الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   31 تشرين الأول 2012

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Oslo must be abrogated
هاني المصري


The Palestinian leadership should begin to abrogate the catastrophic 1993 Oslo accords regardless of the costbecame clear that the Oslo accords could never lead to peace or achieve even the bare minimum of Palestinian demands,

ABBAS’S EFFORTS: On the one hand, President Mahmoud Abbas has, since the [2004] assassination of the late Yasser Arafat, been making strenuous efforts to push the peace process forwards, so much so that he undertook to fulfil Palestinian obligations vis-à-vis the roadmap unilaterally, especially those relating to security cooperation with Israel.

Abbas agreed to the [2001/07] Arab peace plan, which watered down the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, subjecting this inalienable right to negotiations and putting it under the mercy of Israel's veto. He agreed to abide by the principle of land swaps, ensure Israel's peace and security, and establish normal ties with the Jewish state. In return, Israel refused to admit that it was an occupying power, stop settlement activities, and rejected the Palestinian goal of independence in the territories of 1967. On the contrary, Israel insisted on pressing ahead with its aggressive, racist, expansionist, colonialist settlement policies in order to create new and unalterable facts on the ground.



Despite pondering many options (Abbas's resignation, dissolving the PA, abrogating Oslo and the Paris protocol, internationalizing the entire Palestinian cause, achieving reconciliation, holding elections, rebuilding the PLO, and reviving popular resistance, to name but a few), the Palestinian leadership remained hopeful that some development could take place that would inject new life into the clinically dead peace process. The leadership still believes that the Americans may one day exert meaningful pressure on the Israelis to force them to change their ways, or that a new Israeli government could one day be elected that would honor Palestinian demands.


That was why the Palestinian leadership chose to pursue tried and tested options. It continued to pin its hopes on (a) an eventual revival of direct talks under American supervision, (b) so-called proximity talks as long as Israel observed a limited moratorium on settlement building, (c) exploratory talks and an exchange of letters with Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu, and finally (d) a bid to gain non-member status at the UN (after last year's bid for full membership failed).


The Palestinian leadership has been acting (or not acting) in this manner chiefly because it finds itself in an extremely weak position. It is facing an escalating political and economic crisis with nothing to confront it with. In addition, the Arab spring has sidelined and marginalized the Palestinian cause, a fact that has been exacerbated by Israel's success in elevating the Iranian nuclear problem to the top of the international agenda.


Under these circumstances, the Palestinian leadership simply cannot entertain new options without paying a very hefty price. That is why it chose to wait for better conditions or for a miracle that rescue the Palestinian cause from the catastrophe that Abbas spoke of in his recent address at the UN.


But why has the Palestinian leadership reached such a position in which it cannot choose other options without paying a heavy price?


The answer, in a word, is Oslo. The Palestinians signed the Oslo accords despite knowing that it included major concessions. They undertook to recognize Israel (with no reciprocal recognition), cede the right to resist, separate between the cause, the people, and the land, split the Palestinian cause into a number of smaller causes, the people into separate peoples in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel proper, and the Diaspora, and the land into areas A, B, C, detach Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian territories, disengage the territories from the rest of historic Palestine, and agree to a transitional phase that enables Israel to change facts on the ground to influence a final settlement.


In fact, the latter has allowed Israel, thanks to its overwhelming superiority, and thanks to its success in neutralizing international public opinion (which has, since Oslo, been dealing with the Palestinian cause not as one of national liberation but as a simple border dispute or as a conflict between extremists and moderates). Such issues could drag on for decades without having a significant effect on peace and security in the region or on the interests of the great powers, notably the United States.


While the Palestinian leadership was driven by hopes and delusions to sign up to the Oslo accords, it had many opportunities to withdraw from Oslo but it failed to take them. Soon after Oslo was signed, the late Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin declared, ‘No sacred dates,’ thus indicating that Israel was having second thoughts even before the ink had dried. Then, the previous government of Binyamin Netanyahu decided to expand settlements in Jerusalem’s Jebel Abu Ghneim (Har Homa), a project that it pushed forwards despite the tunnel revolt of 1996. The Wye River agreement signed in 1998 was never honored by Israel.


Then it was the turn of Ehud Barak, who, when he became Prime Minister, chose to combine the commitments of the transitional and final settlements in order to enable Israel not to pay a price for each. He then proposed holding a summit at Camp David, in which the Palestinians were given a stark choice: either to submit to Israel's version of a settlement, or else Arafat would be ‘unmasked’ as a terrorist leader, not a peacemaker.


Then came Ariel Sharon, who reoccupied parts of the West Bank while disengaging from Gaza. The Sharon government assassinated Yasser Arafat, and, with American and international support (via the quartet) forced the PA to reshape itself in order to conform to the new realities the Israelis imposed since Oslo – which completely altered the original agreement.


Then it was the turn of Ehud Olmert, which also tried to impose its version of a final settlement, unsuccessfully as it turned out mainly because the Israeli government disagreed with the Prime Minister's vision and was unable to persuade the Israeli public to support it – not to mention the fact that Olmert was forced out by a corruption scandal. In addition, the Palestinian leadership simply could not sign up to a settlement that fails to fulfil the bare minimum of Palestinian demands even if such a settlement was less bad than that proposed by Ariel Sharon.


It is a fact that the PA, the International Quartet, and donor nations have relieved Israel of its responsibility for the occupied territories enshrined in international law. In fact, they helped the occupation economically and politically in the hope of eventual statehood in the territories of 1967, albeit with some land swaps.


While the PA carried out its part of the bargain, Israel did not. In fact, the Israelis totally ignored Oslo and the commitments they signed up to – while insisting that the Palestinians carry out theirs.


Before discussing the options open to the Palestinians, it must be said that abrogating Oslo and its security, economic, and political commitments is an essential condition for the rehabilitation of the Palestinian cause as a struggle for national liberation without which it would be impossible to unite the Palestinian people behind a single leadership working to fulfil a single national program.


The Palestinian cause was emasculated by Oslo. Oslo reduced the entire Palestinian cause to the setting up of a statelet in part of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967. Yet even this did not lead to the liberation of the West Bank and Gaza, or to statehood. It was instead used as a cover for more settlements, and for Judaizing Jerusalem.


There is no doubt that reviving the Palestinian national project represents the foundation for redeeming the Palestinian cause. The national project is built on rights rather than on statehood; it does not contradict the two-state solution, but acts on the basis that Israel destroyed the possibility of that solution and that it has been superseded by events.


It would be wise not to believe that the end of the two-state solution opens the door to a settlement based on one state for two peoples. Israel, which managed to kill off the former despite it enjoying Arab, international, and even some Israeli support, can easily kill off the latter which enjoys far less support.


Israel prefers to perpetuate the status quo, i.e. to continue its occupation. It can easily re-impose its direct occupation, and in fact is already taking steps in this direction (witness Israel's recent decision to start reissuing permits for workers, trade, and visits). Israel can also weaken the PA, and turn Gaza and parts of the West Bank over to Egyptian and Jordanian control respectively. The 'alternative homeland' option has not died away; in fact, it can quickly be revived, together with mass deportations of Palestinians, if conditions become ripe such as the outbreak of a major regional war.


Israel is an enemy of peace. It is against a two-state solution despite all the concessions made by the Palestinians. The most the Palestinians can hope to achieve under the Israeli vision of 'peace' would be a state with provisional borders that would be one in name only, a state that would not include Jerusalem, parts of the West Bank, one that refugees could never return to; a state of disparate Bantustans that could never be viable; a state the only purpose of which would be to absolve the occupation of its responsibilities as well as precluding the establishment of a single state in which the Palestinians would eventually become the largest ethnic group – which would end the Zionist dream of a purely Jewish nation.


With all this in mind, it becomes clear that continuing to believe in the peace process is not only a mistake but also a catastrophic and fatal one that must be avoided at all costs. Any alternative, whatever its costs, would be less damaging than perpetuating the status quo that will inevitably lead to the final liquidation of the Palestinian cause.


Reneging on the rules and commitments of Oslo thus represents the key to national salvation – even if it leads to the collapse or dissolution of the PA. What is essential however is that the Palestinians first rehabilitate their national project under a unified leadership.


Abrogating Oslo could be carried out in stages, in order to avoid being held responsible for a crime that Israel committed; what is important however is that the Palestinians set clear goals from the outset