APPROACHING THE MOMENT OF DECISION
"The moment when the president is meant to take a decision on 'Kerry's Plan' is approaching," writes Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian website www.masarat.com.
It would be difficult, in fact almost impossible, to accept that plan without amendments. If Abu Mazin is to accept it, then it must at the very least include a clause that states that the negotiations will be on the basis of the June 1967 borders, even if that is accompanied by acceptance of the principle of a 'land-swap'.If it were possible to overcome the problem of recognizing Israel as a 'Jewish' state or as a state for the Jewish people, and East Jerusalem is recognized as the Palestinian state's capital, that would be even better. But without recognizing the 1967 borders, a Palestinian acceptance of 'Kerry's Plan' would be tantamount to a total and unqualified surrender.But Abu Mazin's predicament does not stem from Israel’s position. That position has been as clear as daylight for some time now, especially under the Netanyahu’s government of extremists and settlers.In fact, this may be the worst government since Israel's establishment. Rather, Abu Mazin's predicament stems from the fact that what Kerry – who represents the U.S. administration, the sole sponsor of the negotiations – has proposed essentially satisfies Israeli demands, yet Israel has not accepted it so far. This is because it wants to satisfy all of its demands, and not just their essence.If Abu Mazin accepts the plan, he would be betraying his people and his long struggle, and would end his political life in the worst possible manner. Moreover, and despite all this, that would still not ensure that the Israeli 'concessions' the plan includes would be implemented. Long and bitter experience has taught the Palestinians that there is a great difference between what is signed, and what is implemented on the ground. Israel can sign anything at all as a form of consolation and so as to ensure that the Palestinians can accept the agreement, but without really intending to implement the agreement itself.If, on the other hand, Abu Mazin were to reject the Kerry Plan, he would be blamed for foiling the peace process. A campaign would be launched, boycotting him and applying sanctions against him and the PA. Israel would be given a free hand to behave as it wishes. The process of 'demonizing' him would begin and he would be portrayed as someone who is not a partner for peace.It is true that such a process would be difficult and gradual, since it would be hard to accuse him of 'terrorism' when he declares his faith in peace and negotiations as the sole way of achieving the Palestinian demands day and night, and rejects armed struggle, even though it is a right that is endorsed by all God-given and man-made laws for any nation that is under occupation.Despite all that Abu Mazin has offered, more is being demanded of him. This is because the U.S. administration does not want to pressure Israel– although it is able to; instead, it chooses to pressure the victim. Thus, in an attempt to save face, Kerry has moved from trying to reach a 'comprehensive peace accord,' to seeking a 'framework agreement,' to accepting a 'blueprint declaration of principles’ that would permit the negotiations to be extended. Kerry has therefore gone into labor only to give birth to a … mouse!This leaves only a third option open to Abu Mazin whereby he neither accepts nor rejects the American plan. Instead, he would initiate a process that aims to place the blame on Israel and hold it responsible for the failure of Kerry's mission. This would be done by raising questions, making observations, and trying to lure Arab and international parties in the hope that they would alleviate pressures on the Palestinians.Abu Mazin’s latest speeches, interviews, and statements indicate that he has chosen to say 'No/yes' to Kerry's Plan. He sent a letter to the U.S. administration, copies of which he also sent to the Arab and international parties concerned, containing the positions and questions of the Palestinian side. There were also reports that he told Kerry that he cannot recognize Israel as a 'Jewish' state because the PLO has already recognized Israel, and unless the UN and the Arab League recognize it as such. This led the U.S. secretary of state to promise that he would secure Arab acceptance. This is why he headed to Jordan and Saudi Arabia and met with the Arab League Follow-Up Committee's delegation in Paris, and sent his aide Martin Indyk to Cairo.One thing that explains the great differences over the content of Kerry's Plan and its chances of success is the fact that Kerry continuously changes his ideas and offers contradictory positions. On the one hand, he says that the U.S. position is in favor of ending the occupation, of establishing a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, of East Jerusalem as the state's capital, of settlements as illegal, and of a fair solution to the refugee problem. On the other hand, he speaks of the 'possible solution' that must include recognition of Israel as a 'Jewish' state. He also recognizes the Palestinians' 'aspiration’ to have a capital in Jerusalem without specifying its borders, and of the need to deploy technological means and third parties – for example, Jordanian and American forces under Palestinian supervision and observation – provided Israel maintains its own forces along the borders for a time period that ends only when the Palestinian side is fully 'capable.'Since Netanyahu, and at other times his government, do not accept what Kerry proposes, despite the fact that he has adopted the essence of the Israeli position, the American proposals have to be changed continuously so as to ensure that Netanyahu can accept them in order to market them with his government. In other words, what Netanyahu accepts has become the point of reference.In fact, what American sources have recently revealed regarding Netanyahu's readiness to reach a 'historical settlement' that includes withdrawal from most of the occupied West Bank if the Palestinians agree to implementing that over a long period so that it is implemented under his successors – may be seen as an attempt to promote Netanyahu and tame the Palestinians, pushing them towards accepting what Kerry will propose at the coming 'Aqaba summit.It is difficult for Abu Mazin to accept Kerry’s offer. If he agrees to it, he will be unable to ensure Palestinian acceptance of it, not even inside Fateh and the PLO.Unless a miracle occurs, and unless the Israeli government fails to agree to a formula that includes negotiations over the 1967 borders even with 'land-swaps,' all parties are expected to seek to avoid the collapse of the negotiations and Kerry's efforts. This is because that would harm them all. The way out, therefore, will be to agree to extend the negotiations on the basis of an agreement that is less than a 'framework agreement' and that includes the issues that the negotiations will address and will record the agreed principles in a general manner.Extending the negotiations on the basis of new and ambiguous terms of reference that are open to conflicting interpretations – that is, without a clear and binding terms of reference that include Palestinian rights, without an end to settlement activities, with a continued freeze on the Palestinians' international action, and in the shadow of the absence of national unity, resistance, and a general boycott of Israel – would be a very bad thing.It is true that it would not be as bad as signing a 'peace agreement' that liquidates the cause or a 'framework agreement' that paves the way to liquidating the cause. But it would be akin to jumping from the frying pan into the fire."Continuing with the negotiations not only means wasting valuable time. For time is also blood and rights, and is exploited by the occupation to create a fait accompli that renders Israel’s solution the only solution on offer – if not at one go, then in installments," concludes Masri.