الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   15 تشرين الأول 2020

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هاني المصري

OPPOSING VIEWS: "Some believe that Democratic candidate Joe Biden winning the U.S. elections would greatly diminish the possibility of Palestinian elections being held, as it would strengthen the PA/Fatah's position in talks with Hamas," notes leading Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the Palestinian news portal Arab 48.

Others argue the exact opposite, that a Biden win would increase the chances of elections since it would reproduce the Obama administration's vision that seeks to integrate 'moderate political Islamism' into the Arab world's existing political systems, including the PA.

Some say that given his anticipated opposition to the PA renewing its legitimacy and integrating Hamas without agreeing to his vision, a Trump win would increase the chances of the Palestinians advancing towards unity and elections, because it would represent a continuation of the implicit threat in his vision for the conflict's resolution, which the overwhelming majority of Palestinians reject.

It is difficult to determine the accuracy of these views definitively, as each has undeniably valid points. It is crucial to recognize that for all the importance of a taking a decisive Palestinian position given the will to do so, holding elections is not a solely Palestinian decision, but is heavily influenced by the Israeli and U.S. players primarily, as well as Arab, regional, and international players and axes.

In that vein, one source has stated the Palestinian elections decree will not be issued until the U.S. presidential elections results, while another insists it will be issued within days, after internal talks are completed.

To recap, some believe that if Biden wins, elections will not be on the near horizon, because the PA would fear angering the new administration, which it is wagering on given Biden's opposition to Trump's vision and the annexation plan, his declared intention to reopen the Washington PLO office and reinstate U.S./Palestinian relations and U.S. support for the PA and UNRWA, and his pledge to restore the U.S. consulate established in Jerusalem 144 years ago to its former status before it merged with the U.S. embassy transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—while keeping the embassy in Jerusalem. 

He is also expected to work with the international community and the International Quartet [U.S./Russia/EU/UN] to reach a settlement by returning to the policy of conflict management, while encouraging a return to negotiations and the Arab normalization track with Israel. In other words, Biden may restore or attempt to restore U.S. policy to its pre-Trump form. 

The opposing perspective maintains that Biden seeks to integrate Hamas into the Palestinian political system, but on condition that it exercise moderation, and give it the green light to negotiate and maintain the tahdi'a [lull or calming down] with Israel. Yet another opinion argues that there is no difference between Trump and Biden and they are both sides of the same coin, given the latter's statement that 'You don't have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.'

U.S. foreign policy is governed by binding principles and is contingent on considerations controlled not by the U.S. president, but by the so-called 'deep state'. This view is reinforced by the fact that this policy has been consistent in supporting Israel, ensuring its security and military edge over the Arab collective, and denying Palestinian rights, even those enshrined in international law and UN resolutions, as evident from using its Security Council veto in Israel's favor 43 times and providing it with billions of dollars in annual civil and military aid. During Obama's term, an agreement was signed to provide tens of billions to Israel over ten years.

A third opinion maintains that although it is true that support and bias for Israel has been a constant that governs U.S. policy based on Washington's organic, strategic relationship with Tel Aviv, there is a difference between the support extended to Israel by the U.S presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, and Trump's support for the Israeli far-right. He shifted from supporting Israel in conjunction with conflict management and promoting a settlement based on the negotiation process' own terms and the agreements reached by the two parties, to the policy of full partnership with the racist settler-colonialist occupation and seeking to decide the conflict by adopting the Israeli far-right's vision without reservations, as evident from all the steps the Trump administration has taken, from the embassy transfer, to rolling out Trump's vision with its entailed conspiracy to liquidate the Palestinian cause in its various dimensions.

'Why not wager on Biden winning, like the whole world?', asked one Palestinian official. This view extends to more than one Palestinian side; one party is wagering on him to resume negotiations, as opposed to another party that wagers on him reproducing the previous U.S. policy in favor of integrating 'moderate political Islamism' into Arab regimes so as to fight 'radical political Islamism', while noting the decline in wagering on moderate political Islamism after the Arab Spring wave has subsided.

There is a difference between the need to recognize the key difference between Trump and Biden, and factoring it into political considerations, exaggerating it, wagering on it, and overlooking the fact that the Democrat Party leaders support Israel's well-known deal-breakers: No return to the 1967 borders, Jerusalem is Israel's united capital, upholding the Zionist movement's historical narrative, defending Israel's right to exist as a 'Jewish state', no to the refugees' right to return, and viewing the land, settlements, and everything as a matter of contention to be resolved through negotiation. This accords the powerful occupation that controls the land the advantage of creating the circumstances that suit it, thereby coopting the negotiations' contents and ultimately dictating what Israel wants. The Democrat Party leaders have committed to supporting Israel, maintaining its security and military edge over the Arab collective, and turning it into a state above international law.

First of all, those who wager on Biden disregard the fact that the U.S. president, regardless of identity, is not the only decision-maker; there are several authorities that influence decision-making, most importantly Congress, which issued the U.S. embassy transfer law. Secondly, Biden will be up against a more right-wing and hardline Israel that is heading towards further extremism, as evident from Naftali Bennett's [hard-right] Yamina party's rise in recent opinion polls (with 22 out of 120 MKs), and Biden will not risk a major clash with it. Thirdly, the Arab order is experiencing a shift towards changing priorities whereby the Palestinian cause is no longer the official Arabs' central cause and Israel is no longer the enemy, but rather an ally in the face of common dangers. Therefore, Biden will not face Arab pressure for him to put pressure on Israel, but would be more tempted to apply pressure on the Palestinians to moderate their stance.

Those who wager on Biden also overlook the fact that his pressing priorities in the wake of the coronavirus and its economic fallout will not include the Palestinian cause and the Arab world, whose importance has declined after the U.S. became an oil exporter and in light of its escalating conflict and competition with China and Russia, which takes precedence over any other conflict. Moreover, Biden may restore the nuclear deal with Iran.

Going back to the Palestinian elections decree, will it be issued before or after the U.S. elections? The answer is immaterial.

It may be issued tomorrow, but the elections will not be held, because either way they would be scheduled for after the U.S. elections, and they will be affected by its results. The decree may be issued after November 3rd, and elections may or may not occur. Whether they are held depends on the extent to which there is a Palestinian will to do so, as well as the outcome of the bilateral Fatah/Hamas and comprehensive Palestinian dialogues, and Washington, Tel Aviv, the region, and the world's stance. We notice that the Arabs have been either reserved or silent since the internal Palestinian talks began, while the world, the UN, and other international parties (except the U.S. administration) expressed feeble support.

According to an informed source, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder notably advised President Mahmoud 'Abbas during their meeting last Saturday not to hold elections at this phase, for fear that bringing Hamas into the Palestinian political system would foster greater tension between the PA and Israel. In contrast, refraining from holding elections and resuming open negotiations with Israel based on Trump's vision while objecting to some of its provisions would create a breakthrough in the PA's political and economic situation.

If Biden wins, he is expected to support Palestinian elections and the Palestinians' unification and in the absence of strong Israeli opposition, as long as this is based on the [Hamas/Israel] tahdi'a and a moderate position that facilitates resuming negotiations to reach a 'two-state solution' established on a larger area than proposed in Trump' vision, but without possessing any of the components of sovereignty.

The elections are facing a phase of collusion against the Palestinian leadership, pressuring it to comply or be replaced with a new leadership as an ultimatum for granting the PA legitimacy and integrating Hamas into it. However, there are many internal and external obstacles at play, and the key to overcoming them is recognizing that the elections are not a magic wand, securing the contingencies to ensure that instead of enshrining and regulating the split, they will be a step forward in implementing a comprehensive package solution capable of ending the split and embodying full partnership.

Recognizing the differences between Trump and Biden despite the singular U.S. strategy and making calculations on that basis is very important, in the sense that Biden is bad and Trump is worse, and those who wager on Biden will reap nothing. Our wager should be on getting the Palestinian household in order on the national basis of true partnership so as to ensure change, revival, and reform, while desisting from miscalculations and wagers on the viability of prolonging the split or despairing of the possibility of achieving unity in hopes of a change in the surrounding circumstances and the delusional prospect of reaching a settlement via negotiations sponsored by the Quartet by itself or alongside Arab and non-Arab parties. 

Whether Trump or Biden wins, there will be no settlement that achieves basic Palestinian rights without a united, effective Palestinian factor capable of leveraging the differences between the two by maximizing their advantages and minimizing their disadvantages. 

This should be based on a new vision and unified, realistic national strategy that builds on past achievements and can fly at the Palestinian, Arab, and international levels. 

"It should also be based on reinforcing Palestinian steadfastness and the march towards a fruitful, burgeoning resistance, leading to a wholesale intifada that can put an end to the occupation and achieve freedom and independence," concludes Masri.