الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   18 تموز 2019

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هاني المصري

 "After the [June] Bahrain workshop, the U.S. has evidently been trying somewhat to woo President Mahmoud 'Abbas," notes Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian news-portal www.masarat.ps.

[U.S. Envoy] Jared Kushner has said that President Donald Trump is 'very fond' of 'Abbas, while [U.S. Envoy] Jason Greenblatt said that the U.S. administration is prepared to re-open the PLO's Washington office if the PA agrees to resume negotiations (as if there were negotiations to begin with; there were only dictates, and there is little left to negotiate over!). 

Kushner and Greenblatt also stressed the importance of the political dimension of the U.S. plan, explaining that none of its economic aspects would be implemented before agreements were reached on the political dimension. This reflects some backtracking from previous threats that had gone so far as to repeatedly incite the Palestinian people against their leadership.

Meanwhile, the Israeli media has reported that a number of U.S.-Palestinian meetings have been held in both Palestine and U.S. and made promising progress that could lead to the resumption of political relations that have been severed ever since the U.S.'s [November 2017] decision to transfer its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize it as Israel's capital, thereby taking the matter off the negotiating table, as Trump has stated more than once.

True, several senior Palestinian officials, including presidential spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh, have denied reports of a U.S. visit by PA General Intelligence head Majid Faraj, who is charged with security affairs and maintaining security coordination with the Americans even though political relations have been severed. Yet the leadership did not deny that meetings had taken place and, confirmed, in fact, that it was prepared to resume relations with the Trump administration if the latter agrees to a two-state solution and defers to the UN's authority. 

This denial notwithstanding, something has begun to stir between the two sides since the Bahrain workshop. The U.S. administration has begun to realize that it cannot attain the historic achievement that Trump has promised without the Palestinians' approval and find a solution to the intractable issue that has eluded former U.S. presidents. 

This belated realization can be attributed to the Bahrain workshop's 'success' that was akin to failure; a wedding without the bride and groom after holding onto the hope that Israel would officially make an appearance alongside the official U.S. and Arab presence, despite Palestine's absence to launch a major step on the path towards official Arab normalization with Israel. 

That step never materialized, after major Arab actors such as Jordan and Egypt balked, and threatened that they would not attend if the Israeli finance minister would be there, and he had in fact begun preparations to attend before the U.S. informed him that his presence was not needed, as it would impart a political dimension to the 'economic' workshop. Jordan and Egypt did attend, but only sent low-level delegations despite the lack of official Israeli presence. 

The workshop's failure is reinforced by the fact that it resembled NGO workshops, which are a theoretical exercise more than anything else. At the end, no official commitments were agreed on, and the participating countries, banks, and companies did not pledge to provide grants, loans, or projects, making it very clear that the mountain had given birth to a mouse. 

The workshop's failings were further exposed by the fact that half the promised 50 billion dollars was to be in the form of loans with interest, while 11 billion would be provided by the private sector, which does not typically make investments without guarantees of profit. That leaves 13 billion in grants to be extended over a ten year period, which is too paltry a sum to resolve a cause as important as the Palestinians'.

In any case, their cause will never by bought or sold with monies, as the course of the Palestinian people's struggle for over a hundred years until today has demonstrated. If the issue could be resolved with monies or the purported economic peace, it would have been settled a long time ago. This was already established by past officials and experts from the U.S., Europe, Israel, and others.

On the other hand, the Palestinian leadership felt that despite its success in thwarting the workshop, it found itself in an even worse situation than after the U.S. suspended its aid to the PA save for security matters, and after a new reality was imposed on the ground with the U.S. ascending to full partnership with the Israeli occupation and right-wing in the Trump era, and even after some Arabs agreed to take part in the workshop alongside Americans, Israelis, and foreigners to discuss a Palestinian affair in the absence of its stakeholders and their representatives, all of which lit a warning light .

Despite the recent positive developments in Palestinian-U.S. relations, it will be no simple matter to bring relations back to normal without one side retreating from its positions, which is unlikely, or both parties softening their stances together, which is not easy, but not impossible.

For example, if the Trump administration were to sweeten the deal a little bit by referencing a Palestinian state and the settlements' untrammeled expansion, that could coax a change in the Palestinian position, even if it only mentions a Palestinian state without acknowledging the 1967 borders or Jerusalem as its capital or that it should have sovereignty. None of that matters, because an acknowledgment could be the ladder that brings President 'Abbas down from the treetop where he has roosted in since he severed his political ties with the U.S. administration.

However, such a U.S. concession is not possible on the eve of the Israeli elections and with the start of the U,S. presidential election campaign, which Trump is betting on winning with support from the evangelicals who comprise 25% of the American electorate and would accept nothing less than the entire 'Land of Israel' and would not vote for Trump again if they sense that he might soften his full and unyielding support for the Israeli right. 

The one thing that could change the situation is in the unlikely event that the Israeli elections bear a surprise and [former chief of staff and Kahol Lavan Party head] Benny Gantz ends up forming the new government alongside [former defense minister] Lieberman and other parties, or if PM Netanyahu fails to form a government under his leadership, or if a government of national accord were to formed with Likud without Netanyahu, or with him but also with Kahol Lavan and other parties, especially if Gantz serves as PM in its initial phase. In each of these cases, we cannot fully rule out that Israel will adopt a more flexible position that Trump can rely on without angering his constituents.

However, it is still possible for Netanyahu to succeed in forming a government, especially if the right-wing parties unite and Trump were to offer him a new gift, for instance by encouraging (or supporting) the annexation of settlement blocs and/or the Jordan Valley, as Trump had requested of National Security Advisor John Bolton during their joint visit to the valley, when Bolton stressed that he was aware of the area's great importance to Israeli security. 

This might come to past because the unified and courageous Palestinian position against Trump's deal was not based on that issue, and, in fact, it has been left unaddressed for several reasons, most importantly because the Palestinian leadership has adopted a policy of forbearance focused on survival and persistence above all, relying on others or on the U.S and Israeli elections results for solutions, negotiations, or settlement, despite  everything that has happened, and despite decades of disappointments that only ended up deepening the occupation, expanding settlements, cutting off Palestinian roots, further Judaizing and Israelizing Jerusalem, and besieging Gaza – all while the Palestinian cause loses its standing and divisions take hold and circumstances approach turning the Palestinian cause into a humanitarian issue instead of that of a people and their national rights that must be fulfilled.

Further proof of that failing policy lies in the fact that the PNC's (Palestinian National Council) decisions regarding relations with the occupation and recognition of Israel and economic dependence on it have not been implemented. 

Security coordination has not been suspended, and the PA takes care not to open up a front with Israel, allegedly because it is unable to handle two fronts, with the U.S. and Israel, at the same time, as if they were not one and the same. 

"It has also failed to organize a genuine popular resistance and has not embraced a boycott of Israel, nor has it progressed down the road of ending the [Fatah/Hamas] split and restoring unity'" concludes Masri.