"Although the Trump/Netanyahu deal is perilous to the Palestinian cause in its various dimensions and to the Palestinian people wherever they may be, it is also a grave crisis that can be turned into a major opportunity," maintains Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian news-portal www.masarat.ps.
And although it is a conspiracy targeting the cause, people, and homeland, Palestinian hands can leverage it to restore the national project's standing and erect an inclusive framework that embodies the unity of cause, people and homeland under a consolidated leadership.
The deal/conspiracy seeks to usurp and annex the Jordan Valley, the Northern Dead Sea, and the territories in which there are colonial settlements, and expel their residents (the original owners). Any that are left behind will live in overpopulated, dismembered ghettos under Israeli control until the opportunity arises to displace more of them. Today and until further notice, the Zionist project still aspires to establishing Greater Israel as a Jewish state with an overwhelming Jewish majority.
The conspiracy also targets our people [Palestinian citizens of Israel] within Israel by constitutionalizing racism. This is evident from the racist Nation-State Bill's passage and the fact that it stipulates a land and population swap, which currently encompasses the 'triangle' [Arab towns in Israel near 1967 Green Line] with its 400,000 Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship and that could later extend to other residential hubs.
The conspiracy also targets the Palestinian refugees by abolishing the right of return for all but a nominal number under a family unification policy and seeking to resettle them where they currently reside or to displace them to new countries. It also alters the definition of a refugee, limiting it to those who were born in Palestine before 1948, massively reduces the compensation accorded to them to a mere pittance, and demands compensation for the Jews who immigrated from Arab countries.
All this provides strong grounds for the Palestinian cause, homeland, and people to unite and abandon any illusion that it is possible to establish a Palestinian state via negotiations, even as a trade-off in exchange for relinquishing the right of return and our people's rights in the 1948 territories. It destroys the delusion that it is possible to integrate the Palestinians into Israel as well as any illusion of replacing the two-state solution with a one-state solution. Just as Israel has rejected a Palestinian state, it is even more opposed to establishing a single state, and wants to maintain separation with the Palestinians while continuing to control them.
The national project can be defined as the struggle through all forms of action and encounters to secure the Palestinians' natural, historical, legal, and political rights. It must be incarnated by redrafting the national charter so as to ensure that it upholds our rights and fulfills the need for new formulae informed by emergent experiences and developments. In essence, it will be achieved by defeating the Zionist project, dismantling the system of discrimination, separation and racial privileges, and establishing a democratic state in which all citizens, whether they are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, non-religious, or of other faiths and creeds, exist on equal footing, with equal rights and duties.
That is the ultimate common goal and the fundamental historical solution. It does not preclude, but rather demands, setting transitional goals and priorities for each group to strive towards (the West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians prioritize ending the occupation and winning independence, the 1948 Palestinians [citizens of Israel] prioritize equality as individuals and an ethnic group, the Palestinians abroad prioritize the right to return and defending their civil and national rights). After all, politics is the art of achieving the best of all possibilities, and that does not contradict but rather facilitates and complements the struggle to achieve common goals.
The root of our impairment and our original sin stems not from adopting a transitional program, but rather from imagining it was possible to achieve it through settlements, negotiations and concessions without a critical change in the balance of power. That is what has led to its failure and has reduced us to a far worse state than we were before, as we made serious concessions but did not get our promised state .
The Palestinians abroad can play an extremely important role; they account for over half of the Palestinian people and live far from the occupation's clutches. Most reside in countries surrounding Palestine, and the rest are scattered across the globe. They took on a similar role at the beginning of the modern revolution, when the national movement's leadership center was located abroad.
However, we must account for the fact that Arab, regional, and international conditions are different than they were in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. That period was marked by the rise of patriotism, nationalism, and leftism, which was in turn reflected in a Palestinian revival that emerged with the creation of a single national entity (the PLO) under a unified national program and leadership, recognized as the Palestinians' sole legitimate representative by most of the world's countries.
The global liberation movement's baton was passed by Vietnam to the Palestinian revolution, there was Arab solidarity, and Palestine was the central cause of all Arabs. There was a bipolar world order, where the Soviet Union and its socialist system, China, and the Non-Aligned Movement led by Egypt, India, and Yugoslavia all supported Palestinian rights.
Now, the Palestinians suffer from the split between the two movements [Hamas and Fatah] and their intense national and religious competition, and a failure to articulate a common vision and strategy to face the challenges of the phase. Meanwhile, the Arab world is in the worst of conditions. One of its axes is prepared to accept or turn a blind eye to Trump's deal under the pretext that it is necessary to ally with Israel against the so-called Iranian threat, while right-wing, populist currents proliferate across the world, and interests prevail over principles and values governed not by international law or legitimacy but rather by the law of the jungle where the strong eat the weak.
If there is anything to inspire reassurance and confidence in the future, it is the first inklings of a new world order beginning to emerge with two poles (China and the U.S.) at the helm, as well as a decline in the U.S.'s role in the region and the world as a whole, not just because it has suffered defeat, but also because of its dwindling interest in the region after U.S. oil discoveries and its need to devote its attention to other regions to prevent China from advancing to replace it as global leader world – and the strong roles that Turkey and Iran play, making Israel no longer the central state dominating the region.
Among the reasons that prompted the U.S. to approve Trump's deal was to protect and reassure Israel in light of America's decline, and we cannot rule out U.S. measures and policies, maybe even military strikes, to deplete Iran and other parties before the U.S. completes its withdrawal.
It is clear from the above that matters in the region and the world are not static, and that this will leave its mark on the Arab world, providing the Palestinians with greater margins of maneuver, especially since Jordan feels targeted second to the Palestinians by the U.S./Israeli deal, as it will bear the repercussions of annexation, displacement, and the prevention of a Palestinian state.
In all cases, the Palestinian movement abroad must operate within certain constraints; it must be part of and not separate from the Palestinian popular movement [on home soil], it must participate in redefining and reshaping the national project, it must help to rebuild the PLO institution and not form a new or parallel PLO, it must be unpretentious in its claims and stress that individual groups only represent their participants and not all Palestinians abroad, on the path to uniting the Palestinian people at home and abroad under the new PLO framework.
Palestinians abroad must also actively participate in the PLO from the highest to lowest level by democratically selecting representatives for each group (via elections wherever possible). If general elections are not feasible, then care must be taken to hold elections at the level of communities, popular committees in the camps, popular and trade unions and civil institutions, without repeating the mistakes of the past, when the movement abroad completely overshadowed the movement at home before the Oslo Accords, and vice versa afterwards.
The home and abroad movements can create a form of balance and complementarity, such that both play a fundamental role, but neither can be dispensed with, the homeland serves as the primary battleground and must not be abandoned for any reason and under any circumstances, and the new PLO must embrace all shades of the political and social spectrum from everywhere that Palestinian people reside.
As for our people in the 1948 territories, the role of the High Follow-Up Committee must be revised to take on a different purpose and represent the Palestinian minority within Israel, without necessarily abandoning participation in the Knesset, but without betting and counting on having impossible influence in the institutions of a colonial-settler state that refuses to integrate the 'goyim' (Gentiles or non-Jews), and that would prevent Arabs from voting and being represented in the Jewish Knesset if necessary.
Over and above all that, the Palestinians abroad must play several roles and working together as part of the PLO after it is rehabilitated or until unity is achieved, namely, by supporting political, moral, and financial steadfastness in the interior, providing for the Palestinians' livelihood needs in their areas of refuge, and defending their civil and national rights.
It is unacceptable for the Palestinian people's leadership and representatives to stand idly by while the Palestinians' individual and national rights are violated, especially in Lebanon and before that in Iraq, Libya and Egypt, and the displacement, destruction, and heavy losses in Syria, or to view them as needing sponsors in some countries while in others they are neither refugees, citizens, or residents.
Here we must emphasize that there is no contradiction between naturalization or having non-Palestinian citizenship and maintaining one's national identity as Palestinian. It is necessary to preserve our national identity and culture and play a national role to persist in the struggle and achieve victory, just as it is important that the leadership, PLO, and factions, including representatives of the Palestinians abroad, fight against the Zionist movement and forces and the pressure groups allied to it, thwart Arab normalization with Israel, help expose the Zionist narrative of the conflict, elaborate on the Palestinian narrative, and integrate it into school curricula in Arab, Muslim, and friendly countries as well as in the media, films and cultural programs.
The Palestinians must also develop and diversify bonds of mutual cooperation support with other peoples in brethren and friendly countries and wherever they reside, on the grounds that the Palestinians should not interfere in the affairs of others or vice versa.
"However, since this is a moral, just liberation cause, it must always uphold freedom and justice and defend human rights and freedoms, nations' right to self-determination, progress, and equality for all peoples and citizens without discrimination based on race, gender, faith, or creed," concludes Masri.