"After the president's [Mahmoud Abbas’s] UN speech, Palestinian confrontations with Israeli aggression have escalated, and the debate has intensified over how to describe what is happening," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
Is it a new intifada? Is it the prelude to one? Or is it just an 'intifada-like wave' that will eventually subside?
What is happening is unlikely to develop into an intifada for a number of reasons, including the fact that the [Palestinian] leadership fears that it may get out of hand and that Israel would then drive it in a direction that allows it to employ its military superiority. This was clear from the president's speech to the UN General Assembly in which he emphasized that he would resort to all ‘legal and peaceful’ means. Moreover, so far, Israel does not want to push the situation towards a total collapse, as evident from the facilities it has offered, and the level of force it is using.
There are other reasons that have prevented the outbreak of an intifada so far. Most important is the absence of any hope of victory. For intifadas require an achievable goal, a leadership, organization, a national front, economic and social means of pressure, and appropriate conditions. Moreover, intifadas are motivated by hope that paves a way to victory much more than by sheer despair, arising from anger, reaction, and self-defense against the occupation authorities and the ferocity of the Israeli settler hordes.
The Palestinian public has lost hope of the possibility of ending the occupation and establishing a state on its land after settlement activities have intensified and more than 700-thousand settlers came to live on Palestinian lands. And this means that the current political and demographic reality is different from what it was during the first [1987-93] and second [2000-05] intifadas. The conflict now seems to be one between the settlers (backed by the occupation army) and the Palestinians.
Moreover, Israel has moved further towards extremism and racism. Its government is motivated by the belief that it has a historic opportunity to achieve the goals it has failed to achieve so far, due to Palestinian weakness, divisions and loss of direction, and the failure of the Palestinian leadership first, and the various factions second, to bear their responsibilities. The leadership and factions are giving priority to their narrow and factional interests over the general national interest.
Furthermore, unilateral Palestinian strategies have reached a dead-end without the Palestinian leadership and forces daring to pave a new path that would keep the Palestinian cause alive and at the forefront of events. They have failed to offer the requirements of steadfastness and human presence while foiling Israeli schemes and preserving what remains of the previous Palestinian gains, as a prelude to moving ahead towards achieving Palestinian rights and aims.
Despite the importance of what was said, the president's UN speech did not go so far as to inaugurate a new track. Instead, it tried to occupy a position midway between two stools, both of which are still under the  Oslo agreement’s ceiling.
The speech included words to the effect that the current situation cannot continue, but without daring to withdraw from the 'peace process' completely. This is evident from the fact that the peace accords have not been abrogated; instead, there were warnings, threats and hints that the Palestinians would not continue to abide by them if Israel does not. Moreover, the bombshell that the president threatened in his speech was not detonated. In addition, and as his advisors and those close to him have interpreted the speech, a distinction has been drawn between the [Oslo] 'declaration of principles' and the 'letter of [PLO/Israel] recognition' both of which are intended to remain in place on the one hand, and the  'Paris economic protocol' and security arrangements on the other hand, and to which some changes and amendments are being sought as a means of upholding the principle of 'mutuality.'
There was talk of stopping honoring commitments in the accords, but without any clear plan for doing so; and this means that if the situation were to continue as it is today the aim is merely to improve conditions while waiting for the success of a new initiative to resume negotiations. But, in the best of cases, this would only produce an 'improved version of Oslo'.
The speech’s ambiguity, its contradictory nature, and the fact that it did not offer any clear options, could lead the situation towards anarchy, but without any decision to move in that direction. This is especially true since everyone knows that any serious initiative to revive the dead 'peace process' is impossible because of the American position, international impotence and Palestinian and Arab weakness and fragmentation.
Everyone also realizes that the most that can happen would be a new round of negotiations for the sake of negotiations whose function is to cover up the clinical death of the so-called 'peace process' which has been dead at least since 1999 – that is, when the deadline specified for reaching a final status agreement passed, although the agreement had already died when Yitzhak Rabin declared that 'there are no sacred dates.' And that death only deepened after Rabin's  assassination and successive Israeli governments absolved themselves from their commitments in the agreement.
Palestinian indecision, however, did not prevent Israel from placing the president in its crosshairs and launching the process of toppling him and searching for an alternative (or alternatives) to him because he is not complying with its preconditions and diktats.
Raising the [Palestinian] flag [at the UN] and all that this implies represented a victory for Palestinian rights. But it should not disguise the genuine retreat in the international status of the Palestinian cause. This is evident from the fact that this cause did not appear in Obama, Putin, or Hollande's speeches. Moreover, after all that Israel has been doing especially in Jerusalem and al-Aqsa, the Security Council has done nothing but issue a statement urging 'both sides' to show self-control and refrain from resorting to violence and escalation.
Moreover, the annual UN General Assembly session did not witness the usual proposal of an international initiative or a draft resolution. In fact, even the French initiative was frozen after Israel rejected it, and in order to wait for the American promise to revive U.S. efforts to resume negotiations after finishing with the Iranian nuclear agreement.
In addition, 119 countries that voted in favor of raising the Palestinian flag, while 138 countries had supported the establishment of the Palestinian state. And this reflects the retreat of the Palestinian cause, despite the growing interest in it among nations and world public opinion.
Israel is responsible for the death of the so-called 'peace process' and should therefore bear full responsibility for its crime. And an alternative Palestinian policy that demands a new peace process must be based on radically different grounds. It must not continue to wager on reviving the dead 'peace process' despite everything that has occurred so far. For this would entail being sucked back into the vortex that is destroying the Palestinian cause.
And in order for a new peace process to be launched there is no alternative to a struggle that brings about a decisive change in the balance of power, working towards a strategic transformation in the manner with which matters are addressed. We must move from a point where the PA exercises limited self-rule-- which has failed so far and is certain to fail in the future, in developing into a state if we continue to rely on the same policies, tools and plans –towards a national strategy based on rehabilitation of the Palestinian cause as a national liberation cause, preserving its unity with the land and the people, and developing achievable programs for every phase, until we secure our historical rights.
Such a strategy should be founded on the sort of national unity that includes every shade of the political spectrum, and on the basis of a genuine political partnership that grants each party its legitimate rights, without excluding anyone or trying to dominate or monopolize the scene, or denouncing other parties as traitors or declaring them to be apostate or claiming to have a monopoly over patriotism or religion.
Such a strategy may be pursued by working towards rebuilding the PLO's institutions in a manner that befits the Palestinian cause and its people's struggle, making it truly the sole legitimate representative of the people in both word and deed.
Moving towards a new strategy also requires allocating the PA its proper place as a tool of the PLO, serving the people and the national program. It must ensure that the PA does not become a burden to either. And this demands a change in the PA’s nature, shape, tasks and commitments, based on the conviction that cancelling the Oslo Accords cannot be done via an ambiguous speech that brooks multiple interpretations. Nor can cancelling these accords be achieved by means of decisions taken without either the intention or the ability to implement them. Doing so requires a plan that paves the way for a comprehensive process with a clear goal set from the very beginning, and is implemented in phases.
Part of this strategy could be to escalate the confrontations with racist settler colonialism, holding the international community and the various states collectively and individually responsible for punishing Israel for its occupation and settlement policies, and forcing it to pay the price for persisting with both.
The Palestinian leadership must act as that of the entire people, and not just the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. And in practice, it must act as the leadership for all Palestinian areas, not just [West Bank] Area-A and Area-B. In other words, it must bypass the unfair and unjust restrictions imposed by the Oslo Accords, even if this leads to a clash with the occupation. And the Palestinian security forces together with the Popular Night Guard Committees, must confront the settlers' aggressions.
And the Palestinian state must realize itself in a de facto manner without waiting for authorization or an agreement. This includes exercising its powers in Area-C by building and investing there, by consolidating Jerusalem's steadfastness, by confronting the schemes that are meant to complete the city's Judaization and Israel-ization, and by ending security coordination –first in accordance with the principle of 'mutuality,' but as a prelude to finally abandoning it.
Moreover, the Palestinian budget should be radically altered in a manner that responds to the general Palestinian priorities and interests. For example, it should be possible to reduce the vastly inflated share of the security forces, and increase that received by industry, agriculture, health, education, and social security, while fighting unemployment, corruption, and nepotism, improving performance, and ending imports of fuel from Israel – especially since the Paris Protocol does not require us to do so – and ending the gas agreement [with Israel]. We should hold the Israelis who attack us accountable, as well as the perpetrators of various crimes, including traffic violators in the areas supposedly under Palestinian control.
We may also consolidate and back the popular resistance, adopt the boycott of Israel, activate our applications for membership of international bodies – especially the International Criminal Court – and seek the implementation of pro-Palestinian international resolutions, including and primarily The Hague's court legal ruling [against the West Bank Separation Wall], and seek international recognition of the Palestinian state.
There are those who may say that Israel will not allow the PA to be transformed from a security-coordination authority to a resistance or pro-resistance authority, which would entail a confrontation. This is possible. But confrontation is not our choice, but is imposed on the Palestinians. However, it must be a well-calculated confrontation that is part of a unified strategy and national point of reference. In fact, confrontation is necessary, if the Palestinians seek liberation, the right of return, independence and the defeat and dismantlement of the racist, settler-colonial project. And this may in fact lead to the PA's collapse, something that Israel fears if the PA continues as it is now.
But there is a difference between the PA being dismantled to be replaced with vacuum and the unknown, which Israel can fill by reorganizing Palestinian self-rule, as [Israeli Defense Minister] Moshe Ya’alon has declared, and the collapse of the PA within the context of formulating patriotic, political, economic, and social Palestinian alternatives. For in the latter case, the PLO with its institutions in which all parties take part, the Popular Committees and the united leadership will replace the PA at the level of the entire homeland and in every area. In that case, the citizens would not fear that the PA's collapse would entail the collapse of everything else.
"And that would pave the path towards salvation and restore the citizens' trust in their leadership, forces, and institutions," concludes Masri.