الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   17 تشرين الثاني 2012

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WASTING TIME
هاني المصري

 

 

Is it only to inform him of his country's failure to carry out its commitments? Or is it to ask him what to do next? The latter could be interpreted as a plea, which could lead to negative results.

What is the point of reiterating the four Palestinian conditions for resuming peace talks when it is commonly known that the present Israeli government is not interested in honoring any of them?

The only benefit that could be surmised is to waste time. Wasting time could be beneficial if it was part of a strategy with defined objectives, but it would be extremely harmful if it were part of a policy of procrastination

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Abbas's letter will not embarrass the Netanyahu government; it will be futile to write to the Israelis if the Palestinians do not show that they have options other than that of the useless peace talks.

The Palestinians' long experience with the peace process, which kicked off in 1991, has proved without a doubt that Israel does not want peace. What the Israelis want is to dictate to the Palestinians. The Netanyahu government wants to return the peace process to square one, what with the impossible conditions it has imposed. The present Israeli government has done all it could to seize Palestinian land and impose a racist and colonial reality especially as far as Jerusalem is concerned – a reality that makes peace impossible to achieve. A reality that makes resistance the only option open to the Palestinians other than capitulation.

 

According to several sources, the Palestinians were pressured by the U.S. and several Arab and international quarters to revise the letter five to ten times in order for it not to inflame an already tense situation. Any phrase that could be construed as a warning or a threat to dissolve the PA or withdraw recognition of Israel was omitted.

The letter was changed so radically that the Obama administration began to support it after having bitterly opposed it in the beginning. Even Binyamin Netanyahu expressed readiness to receive a high-level Palestinian delegation that would deliver the letter. What we are witnessing therefore is a new chapter in the peace process that could be termed ‘letter negotiations.’

Chief Palestinian negotiator Sa’eb Ereikat held several meetings with his Israeli counterpart Yitzhak Molcho prior to the letter being delivered. Molcho is expected to call on President Abbas with Netanyahu's reply. Moreover, the Israeli press has said – although the Palestinians have denied it – that Abbas will meet with Netanyahu within days. As for Abbas, he said that if Netanyahu's response were not positive, he would wait for the Americans to table new proposals for resuming peace talks – after which the Palestinian leadership will meet to consider its options.

And since dissolving the PA, withdrawing recognition, or stopping security cooperation with Israel are not among those options, as Abbas himself pointed out, the only one remaining is to return to the UN to seek observer status for Palestine at the General Assembly. In fact, this option was available from the beginning, but the Palestinian leadership chose not to exercise it and went to the Security Council to seek full membership instead.

Palestinian sources confirmed that the Obama administration asked the Palestinians not to take any steps at the UN at least until after the U.S. presidential election in November. It seems that there are those among the Palestinians who still believe America's promises.

After the September deadline passed, a new one was set for January 26th for the new Palestinian options to be adopted. The letter put that off once more. What this indicates is that the Palestinians are still confused as to what course to take now that the peace process has reached a dead end.

 

In this context, it becomes easy to explain why the Palestinian leadership has only threatened to use the other options open to it. If the Palestinian leadership chooses to go to the UN, signs up to reconciliation, or launches a campaign of popular action, it fears the consequences and thus steps back.

 

If the Palestinian leadership really wishes to avoid the consequences of exercising the options open to it (consequences such as withdrawal of U.S. aid, stopping tax revenues, threats of sanctions, closure of the PLO mission in Washington, et.), and believes that the current state of procrastination is a lesser evil, it must be frank with its people. Indecision can only lead to the loss of the Palestinian cause.

 

If after all this time the Palestinians still do not know what to do, then they are doomed.

What is required is perfectly clear: restoring national unity on the foundations of partnership, a national program of action that stresses commonalities, support for steadfastness and resistance to make the occupation more costly than Israel can bear, reforming the PLO such that it includes all factions, reviewing the structure, functions, and responsibilities of the PA (while preparing to dissolve it if need be), regaining the Arab dimension of the Palestinian cause (an option that has become more feasible with the Arab spring), going to the UN as a strategic option rather than as a tactic, boycotting Israel, and supporting the international solidarity movement.

Letter diplomacy has led to one thing only: wasting time. The letter, and the meetings that went on before its delivery and the further meetings that are scheduled afterwards all go to show that the umbilical cord that binds the Palestinian leadership to peace talks is still intact – and that the Palestinian leadership still does not believe in the existence of alternatives to negotiations.

And since this is the case, the only thing the Palestinians can do is wait and hope for the best – such as an election in Israel that does away with the present coalition. Yet all available indications show that the Israeli electorate will return Netanyahu at the head of an even more extremist coalition next time round. Or the reelection of Barack Obama in the hope that he would not be as beholden to the Jewish lobby in his second term. The Arabs and Palestinians have believed in this delusion for decades, and have nothing but disappointment to show for it.

 

We cannot afford to wait for the Americans to change their position of their own accord. The Palestinians must become more proactive; they must use the cards they have – including Arab support – to make the Americans realize that their absolute support for Israel is detrimental to U.S. interests – and make the world realize that continued Israeli occupation poses a threat to global peace and security.

 

 

 

 
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