“Advocates of peace talks believe that the route of negotiations is the only viable one that can achieve Palestinian national aspirations,” writes leading Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian website www.masarat.ps.
They say that there is no practical alternative to peace talks, and therefore this road must be taken despite the risks. They say that settlements will continue to be built whether there are negotiations or not, and that at the very least negotiations would keep the Palestinian cause alive. If talks continue, they say, the Palestinians would continue to receive American and European aid, and it would be possible – just possible – that the U.S. and EU would pressure Israel into making some concessions.
It appears that the advocates of negotiations have not learned the lesson of more than twenty years of talks during which it was the Palestinian side that was pressured, not the Israelis. They choose to overlook the fact that Israel has not implemented agreements reached with the Palestinians – pathetic though they were – and that successive American presidents have unashamedly broken their promises to the Palestinians. They also choose to ignore the differences between settlement activities to which the Palestinian side gives political cover, and the same activities that are resisted by the Palestinians with all their might.
They hope that if the path of negotiations fails, then the United States and the world would somehow understand why the Palestinians have to choose new alternatives, including going to the UN, seeking to isolate and impose sanctions on Israel, completing the process of reconciliation and restoring Palestinian national unity, consolidating resistance and regaining the Arab and human dimensions of the Palestinian struggle. This they believe despite the fact that experience teaches us otherwise; that it has always been the Palestinians who receive the blame while Israel escapes scot-free.
Choosing the path of futile negotiations (for not all negotiations are futile) was never only a point of view; it also involved agreements and political, economic, and security commitments. It founded a political order, a 'limited autonomy' under occupation. It also involved the creation of a system of laws, policies, and economic, social, and cultural conditions under which certain classes prospered and gained in influence all thanks to the 1993 Oslo accords. It is therefore in the interests of these classes that Oslo continues, despite the fact that Israel has abandoned all the commitments it signed up to.
With this background, we see that the budgets produced by the PA, as well as the projects it has built and intends to build in the future all serve the interests of this privileged class; a class that will resist any change and will continue to adhere to Oslo and its commitments – chief among which is embracing direct negotiations as the only way forwards, renouncing resistance and abandoning all forms of confrontation without which the occupation could never be reversed and no Palestinian objective achieved.
It is in this context that we can understand why the PA is so insistent on honoring its commitments to Oslo despite its catastrophic effects for the Palestinian people – especially its clauses on security coordination, that consume 30 percent of the PA's budget. Oslo has also had a deleterious effect on Palestinian industry, agriculture, education, healthcare, and small and medium sized businesses. Instead, the PA has concentrated its efforts on service and tourist projects as well as real estate, all of which increase Palestine's dependence on Israel, encourage normalization of ties with the Jewish state, and impede resistance now and in the future.
Even when the Palestinian leadership takes positive steps, such as referring the case of Israel's Separation Wall to the International Court of Justice, the Goldstone Report, seeking UN membership, adopting resistance, and activating the process of reconciliation, it has tended to do so belatedly and in a partial, selective, and tactical manner. The aim is not to pursue a new political path, but to press Israel into resuming peace talks. Consequently, these steps have been abandoned and not given the attention and effort they deserve. That is why all these efforts have come to nothing.
Yet there is an alternative to peace talks, one that could be characterized by:
---Focusing on accumulating all available Palestinian, Arab, and international points of strength, so as to enable Palestinian negotiators to go to the negotiating table from a position of strength. This requires the adoption of a strategy of resistance, a strategy that sows so that negotiations can reap. For tactical reasons, negotiations could be combined with resistance, in other words, the Palestinians could continue the process of going to the UN as negotiations proceed. In this case, negotiations could be used to gain time as Palestinians build up the elements of a new strategy.
---Negotiations must be based on international law and UN resolutions, such that the aim of the negotiating process would be the implementation of these resolutions and not negotiating them. Among these resolutions is the establishment of a Palestinian state within the borders of 1967 with Jerusalem as its capital.
---Insisting on discussing the issue of the return of Palestinian refugees at an international conference with full authority that can provide guarantees that the issue would be discussed seriously and that all points agreed upon would be implemented in full within a short timeframe.
---Completing the process of going to the UN by signing international agreements, and gaining membership of international organizations including the ICC. This step has political, legal, and moral advantages that could alter the balance of power that is currently hopelessly tilted towards Israel, and restore the struggle to its original form: one between an occupier and a people under occupation.
---Activating the ICJ ruling, the Goldstone Report, as well as all pertinent international rulings and resolutions, especially the  UNGA resolution recognizing Palestine as a state with observer status.
---Withdrawing recognition from the Oslo accords and gradually abandoning its commitments but without officially renouncing the accords. In other words, the Palestinians should emulate Israel, which has killed off Oslo long ago but did not bury it in order not to be held responsible by the international community.
---Priority must be given to reviving the Palestinian national project, Palestinian unity, and the Palestinian cause. A new Palestinian national covenant must be adopted that preserves basic rights and embodies all points of unity as well as the legal framework by which various Palestinian institutions can operate. A new political program must be adopted that aims to change the current reality rather than consecrate it.
---Rebuilding the PLO such that it brings together all Palestinian factions. If it proves impossible to end the split and achieve reconciliation, then the PLO should be reformed and developed such that the PA becomes an auxiliary tool of the PLO rather than the other way round. The PA must become a tool of the national project, and not a security contractor for the occupation. It is essential to take these steps so that the possible confrontation with Israel would not lead to the dissolution of the PA and the creation of a power vacuum. The PLO could then step in to fill the vacuum.
---Upholding democracy on all levels. Holding regular elections is an expression of the will of the people and should be seen as an integral part of the struggle against attempts to obviate the Palestinians' cause, identity, and role. Otherwise, elections could only consecrate the split and endow the occupation with a veneer of legality.
---Consolidating all points of strength and steadfastness, and encouraging mass resistance against the occupation. Palestinians must be encouraged to engage in the form of resistance that suits their individual circumstances. What is suitable for Gaza may not be so for the West Bank or the areas of 1948. But all forms of resistance must be conducted under a unified leadership, and a single program and they must all have the objective of defeating Israeli colonialism, ending the occupation, and achieving self-determination, equality, and sovereignty.
---Restoring the Arab dimension of the Palestinian cause, especially in this era of Arab upheaval, which, despite the damage it caused to the Palestinian cause, has still created a new reality, which would inevitably change the face of the Arab world. Arabs now realize that they have the ability to change, and the democracy is not a western luxury but an essential requirement for progress, development, freedom, and genuine independence.
“And finally, consolidating and strengthening the role played by the international solidarity movement, and encouraging efforts to boycott Israel politically, culturally, economically, and academically”, concludes Masri.