Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat announced that the Ramallah leadership initiated moves at the Arab, regional, and international levels in order to convene an international conference the aim of which would be to end the occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state within a strict timetable guaranteed by international parties," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
In order for these moves to make a real difference for the Palestinians, they must be part of a new strategy.
It is hoped that the moves Erakat spoke about are not intended merely to bide time until conditions are ripe for the resumption of bilateral talks. In other words, we hope that it is not just another tactic designed to pressure the U.S. and Israel into reviving the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
The situation after Israel's genocidal war on Gaza must be different from that which prevailed before. Persevering with the so-called peace process, a sin before the war, would be an unforgivable crime now. It is simply inconceivable to continue dealing with murderous Israel as before.
Israel is drenched in Palestinian blood; it has violated all past agreements and obligations and has destroyed all hopes of peace. It is sowing the seeds of war, destruction, and death by giving its soldiers and settlers a free hand in the West Bank and especially in Jerusalem.
In order for an international peace conference to be serious, it must be part of a completely different approach that includes different but complementary strategies working together to end the occupation, achieve independence in the lands of 1967, enable refugees to return (or be compensated), and release Palestinian prisoners.
These strategies must be based first and foremost on a solid foundation of national unity and genuine political partnership built on common grounds, which have become much easier to agree upon now that the Palestinians have managed to resist the aggression together and succeeded in forming a unified delegation to negotiate in Cairo.
Should the Palestinian leadership agree to adopt such a new approach, it would prove that it is up to the challenges facing the Palestinian cause. The leadership must waste no time in fulfilling its call for the PLO's interim leadership to convene as a de facto leadership until new elections are held for the National Assembly.
The new Palestinian strategies should include the following:
A strategy of resistance in all its forms, including mass and armed resistance. This strategy must be built on the understanding that the occupation cannot be ended unless a radical shift in the balance of power takes place. Resistance must be based on international humanitarian law that allows peoples to engage in all forms of resistance, as well as on the rich heritage of Palestinian resistance, and on a unified national point of reference that clearly outlines the forms of resistance to be engaged in at any one point in time.
Different forms of resistance could be contemplated depending on prevailing circumstances. Preparations must be made for a third Palestinian intifada, the first indications of which are already apparent. Resources must be readied to support a new uprising, including a leadership structure, adequate organization, achievable goals, and good timing, ensuring that it does not slide into chaos and lawlessness. The lessons of the past must be learnt in this respect, the most important of which is that the Palestinians must no longer believe in the myth that says they could regain their rights through American-sponsored bilateral talks. Another myth that must be debunked is that which says armed resistance by itself could achieve Palestinian rights.
Resistance sows while politics reaps, and he who does not sow cannot reap. The catastrophic situation the Palestinians find themselves in came about because they squandered the strong cards they held in exchange for vague promises and good will. They gave away many concessions – by implementing the clauses of the Oslo agreements and the roadmap – unilaterally. They wasted years building state institutions in a vain attempt to win (Israel's) acceptance, and in pursuing the mirage of 'economic peace,' which has become a reality but one that is merely designed to improve life under occupation. In that time, the PA turned into a proxy for the occupation instead of its original function as a means to roll back Israeli occupation and establish a Palestinian state.
In order for the new approach to be able to achieve Palestinian goals it must circumvent the obligations under Oslo immediately or in stages. The shape, functions, and obligations of the PA must be reviewed, especially now that the international community has recognized Palestinian statehood. The first step in this process must be to stop security cooperation with Israel. The Paris economic agreement must be abrogated. Efforts must be initiated at the UN to delegitimize, isolate, ostracize, and punish Israel. The Palestinians must sign international treaties and conventions and gain membership in international bodies especially the International Criminal Court [ICC].
ICC membership will act as a deterrent for Israel against committing crimes in the future. Israeli military and civilian officials must be held to account for their crimes including the crimes of settlement, deportations, and dispossession. By adopting a total boycott, Israel would be made to pay a very heavy price for the occupation.
In order to make this possible, the Palestinians must adopt legalese rhetoric. They must stress that rights are not negotiated but fulfilled.
Another strategy would include restoring the Arab and Islamic dimension of the Palestinian cause. The Arab world must be involved in finding a settlement. It goes without saying that the Zionist colonialist project threatens the entire Arab world, as well as the region as a whole and world peace in general. International public opinion must therefore be cultivated in order to create a solidarity movement that could then exert pressure on the great powers.
Calls for an international conference plugs a very big hole that became apparent by the total preoccupation with efforts to stop Israel's aggression on Gaza, ending the blockade, reconstruction, reopening crossings, and the number of trucks that should be allowed to cross over into Gaza.
While these issues are debated, the root cause of the conflict – the occupation – is ignored.
Efforts underway to remedy the situation in Gaza could all be swept away the next time Israel decides to attack. That is why these efforts must be underpinned by a serious political process designed to end the occupation once and for all.
One of the most important achievements of the resistance in the latest war on Gaza was the fact that it managed to return the Palestinian cause to the top of the international agenda. Thanks to the resistance, the Palestinian cause is once again being perceived as a struggle for national liberation. Resistance unified the Palestinian people behind the same goal, a fact that requires an approach diametrically different from the failed one of the past.
While it is crucial to convene an international conference, it would be meaningless without adopting the strategies outlined above. While it would not be an easy task to hold an international conference, efforts to convene one must be undertaken if only to undermine attempts to resume bilateral talks. Moreover, an international conference must not be a symbolic gesture, designed as a cover for the resumption of bilateral talks.
The conference must be convened under UN auspices, with a short and well-defined timetable, and be based on international law and UN resolutions. These must be implemented, not negotiated.
"Past agreements, in which the Palestinians conceded so much for free, must not form a basis for such a conference," concludes Masri.