palestinian economy to benefit the Palestinians, it must be in the service of Palestinian politics – not leading it. And in order to be at the service of Palestinian politics, it must be structured in such a way as to enable Palestinians to stand fast and struggle as well as provide them with a decent standard of living under a system that ensures equality and social justice, fights corruption, and provides the political establishment with room for manoeuvre.
It is unacceptable to be putting in place economic and political plans designed for peacetime while we are actually under occupation. Economics cannot replace politics as a means to deal with Israel, if the Palestinians do not have their own independent state and economy. When businessmen become politicians and politicians become businessmen, it means that we have lost our way. This is the worst state of affairs ever.
In the past, we believed that armed resistance was the only path to statehood. Then came Oslo, and we abandoned the path of resistance. Since Oslo, some believed that bilateral talks provided the only feasible route to peace, which led to the catastrophe we now have to contend with. Yet instead of thinking of ways to emerge from this catastrophe, we see some people insisting that we sink even deeper into its depths.
The road to salvation is clear; it only needs vision capable of achieving national unity, and exercising effective, cumulative, and varied struggle designed to fulfil the national goals of independence, self-determination, and return.
The contemporary Palestinian revolution has not achieved its goals. In fact, it has committed major sins and errors, and has been beset by defeats. N