"I had hoped to be mistaken in my prediction that the president's UN General Assembly address would fail to lead to a change in the trajectory about which the President registered a host of grievances in his speech," remarks Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian news-portal www.masarat.ps.
However, what has happened since shows that the same stagnation persists as before, as revealed by two major indicators: First, postponing the all-inclusive meeting that was to be held in Algeria, and second, continuing security coordination and even entertaining its expansion.
Due to disagreements, the Palestinian meeting that was supposed to convene in Algeria on October 2nd did not take place and discussion is underway on the possibility of holding it at a later date this month. According to informed sources, President Mahmoud 'Abbas insisted, via the Fatah delegation engaged in talks with Algerian mediation, on the need to focus on forming a national unity government that abides by international provisions, which implicitly includes recognizing the Quartet's conditions, without committing to specified deadlines regarding the PLO and PNC. He also refused to make more room for independent attendees in response to Algeria's proposal for a reasonable increase in their numbers.
Whether or not the Algeria meeting convenes, it will only reap new failure as long as the divided parties are unwilling to pay the price of national unity and secure its requirements, as long as the other parties are not strong enough to enjoin the will and interest of the people on everyone, and as long as the president wants unity on terms that most of the people and the active factions reject. It is also doomed to fail as long as the opposition waits for his position to change, content with issuing condemnation and criticism at times and making appeals and demands at others, without forming a comprehensive vision and developing a plan that paves the way to build an alternative to the status quo if the current political regime will not respond to calls for change. The way to achieve this is to exert political and public pressure on the official Fatah leadership to work together to forge a real partnership that changes the PA and its political process in favor of a consensual national process, rebuilds PLO institutions to include all shades of the political spectrum through national accord and by turning to elections at all levels and in all political and professional sectors.
Without achieving the foregoing, the split will persist and deepen until it devolves into partition, which augurs the perpetuation of the status quo of blockade, aggression, and recurrent truces in the Gaza Strip with no prospect for definitive change, and no way to totally discount the possibility of a long-term truce based on the equation of security in exchange for economic facilitations, in tandem with economic peace and security cooperation in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Israel continues to devour West Bank territory as part of its policy of creeping, gradual annexation, along with pursuing the total Judaization of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa, seeking to put paid to the refugee question, practicing racial discrimination against our people in the interior and blockade and aggression against the Gaza Strip. In other words, the policy persists of escalating the conflict, and not shrinking it, as they claim.
This is evident in the escalation of incursions, assassinations, and arrests, especially in Jenin and Nablus, amid debate in Israeli political, military and security circles about the best policies to adopt, between maintaining the aggression at its current pace, or toning it down on the condition that the PA expands its role, especially in the cities, or escalating it using assassinations via air strike, or mounting a new iteration or iterations of Operation Defensive Shield, whereby large numbers of occupation troops would occupy the entire area, likely starting with Jenin, and remain there until the resistance fighters are all arrested and killed and the infrastructure of the resistance is dismantled.
The PA appears to be helpless, confused, and weak. It continues to engage in security coordination, but at the bare minimum, and now faces demands to expand it. If it complies with all the occupation's demands to apprehend and disarm resistance fighters without the prospect of political dialogue, it fears rebellion from resistance fighters with mounting popular support, as it encountered when it detained Mus'ab Shtayyeh and 'Amid Tbaileh in Nablus. Meanwhile, resistance is escalating, with 200 shooting attacks carried out against occupation patrols and settlers during September, according to the Shin Bet.
But if the PA stands idly by, that would drive the occupation to undertake the task alone, thereby diminishing its need for the PA and potentially encouraging it to dismantle and restructure it, more rapidly turning it into a complete security pawn and pliant tool in the occupation's hands.
The escalation scenario will become more likely if the right-wing under Binyamin Netanyahu's leadership wins the upcoming elections, or if the PA chooses to side with the people and proceeds to implement the unanimous resolutions to review political, security, and economic commitments pursuant to Oslo and suspend compliance with them immediately or gradually. Doing so would open broad political prospects for the Palestinians and place the PA in conflict with the occupation, which it is not prepared for. But it must start preparing for this option, because its prevailing internal structure is opposed to any material change, making it more likely for the PA to stay the way it is, and as a result continue down the path to, sooner or later, become a security pawn completely submissive to the occupation's will.
In that vein, the reports regarding President 'Abbas's phone calls to the Israeli president and defense minister to wish them happy holidays say they discussed how the PA can do more in fulfillment of its security coordination and cooperation responsibilities. Media sources also report that the PA is trying to resolve the issue of the assassination and arrest of wanted resistance fighters by persuading them to surrender and hand over their weapons in exchange for financial compensation, and perhaps join the security services in return for pardon and a promise from the PA and the occupation not to arrest them.
According to the same sources, the wanted resistance fighters rejected the offer, as is evident from the escalation of resistance operations initiated on their part with growing popular support, and not just in response to Israeli incursions. This is corroborated by statements issued by the Lions' Den [new resistance organization in Nablus] and other resistance brigades claiming responsibility for operations against Israeli positions and targets.
The PA's path and fate that has befallen it are the natural result of the Palestinian failure to change tack after Oslo and the negotiation track collapsed and the 2000 Camp David summit failed. It is also the result of a shift in Israeli policy from one of separation from the Palestinians and agreement to establish a Palestinian state on Israeli terms that void it of the specifications of a state, as part of the dysfunctional political process that prevailed from Oslo's signing until 2009. At that point, Netanyahu returned as PM, determined to completely put paid to Oslo from Israel's end while keeping up the Palestinian end of the deal. He insisted on the policy of rejecting the establishment of a Palestinian state, eliminating the political dimension of Israeli/Palestinian relations, and limiting them to economic and security parameters, while continuing to divide and fragment the Palestinians and treat them as individuals rather than a people under occupation and devouring their territories, until the most that could be allowed to exist was an enclave or conflicting enclaves under the occupation's complete control.
The president's recent speech is meaningless without changing course and adopting a new vision and strategies with political and leadership backing (from among existing factions and leaders, which is so far impossible or unlikely, or with the formation of new leaders, factions and movements, or by combining the old and new). It is meaningless without the existence of political prospects, and the formation of a broad national front or forum capable of enjoining national unity on the basis of patriotism (embodying common grounds), democracy, and true partnership as a priority for all parties, especially the official leadership. Likewise meaningless is criticism and condemnation accompanied by, or alternating with, appeals and demands of official discourse.
Unless the foregoing is achieved, the same old situation will prevail.
"The most tragic thing of all is that matters are devolving from bad to worse and the noble, glorious resistance will not be politically leveraged as befitting the magnitude of its heroic deeds and sacrifices," concludes Masri.