A MAJOR MISTAKE
“It is now clear that the draft Arab resolution presented to the UN Security Council after many consultations and amendments that denuded it of its content, is a major mistake and it would be an even worse mistake if it is passed and becomes the new international terms of reference for the Palestinian/Israeli negotiations,” writes Hani al-Masri in Tuesday’s leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
The draft resolution does not ensure the [Palestinians’] historical and current national rights. It falls below the ceiling of international law and UN resolutions that ensure the right of return and self-determination, including the establishment of a Palestinian state. This is evident from the fact that it ignores Jerusalem, settlements, the refugees, and recognition of the state, and speaks of ‘lines’ and land exchanges instead of borders. There is also the manner in which it deals with UNSCR 181 and the need to refrain from unilateral steps, with all the shackles that that imposes on the Palestinians’ use of their means of pressure that include joining the International Criminal Court, or ending compliance with the Oslo commitments, and adopting the option of resistance and boycott.
The American blow came quickly after the Obama administration rushed to declare that it was impossible to support the resolution in its current draft– which means that it would have to be changed if it is to secure American approval, and if a consensus continues to be sought – and that it prefers to postpone any draft till after the [March 2015] Israeli elections.
The Palestinian leadership has been victim of a major American deception resulting from Washington’s hints that it may agree to the resolution or abstain from voting if its text is softened. The Palestinian leadership has also been the victim of European blackmail that demanded the French version if the EU was to support it; but when the text was amended to accord with European demands, Europe did not promise to support it.
As a result, the Palestinian leadership no longer knows what it should do: Should it obstinately pursue its line till the very end? Or should it act in accordance with the saying that ‘admitting one’s mistakes and retracting them is a virtue,’ and return to its original draft? Or should it act in accordance with American advice and postpone the vote on the resolution till after the Israeli elections?
This seems to have caused some confusion, as evident from the conflicting Palestinian official reports. One informed source stated that the Palestinian leadership has agreed to postpone the vote, and that contacts were underway to merge the Palestinian draft resolution with the European draft. Another informed Palestinian source says that significant amendments will be introduced to the draft resolution. A third source says that these amendments have already been made. Yet other sources threaten to withdraw the draft resolution unless Europe undertakes to support it, and to return to the text of the original Arab draft.
Nothing justifies an Arab draft resolution with a low ceiling. If such ‘flexibility’ is designed to ensure that the resolution receives European backing and avoids an American veto, the question becomes that of what to offer in order to secure American approval or when negotiating with Israel in order to reach a peace agreement with it?
The norm in the science of negotiations is for each side to begin by putting forward its maximal demands, after which it can climb down to its minimal demands if there is a chance of reaching an agreement. It is not proper for the weak side to begin by proposing a very low ceiling, or after the failure of a very long negotiation track in which basic historical rights have been abandoned and to haggle over rights recognized by international legitimacy.
Offering free-of-charge unilateral concessions even before negotiations have begun, and as other European parties say they are ready to recognize Palestinian rights – especially the right to self-determination and establish a Palestinian state over 22% of Mandatory Palestine’s borders, is one of the most astonishing curiosities that only invite further American and European pressures and whet the occupation’s appetite for demanding more Palestinian and Arab concessions.
This, in fact, explains the Israeli reaction that criticizes Europe’s position because it is not satisfied with the European demands to the Palestinians. Instead, it wants the Palestinian negotiators to return to the bilateral negotiations stripped of any protection and without any time frame or a point of reference for the talks and for ending the occupation. In this way Israel can completely control the course of the negotiations and their end, assuming they ever do end, and turn them into negotiations over negotiation.
After more than twenty years of the Oslo Accords, and after the catastrophic point that we have reached and what has happened during that period, we had expected that track to be reviewed and to derive the necessary lessons and morals. We had expected to set those Accords and their commitments aside, and to propose a new track that begins by rehabilitating the Palestinians’ historical and natural rights whether they are included in international law and international legitimacy’s resolutions or not.
But we never expected a situation in which we would lower the ceiling of our terms of reference and rush on our own feet to change the very international resolutions that offer us the basic minimum of our rights. That was much too dangerous a path to even cross our minds.
What best explains this situation is the absence of any deep conviction in the need for a radical change of direction. The new options proposed were more of a tactic meant to exert pressure for resuming negotiations and improving their terms. After days and weeks passed and it seemed that this tactic did not bear fruit but would lead to a confrontation, the PA has tried to contain matters in a slapdash manner by trying to avoid such a confrontation at any price, even via a draft resolution which at best – and if passed at all – would lead to new negotiations under a lower ceiling than that of Oslo which has brought us to our current miserable state of affairs.
There is a way out of the predicament that the draft resolution has landed us. It consists of either withdrawing it and proposing another text that includes all the Palestinian rights as recognized by international legitimacy, or ending the attempt to elicit a new resolution that ensures Palestinian rights because the Palestinian, Arab, regional, and international balance of power and conditions do not permit this.
Proposing such a draft in fact elicited the pressures to force us to present a weak resolution. We ended up offering to pay a huge price in return for a mere reference to end the occupation within a short time frame. This recalls the ceiling set for the  Roadmap that spoke of a Palestinian state by the year 2005 and a total end to settlement activities, including ‘natural growth’.
We are weak? Yes; and because we are weak we cannot secure our rights or any significant part of them without first preserving what we have, and then working to strengthen ourselves by providing the requirements of steadfastness and our demographic presence in our homeland.
We must reduce the threats surrounding us, as well as the losses and sacrifices we need to make, while clinging to our rights and never conceding on them. In addition, we must foil the racist, settlement, colonial schemes and work to change the balance of power in the long haul.
“We must keep the cause alive until conditions and circumstances permit us to achieve our aims, or the basic minimum of them,” concludes Masri.