"It has become clear that, for all its importance, the [PA's] decision to dispense with its agreements with Israel is not part of a comprehensive plan, as evident from the manifest confusion that has quasi-paralyzed the PA after suspending civil and security coordination, to the extent that it refuses to receive its tax allocations [from Israel] without a clear alternative in place," contends leading Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian news-portal www.masarat.ps.
This has left a vacuum that the occupation authorities are most likely to fill, specifically by taking advantage of the people's needs so as to deal with them directly and confiscate more powers from the PA, as noted from the thousands of workers, businessmen and others flocking to the [Israeli] Civil Administration's offices or to use the [Israeli military] Coordinator's app to obtain work permits and commercial licensing, despite the significant successes of social media campaigns to boycott this app.
This demonstrates that the decision to dispense with the agreements without a clear, integrated plan is merely a reactive move of anger and resentment driven by two assumptions:
First: The wager that the occupation will not forego the benefits the PA accords it that go beyond security coordination to sparing Israel the cost of catering for millions of Palestinians and leaving the PA accountable for them, which is a win-win situation [for Israel] that allows the occupation to persist in five-star luxury.
Second: The wager that Arab and international moves along with U.S./Israeli and inter-Israeli differences will either take annexation off the table, postpone it, or slow down its implementation in a manner that permits PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas either to descend from his tree-top and restore security coordination – and by extension all other kinds of coordination – or to stave off the heavy price for several months until the U.S. elections in the hope that Donald Trump will lose and Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden, who has voiced his opposition to annexation, will win.
Biden may win, but annexation may have already occurred or been legislated for, in which case he will not push to undo it. And if he loses, Trump will give the green light to commence annexation under the terms of his vision [of a Palestinian/Israeli peace deal] . Even if legal annexation does not occur, the occupation will deepen, settlement will expand, creeping annexation will continue, and herding the Palestinians into isolated ghettos will be in full swing.
Should the leadership descend from the tree-top merely to withdraw, postpone, or slow down the annexation under the illusion of reviving the peace processes, it will lose whatever credibility and popular support it has left. Its predicament did not begin with legal annexation, but has led up to it, especially since creeping annexation has been ongoing and has ramped up significantly in recent weeks, and is expected to gain further traction if – as informed sources report – the U.S. adopts the recommendation to refrain from making major announcements and enacting formal annexation, but rather to impose more realities on the ground, following the example practiced by successive governments since Israel's establishment to date.
While the position adopted by the leadership, Fatah, and its allies - for all its importance – does not rise to the level of this phase's grave nature and challenges, Hamas and the rest of the resistance and opposition factions are also powerless, ambivalent, and at a loss as to what to do. They are torn between two positions and cannot decide between them:
--Demanding that the president end the split based on a new strategy, calling to convene an interim leadership, convene a unified national council, suspend the 1993 Oslo commitments, hold elections, and turn to Gaza.
--Forming a national front of factions, institutions, and individuals based on common denominators and preparing to unleash an intifada in the West Bank.
The fact that the president was unresponsive to a long history of Palestinian urging to take initiative did not spur the other [Hamas-led] team to make good on its threats to adopt an alternative, or to provide a convincing explanation for the resistance factions' failure to develop an alternative program, especially in light of all their talk of possessing the means for action, and having allies in the [Iran-led] resistance axis who have achieved a strategic balance with the enemy and entered a strategic offensive phase.
When asked about their reasons for equivocating for years between calling on President 'Abbas to take action and threatening to go over his head, they provide plausible but unconvincing explanations, arguing that the suppression they are subjected to by the occupation and the PA prevent them from proceeding down that path. In that case, they are reliant on others and forfeit the moral high ground, since their true considerations do not match their allegations of strength.
The president seeks unity based on Hamas relinquishing its control over the Gaza Strip, recognizing his political program, and joining the PA and PLO under his leadership. On the flipside, Hamas wants to retain its control over the Gaza Strip, while participating in the PLO. With each side clinging to its position, and without a third party or sufficient political and popular pressure emerging should the split persist, this will continue to impede the formation of a Palestinian alternative capable of thwarting hostile plans, starting with Trump's vision and plans for annexation, expansion and displacement.
This vicious cycle accounts for Hamas blaming Fatah and others, and Fatah blaming Hamas and others. Meanwhile, the Palestinian left is in crisis due to its fragmentation and ineffectiveness, and the fact that each of its factions blames the other, and both sides of the Fatah/Hamas split. Whenever someone asks why each faction that is convinced it is in the right does not take the initiative alone and set an example for the others to follow, no answer is forthcoming.
The first key to deliverance from the tragic condition afflicting the Palestinian national movement in its various branches requires acknowledging that everyone is in the same predicament regardless of the primary cause or who is most responsible for it, because anyone who can provide an alternative does not need to wait for the president or anyone else to take action.
Proponents of endless negotiations and wagering on the peace process have hit a dead end and have made such great concessions that maintaining the deplorable status quo has become the best they can achieve. Likewise, the proponents of armed resistance as the sole or main option have reached a point where they are held hostage to their alliances and priorities, and to the equation of a tahdi'a [lull or calming down] in exchange for easing the blockade [on Gaza]. They cannot fire missiles, or even threaten to do so (as is their wont whenever there is a delay in Qatari monetary aid and measures to ease the siege), without paying a very high price.
The worst thing about this is that each side is hoping for the other to be defeated by banking on what the occupation may do to it. The foregoing is not intended to castigate them or the Gaza Strip for the unbearable, but to provide a realistic assessment of the existing situation so as to determine what action we may take.
The second key is to realize that the cause is passing through a phase of strategic defense due to Palestinian vulnerability, division, and disorientation, the lack of an Arab project that embraces the Palestinian national movement, and the lack of sufficient in-depth global engagement. Therefore, in this phase, Palestinian goals are confined to holding steadfast, maintaining the Palestinian people's presence on their soil (especially in the areas threatened with annexation), keeping the cause alive, and safeguarding the remaining gains as part of the struggle to build upon them and strive to foil hostile plans, especially Trump's vision and the annexation, expansion, and displacement scheme. And should that scheme be realized, the occupation must be made to pay a heavy price that paves the way for continuing the struggle along the path to achieving our national goals.
On that note, it is important to recognize the occupation has no intention of permitting the establishment of a [Palestinian] state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, or both, and it has no consideration for either Fatah, Hamas, or any other faction. Rather, it seeks to keep the Palestinian parties weak, hanging between life and death, infighting, and relying on the occupation for survival pending new conditions that permit the occupation to displace more Palestinians and establish a 'Greater Israel.'
The third key is to have faith in a partnership rooted in shared principles and a balance of interests, and in the mutual need to uphold common ground between the national movement's various (nationalist, Islamist, pan-Arab, leftist, and liberal) branches, despite their great differences, free from hegemony, exclusion, takfirism, or painting each other as traitors.
The final key to unlocking the wholesale predicament is to realize that it is impossible to transcend, void, or dispense with past mistakes, concessions, and misadventures, or overreliance on variables and external factors and the resultant legacy and structures, based on haste or any single decision. Rather, this requires a historic process that begins with knowing where we stand, where we want to get to, and how to get there.
This requires reinforcing the national program (i.e., that of [the refugees'] return, self-determination, national independence, and equality) and its central goals at this phase.
Leaping without looking, recklessness, languishing, resigning to the situation, and relying on others or in unearned prospects will not yield the desired result. We must put our faith in the people first and foremost, and in unity and partnership based on a realistic vision rooted in reality and in dealing with it with the goal of changing it, from which a new strategy and a solid will shall emerge.
In order for this program to materialize, it is imperative to secure the requirements to launch a peaceful, popular intifada that imposes the people's will and interests in a manner that cannot be ignored. A wholesale intifada is not yet at our door, although the upheavals and waves of the resistance will persist and escalate.
Anyone counting on an intifada in the current conditions is in for a long wait. The current confusion will not lead to an intifada, which is driven far more effectively by hope than despair in the presence of a leadership that relies on inclusive and supportive national and popular decision-making to supply the requirements for that option.
In all cases, resilience and the spark of the resistance should be kept alive, while remaining wary of misadventures or slipping into a military confrontation given the unfavorable balance of power, and while emphasizing the Palestinian people's right and duty to resist in every way permitted by their natural and lawful rights, including those provided by international humanitarian law.
When the time comes for a comprehensive revolution and critical change, the people will not wait for anyone's permission, but talk of revolution and change without working diligently in their service will delay their occurrence. Anyone waiting for the PA to dissolve itself is also in for a long wait because no authority would do so. And if it collapses or is dissolved due to losing the bases for its existence and legitimacy, the occupation will seek to establish a new authority or authorities so as to avoid directly assuming responsibility. Its treatment of the de facto [Hamas] authority in Gaza and extending a loan to the PA only confirm that. Moreover, Palestinian fragmentation means that the occupation is the most organized, powerful, and capable party to impose a new authority in the West Bank should the PA disintegrate and collapse.
Anyone who believes the end of the two-state solution will give rise to equal rights under a single state needs to wake up. Unless the Palestinians come to their senses, it is more likely that the end of the two-state solution will lead to the establishment of Greater Israel and the Palestinians' renewed displacement.
There is hope yet. The world before the coronavirus is unlike the world in its wake. The Arab world is open to change and is constantly changing. When that happens, a Palestinian intifada will erupt, and we must help to create the right conditions for it succeed to ensure it will be more than just another page of glory in the Palestinian people's story.
Waiting is fatal, and accusations of betrayal, takfirism, reliance on others, declaring the death of existing forces before an alternative is ready, and perpetuating the split, all pave the way for hostile schemes to succeed. There is common ground that can be built upon.
"Otherwise, whoever has the vision, will, and ability to act should set an example and compel everyone else to catch up or perish," concludes Masri.