By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
The policies of the Israeli governments and the settlers’ movement have rendered the chances for a real durable peace and the so called ‘two-state solution’ dead, even if some Arab and Palestinian leaders are still optimistic about the prospects for a just peace.
The condition of the Palestinian politics today is hopeless, not only because the defenseless Palestinians living under occupation are besieged, starved, massacred, strangulated, detained and humiliated on a daily basis; or the disenfranchised refugees who are languishing in camps are denied the right of return to their homes and will not have room to settle in the Palestinian Authority (PA) territory that has been divided, crisscrossed by Jewish only roads, settlements and military posts; or that the tacit support of the US offered Israel the leeway to ignore the UN resolutions and the international laws, terrorize the Palestinians under occupation and colonize their lands. But the main cause of the Palestinians’ hopelessness is that the PA leaders who are still in charge are the same incompetent monopolistic people who signed and defended the agreements that limited the Palestinians’ power to deal with their occupier, co-opted their national movement and prejudiced the future generations of their people.
There should not come as a surprise that the PA leaders failed to achieve any progress toward Palestinian national objective after years of negotiations. What is wrong with the so called “peace process” is: it is conducted between the leaders of a dependent Palestinian entity, the PA, and the Zionist war-lords. The leaders of the PA who are beholden to Israel could not conduct the business of negotiations with the Israelis and correct what went wrong in the agreements that they had signed, while trying to cope with the economic and security needs of the Palestinians under the occupation.
Israel has the military and economical power needed to impose who should manage the self-rule PA territories, and Israel never hesitated to exercise this power. Israel decided to shun Yassir Arafat and write him off as a negotiating partner when he rejected the self-rule state offered by Israel and the US in the 2000 Camp David summit; its helicopter gunships and tanks destroyed the Palestinian police station adjacent to Arafat headquarters in Ramallah and elsewhere in the West Bank. The other punitive measure was the travel curfews within the occupied land and the closure of Israel’s employment market to the Palestinians.
The establishment of the PA exempted Israel from its responsibility as an occupying power, and by giving the PA leaders the power to negotiate with Israel, the Palestinians’ struggle for liberation was transformed into quest for funding the PA bureaucrats. The Oslo accords gave Israel the power to fix the rate of taxation and collect the taxes for the PA. And Israel has succeeded in defining the profile of the leaders who can receive the taxes paid by the Palestinians under occupation and negotiate on their behalf. Palestinian leaders, according to the Israelis, have to control their people under occupation, renounce the national cause and ignore the insidious developments created by the Israeli government on their lands. Israel relegated the “peace process” to endless meetings and hand-shaking events without any intention to achieve real peace. Arafat and his lieutenants met the Israeli conditions until he realized that the occupied territory had been fully colonized, Jerusalem was Judaized and it was too late to do anything about it.
Arafat played his assigned role by recognizing Israel, revising the “Palestinian Covenant” affirming in clear and explicit language acceptance of the legitimacy of the State of Israel without defining its borders. He ceremonially signed the 1993 Oslo I, the 1995 interim Oslo II, the 1997 Hebron Accord that was signed in Taba and the Wye Accord of 1998 agreements that have guaranteed the perpetual domination of the occupied land by Israel. The Palestinians realized the agreements may offer them only self-rule over tiny enclaves and nothing to foster a process which may give them self-determination or independent state. They revolted and Arafat was blamed by the Israelis and the US for the failure of the Camp David summit and the eruption of al-Aqsa intifada that followed.
Arafat was placed under office arrest, prevented from leaving his office compound in Ramallah and the Israeli military plowed up the runways of the PA airport in Gaza to further reduce his ability to leave the occupied lands. President Bush supported the Israeli actions and demanded on June 24, 2002 that “peace process requires a new and different leadership…. I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders”. American journalists and politicians supported the Israeli action too. They were surprised that Arafat had rejected the “generous” Israeli and US offer despite the millions of dollars paid by the US in support of the PA and the many times Arafat was invited to the White House. They, in effect, viewed funding the PA and the photo ops in the White House as part of the final Palestinian settlement package.
In March 2003, Arafat was forced by the US and Israel to appoint his foreign minister, Mahmoud Abbas, a prime minister as a condition to receive financial aid from the US and the European Union. But a conflict between Arafat and Abbas surfaced over the control of the security forces and Abbas had to resign his premiership post. Abbas and his sponsors, Israel and the US, wanted full control of the PA’s security apparatus to crackdown against the Palestinian opposition, but he was too weak to challenge Arafat on the loyalty of many security groups which Arafat had established and used as instruments of patronage and control.
When Arafat died, perhaps poisoned, on November 11, 2004, the Israelis and the Bush Administration found the moment propitious for demanding the elevation of Mahmoud Abbas to the presidency of the PA. Abbas, Israel and the US favorite Palestinian leader had signed “the Declaration of Principles” in Washington, DC, on behalf of the PLO on September 13, 1993. Abbas was elected president of the PA and President Bush pledged $50 million in aid to the PA new leader and invited him to the White House, a gesture Bush never extended to Arafat.
Then On 25 January 2006, legislative elections took place after a series of postponements and delays by the PA leadership. The elections were monitored by many foreign observers who testified to their fairness, transparency and democratic nature. Hamas won 75 seats and Fatah took 47 of the 132 seats make up of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Israel vetoed the Palestinians’ decision, declared war on Hamas government, arrested and jailed the newly-elected Islamist lawmakers. Democracy was aborted and the Palestinians under occupation were told if they want to avoid starvation and strangulation they should choose only representatives and governments approved by their oppressors.
Besides their self-evident incompetence and dependency on the occupier, the PA leadership have been elected only by the Palestinians under occupation or forced on them by Israel and the US. The 3.8 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, who do not even have the freedom to choose, do not speak for the 7 millions in the Diaspora, 3.5 million of them living in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. If it is not too late to salvage their national cause, Palestinians all over the world should participate in electing new leaders who do not have to choose between funds to support the Palestinians under occupation and the national cause.
– Born in Nablus, Palestine, Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D. is a political analyst. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.