IN ISRAEL’S FAVOUR
He who does not sow cannot reap
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry’s latest peace proposals emphasize Washington’s longstanding bias in favour of Israel; the Palestinians must find common ground to confront the challenges ahead, says Hani al-Masri on Palestinian www.masarat.com
Only days after peace talks resumed between Palestinians and Israelis [last summer], I recall telling an American diplomat that I wish to God that John Kerry would not succeed in his efforts to broker a peace deal – in contrast to the Palestinian leadership, which wished him well, writes Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian websitewww.masarat.com.
IN ISRAEL’S FAVOUR: 'Why?’ The flabbergasted diplomat asked. Because, I replied, any peace deal that transpires out of talks under exclusively American stewardship, with no clear terms of reference and no settlement freeze, would be to Israel's favor.
An agreement that results from the current round of talks would address only Israel's concerns, and would be forced down the Palestinians' throats. The reason is simple: the Obama administration is hopelessly biased towards Israel, more so in fact than any of its predecessors. This was obvious in Obama's visit to Israel, which was designed to repair damaged ties. During that visit, the President unequivocally adopted the Zionist myth that says that Israel's creation was foretold by God because the Jews were 'His chosen people’ who had roots in the 'promised land’ going back thousands of years.
There is nothing to make one feel optimistic about the talks. The Palestinians are weak, and getting weaker by the day thanks to the split between Fateh and Hamas. In addition, the Palestinian cause is not receiving the attention it used to from an Arab world preoccupied with the 'Arab Spring.' This has encouraged the rulers of Washington and Tel Aviv to intensify the occupation and seek an early liquidation of the Palestinian cause.
Moreover, the present Israeli government is the most hard-line and extreme in Israel's history. Most of its ministers reject the notion of Palestinian statehood, while some of them even reject the idea of a new interim agreement or unilateral steps. The few who could countenance the rise of a Palestinian state do so with so many strings attached that the state would be one in name only with none of the attributes of sovereignty.
All this is bad enough, but then came the bartering and horse-trading on Syria's chemical arsenal and Iran's nuclear program. Israel criticized those deals in public and berated the Obama administration for promoting them – which caused the latter to seek to placate the Israelis more and more at the expense of the Palestinians.
That was why we saw Kerry – who initially preferred to reach a full and final settlement, which includes Palestinian statehood in the lands occupied in 1967 with limited land swaps and the deployment of international peacekeepers in the Jordan Valley – say that the issue of Israel's security should be given preference, and that the borders of a Palestinian state must comply with Israel's security requirements.
Kerry's new plan implies that the U.S. agrees to Israel's continued military control over the Jordan Valley and the new state's other borders for a period described as 'temporary.' Experience however tells us that such arrangements have a habit of becoming permanent. Israel will argue that it needs to make sure that the Palestinian state is capable of ensuring its security. Meanwhile, border crossings would be under joint Israeli-Palestinian control with the U.S. providing technological backup.
The features of the new plan became clear when President Obama addressed the Saban Forum at Washington's Brookings Institute last weekend. The American President said that enough progress had been made at the talks to make it possible for a framework agreement to be reached for a phased final settlement. He pointed out that a settlement could be implemented starting with the West Bank but be postponed as far as Gaza is concerned. When, he said, the people of Gaza see the 'prosperity’ of the West Bank 'state,’ they would inevitably revolt against their Hamas masters in order to become part of that prosperous entity.
Obama made clear that the Palestinians must accede to Israel's demands for a 'period of transition’ designed to ensure that the West Bank does not pose a security problem similar to Gaza. He asked the Palestinians to exercise self-restraint because they could not expect to receive all they want on day one. He added that the broad outlines of a possible peace deal are already clear.
But the Palestinians rejected the American proposals because they constitute a new 'transitional solution’ that is intended to become permanent. And in order to ensure that just such a deal would be struck, Obama and Kerry spoke of the progress that was achieved as a prelude to announcing an extension to the April  deadline.
As for the Israelis, they disagreed publicly amongst themselves on the 'American plan,’ despite the fact that it addresses all Israel's major security concerns. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman openly denounced the plan because they oppose transitional settlements and are against giving the Palestinians anything before they recognize Israel as a 'Jewish state’ and renounce the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
The current round of talks (more than any other previous round) is coming to resemble talks between Israelis and Israelis and between Israelis and Americans. The outcome is being forced on the Palestinians, which is not unexpected since Palestinian negotiators have no strong cards in their hands and no ready options. Unless practical and effective alternatives to the peace talks are found, the Palestinians will gain nothing.
The Palestinians must work towards national [Fateh/Hamas] reconciliation and restore national unity. They must redefine their national project, now that the strategies of peace talks and resistance have hit the buffers. The talks are nothing more than a cover used by Israel to consolidate the occupation, build more settlements, and resistance has become little more than a means for the PA to remain in power.
The Palestinian leadership is standing at a historic crossroads. The moment of truth is approaching rapidly, and a decision commensurate with the level of threats facing the Palestinian cause must be made. If the PA continues to act as it is now, it will lead the Palestinian people towards a new catastrophe – whether it accepts the latest plan or decides to wait for a new American administration and a new Israeli government.
Relying on peace talks as an only option with no alternatives, and under conditions of disunity, a paralyzed PLO, and no resistance will lead the Palestinians down a dark tunnel towards catastrophe.
The resistance we are seeing now is not the result of a strategy agreed by Palestinian leaderships, but isolated individual efforts that Israel could live with indefinitely.
The problem lies not with whether there are peace talks or not, but in the failure to put forward a comprehensive vision that brings together all elements of Palestinian strength and is able to mobilize the Palestinian people anew. Only when the Palestinians have such a vision could resistance be used to push the peace talks forwards. Resistance could then sow so that negotiations could reap.
After all, he who does not sow cannot reap.