"What does the decision to end the Palestinians' commitment to signed agreements with Israel mean?" asks leading Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian news-portal www.masarat.ps.
What is the source of authority for the newly formed committee [to oversee the decision]? Does ending the agreements entail a temporary freeze and returning to abide by them later, or is it a step towards voiding them entirely?
Would all political, economic, and security agreements be frozen, including those regarding the population registry, telecommunications, tax distribution, and so on? Or would they be frozen gradually in a long, staged process and if so, which ones would they start with?
Does the decision involve ending security coordination in the sense of cooperating with the occupation to prevent resistance and prosecute its perpetrators? Or does security coordination fall outside the scope of such a decision because it is sacrosanct and serves the Palestinian interest and prevents chaos and rebellion against the PA? And if the decision does encompass security coordination, what will be the occupation's reaction, and are we prepared to face its potential responses?
If we do halt security coordination, would administrative, civil, and economic coordination still be maintained? Would the occupation push the PA to the point of collapse or dissolving itself? Or would it be entirely unconcerned about what happens to it? Or would it seek to preserve the PA because it has been valuable in turning the occupation into a profitable project and plays the role of proxy and buffer between it and the people?
If the agreements are frozen or voided, would it even be possible to maintain the PA, since it is one of their products? Or would the PA be done away with if the decision is implemented?
Are the leadership, PLO, PA, the various forces, and the people prepared for the consequences of this step, or will they wait to see how the occupation will react before taking action? Or is the entire affair merely an expression of anger as a kneejerk reaction to the threats posed by Israel, one that is intended for popular consumption and will thus never see the light of day like so many other threats and decisions taken since 2015 and before, such as securing UN membership as an observer state and joining the International Criminal Court, which have not been implemented or pursued to completion for fear of their potentially disastrous consequences in the absence of a robust alternative or preparations for other options that might prove to be worse than the status quo?
What fate would befall the eight committees that were formed for the same purpose over the past few years, the latest of which was the committee of twenty formed at the last Palestinian Central Council meeting? Why have we yet to hear what happened with its recommendations, and why has there been no announcement that the ninth committee will pick up from where its predecessors have left off?
There is no one answer to these questions and more, as we hear different answers or the lack of any answer from the leaders who attended the meeting at which the decision to end the signed agreements was taken. This indicates that this was not a well-thought-out decision, but a reaction to Israel's mass home demolitions in Wadi al-Hummus [last week]. The ambiguity surrounding this move reflects a state of hesitation, delay, and fear of the consequences of adopting a new course of action.
All the above notwithstanding, the decision, which President Mahmoud 'Abbas announced himself with the authority of his position rather than through the [PLO] Palestinian National Council or [PA] Legislative Council as on other occasions, is an important one. It constitutes a refusal to continue down the same course and upends any remaining legitimacy and credibility to maintaining the status quo and sticking to these agreements that have led us to the disaster we are living today. It sends the message that the successive Israeli governments since Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in 1995 have already killed off the Oslo Accords, but have refused to bury them so as to avoid taking responsibility for the crime they have committed and to ensure that Palestinian obligations continue to be enforced unilaterally.
This is an undeniably very difficult situation with no easy alternative, nor any that can be developed quickly, especially in light of the continuing policy of waiting and offering concessions, and wagering on a negotiated solution, on the so-called 'peace process', the U.S. and the international community, and the possibility of a change in U.S. and Israeli positions after their respective elections.
The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the passage of time since the occupation, Oslo, and the [Fatah/Hamas] split has given rise to an economic, political, and security climate and structure linked to a network of relations and interests, both between each other and with the occupation, that is primarily concerned with maintaining the situation that has allowed it to secure positions, privileges, and influence that are not easy to relinquish. This also applies, albeit in a different manner, to developments in the Gaza Strip since the split, which has led us to chase after understandings based on exchanging truce for easing the blockade.
All the above makes changing the course adopted on the eve of Oslo a matter of fundamental necessity and urgency, although it will be a complicated and lengthy process that cannot be accomplished in haste or by a single decision.
The difficulty and complexity of the situation is not a justifiable defense for maintaining the status quo, or claiming that there is no real alternative to it. If we agree that the situation is disastrous and is liable to head towards an even greater disaster if it remains as is, this can serve as a starting point for articulating a new vision that would, in turn, give rise to rise to a new strategy that we must implement by mustering political will that is prepared to pay the required price. In other worse, the situation requires us to adopt a new multi-dimensional, multi-track strategy.
We need an effective, influential initiative that relies on self-sufficiency and accumulating cards on the local, Arab, regional, and international fronts so as to gradually change the balance of power in a manner that enables the Palestinians to turn threats into opportunities and then take full advantage of them. Such a strategy should not be determined by mere reactions and the delusion of waiting and betting on others.
We should have embarked on a change in course since Rabin's assassination and Israel's failure to abide by its commitments by the May 1999 transitional deadline stipulated by Oslo, and since the failure of the Camp David Summit in 2000 and reoccupation, and since Yasser Arafat was besieged and assassinated, and since the Annapolis conference and negotiations with Ehud Olmert in 2008.
We should have changed course in response to the continued and escalating cancerous expansion in colonialist settlement, and the persistent measures to Judaize and Israelize Jerusalem and its holy sites, and the blockade on Gaza, and the repeated aggressions against it.
We should have changed course in response to Israel's tendency towards further extremism since Netanyahu came into power in 2009 and revived the plan for a 'greater Israel', as evident in Israel's National-State Bill establishing a new phase in which racism has become constitutionalized in Israel. After everything that has happened, it would be a major crime not to change course.
The events in Palestine since 2010 constitute a futile attempt to combine two different paths, to unite heaven and hell on a single plane by combining Oslo and the strategy of negotiations with internationalization, striving for international recognition of the Palestinian state, and pressuring Israel to accept the two-state solution. Such an approach has never worked, and it will continue to fail unless it entails an end to the Oslo obligations. True, it reflects a refusal to surrender, which is good, but it is incapable of frustrating [Israel's] counter-schemes, and avoids committing to the only alternative capable of changing course, which is to adopt the option of resistance under the direction of a strategic initiative rooted in unity.
It was not feasible to combine a commitment to agreements with a call to resume negotiations and adopt a new course in the past, and this has not changed today. Once we reach a profound conviction of the importance of changing course rather than combining between two tracks, it will neither be necessary nor possible to suspend the agreements all at once. Indeed, we can achieve clarity of vision about this by answering a few questions: Where do we stand, knowing that the Israeli government backed by the Trump administration does not want a settlement, and that both regimes are working towards liquidating the Palestinian cause? Where do we want to end up? What transitional strategic goals do we seek to achieve? How do we get what we want, in the sense of which forms of struggle and action are suitable? After determining these answers, we can develop the necessary plans to implement the unified strategy we arrive at.
The Palestinian leadership can then take steps that prove that its decision to stop abiding by the agreements is a serious one, including calling for a national convention in Cairo or any other agreed place to articulate a suitable overall vision and strategy, and gradually alter the PA's form, nature, obligations, and functions so as to transform it from a state of limited self-governance bound to commitments with the occupation, to a PA that serves the national program and an instrument at the unified PLO's disposal.
"We must also take the step of making it a priority to end the split, to restore unity as part of a comprehensive package resolution that rejects Fatah and Hamas's respective hegemony over power in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, to rebuild the PLO's institutions by convening a national unity council rooted in national foundations and principles, to support and advance resistance in all its forms, especially popular resistance, to adopt and expand a boycott of Israel, to gradually and substantively dismantle ties to the Israeli economy while at the same time developing alternatives, to criminalize dealings with the colonial settlements through an enacted law, and to continue to pursue the internationalization strategy, including securing full recognition of the Palestinian state as well strengthening relations with the Arab, regional, and international peoples, movements, and countries that support Palestinian rights," concludes Masri.