الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   28 تشرين الثاني 2019

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هاني المصري

"The official and popular Palestinian reaction to the U.S. decision on settlements has been underwhelming, to say the least, and is incommensurate with the gravity of the incident," contends leading Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian news-portal www.masarat.ps.

It is typical of the Palestinian position regarding U.S, policy under President Donald Trump, who has made no secret of his intentions to liquidate the Palestinian cause by taking the facts imposed on the ground by the occupation as the sole terms of reference for the U.S.-sponsored peace process. (For now, allow me to put aside the task of explaining the feeble popular response, which I will address in a later article).

As for the feeble official Palestinian stance on both sides of the [Fatah/Hamas] split, it can be explained by viewing it from President Mahmoud Abbas's point of view, namely, that the U.S, decision offers nothing new and was expected, and that it does not affect the international laws that consider the settlements as an illegal byproduct of an illegitimate occupation, nor does it create rights or entail any commitments, as is apparent from the universal opposition to it. Hamas's perspective, in turn, allocates all the blame to the split and to the other [PA/Fatah] side that has failed to fulfill its duties.

The lackluster Palestinian response could also be attributed to the delusion that Trump's deal is stillborn despite the fact that it is being aggressively implemented on the ground not as a deal, but as an imposed Israeli solution in full partnership with the U.S. It can also be attributed to wagering on the incoming Israeli government in light of the imminent end of Benyamin Netanyahu's term in office in the hope that bad as his successor may be, he cannot be as bad or worse than his predecessor, as well as betting that Trump will fall in the upcoming U.S. presidential elections in about a year's time.

The lackluster Palestinian position is due to the fact that the struggle for power between the two sides of the split overwhelms everything else, and that contrary to what they may, say President 'Abbas and his people do not support the Palestinian calls to shift away from the [1993] Oslo track and implement the PNC (Palestine National Council) and PLO Executive Committee's decisions in that regard, despite the fact that the president had personally announced the decision to no longer abide by the agreements. All the evidence is that this has led to nothing more than the formation of a committee that has only held one meeting, following in the footsteps of so many other committees that have been no more than soon-to-be-forgotten maneuvers to buy time. What better proof of that than the willingness to hold elections based on the Oslo and its requirements?

The lack of conviction in implementing the decisions is largely due to the fact that over 70 years after the Nakba, over 50 years after the June [1967] defeat, there is an entrenched [Palestinian] structure and interests that would be damaged should these decisions be implemented. It is also due to fear of the consequences and the conviction that there is no alternative to the current reality. Nevertheless, those who have no alternatives to propose and believe that it is impossible to create any should step aside and let those who can envision an alternative to our current circumstances try their luck. 

The Palestinian cause, its people, and its territories have never seen worse conditions since the Nakba. This was not fated, nor is it merely the outcome of foreign conspiracies and dangers. The [Palestinian] leadership is primarily responsible, closely followed by the parties to the split and the political forces and elites, for the situation we have been reduced to, and for the errors, sins, concessions, delusions, perpetual waiting, and sanctifying the notion of day-to-day survival without any strategic vision, planning, or concrete plan. They also bear responsibility for wagering on the Arab, regional, and international axes and variables that will never serve us well as long as we are unable to employ them, and for prioritizing individual, familial, and factional interests over the national interest.

At best, the U.S. decision will encourage advocates of settlement expansion and building a Jewish state, who will intensify their expansionist and settlement plans. At worst, the incoming Israeli government will be able to swiftly annex the Jordan Valley and the Northern Dead Sea as a step towards annexing [the West Bank's] Area C. The likelihood of this happening is even higher if the incoming government is an extreme right one, regardless of whether it is headed by Netanyahu or his Likud successor.

The tactic favored by [opposition Kahol Lavan Party leader] Benny Gantz and his party, namely creeping annexation that grows deeper by the day coupled with imposing daily occupation realities at high rates, is not much different from legalized annexation. When the land is confiscated, Judaized, and settled, and when the original inhabitants of Area C are expelled until they dwindle to far fewer numbers than the colonialist settlers (as is already the case), legalized annexation can only be a matter of time.

The lack of a strong Palestinian response to Jerusalem's declaration as the eternal united capital of Israel and the U.S. embassy's transfer as well as the attempt to liquidate the refugee issue, embrace the historical Zionist narrative, and put paid to the option of a Palestinian state has whetted the appetites of Washington and Tel Aviv's rulers. The sky has not fallen, as former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley suggested. 

In response to the campaign to liquidate the Palestinian cause, we propose the following:

First: We must call for a comprehensive national dialogue in Cairo with a fixed, very short timeframe to articulate a comprehensive response to the challenges and risks at hand. It should be capable of leveraging all of the available strengths and opportunities, and this dialogue should lead to Palestinian unity and a strategic, collective response capable of foiling hostile plans. Its agenda will include determining the central objective (to end the occupation, achieve independence, and struggle to secure the right of return and individual and national equality for our people in the territories) and the methods for achieving it, and identifying the main danger, namely, colonialist settlement, and how to thwart it.

The dialogue should also focus on how to rebuild the PLO's institutions such that it can serve as the sole legitimate representative and an effective national umbrella in word and deed. This requires adopting the rules of consensual democratic participation as part of the national front and agreeing on political common ground in addition to looking into the PA's status now that it has become clear that it is intended to be an autonomous authority forever. Should we dissolve it and transition to manifesting a true state? Or is it best to change its form, functions, obligations and budget, and fix its relationship with the PLO to turn it into one of the latter's instruments, transferring the PA's political dimension to the PLO's jurisdiction?

The above would require ending the split and unifying the institutions so as to end Fatah's dominion over the PA and PLO as well as Hamas's unilateral control over the Gaza Strip, and to seek recourse with the people through elections whenever and wherever possible. It also requires reconsidering the nature of the PA security services' functions as well as their role and numbers, limiting them to a single establishment (a police force), or two at most, and distributing their personnel and budgets to other ministries and sectors. 

Second: A national army should be formed in the Gaza Strip that encompasses all the resistance factions' military wings and that answers to a unified strategy and a single command. In this aspect, the resistance in all of its forms (especially popular resistance and boycott) will play an important role in any serious, genuine Palestinian response.

Third: Certain factors must be developed, namely, steadfastness and the Palestinian human presence on Palestinian soil. This is a task of utmost importance, because the current phase is not that of achieving a national resolution, but of thwarting the U.S.-Israeli solution, minimizing the loss and damage, and maintaining strengths and gains (especially the presence of seven million Palestinians on Palestinian land) as well as a unified national entity as represented by the PLO and the conviction among the people that they are one and are prepared to continue the struggle to achieve their national rights.

Fourth: We must support national production and adopt a law that prohibits colonialist settlement and forbids and criminalizes any dealings, work, trade, or investment in the settlements.

Fifth: A plan must be developed to renounce political, economic, and security obligations to the Oslo agreement, beginning with withdrawing recognition of Israel.

Sixth: We must mobilize the Arab dimension of the Palestinian cause, without which it will not survive, but without abolishing Palestine's particular role and character as a liberation movement that receives international support. 

"We must also advocate launching a peace process via an ongoing international conference granted a full mandate under the authority of international law and internationally sanctioned resolutions, where the negotiations address matters of implementation rather than the process itself," concludes Masri.