By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
Since it has control of the occupied lands and in view of the realities in the occupied territory, time has been on Israel’s side to accomplish its century long project of colonizing all historic Palestine and deliberate strangulation of the indigenous Population without giving any thought to the ethical side of the conquest or the international laws. With the passing of every day, Israeli policy from left and right has been to expand and keep more settlement blocks. With the passing of every day while the Palestinian people are trying to live their mundane lives under occupation, Israel creates more facts on the ground. It confiscates more land, demolishes Palestinian houses and leaves families homeless, builds more settlements, constructs more roads and walls, and brings more settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Israel continues to sustain the vicious brutal tight siege on Gaza from land air and sea, and “treat the Strip as an animal pen whose denizens cannot be domesticated and so must be quarantined.”With the passing of every day more Gazans die from starvation and diseases, more of their children who dare to play on the beach become targets for the Israeli snipers, and if they complain or resist they are collectively condemned to die under the ruins of their homes.
Every day under the status quo with the Palestinian conditions in shambles, Israel becomes more defiant. Its government today demands the Palestinians to renounce their own history by recognizing their ancestral home-land as a state for the Jewish people. Arab Israelis would become aliens and the refugees would give up their right of return. While Israel is working hard to accomplish its colonizing project and squandering Palestinian rights, it has been engaging the Palestinian self-appointed leaders with “peace talks”, flawed negotiations, photo opportunities and lip services.
When Israel participated in the 1991 Madrid “Peace Conference”, then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said that “Israel will drag talks with the Palestinians for ten years without results [talks for the sake of talks].” The Palestinian leadership ignored the obvious and kept negotiating for twenty years knowing well that the negotiations is Israel’s cover to colonize the land. They even created a full time chief negotiator position for life. Even after accusing Israel of killing Yasser Arafat, the undisputed leader of Fatah faction and the President of the PA, his successors continued the fruitless negotiations with his alleged killers. They have been replicating what has been tried over and over again with certain failure.
The Palestinian people have been asking their self-appointed leaders to change course after discovering that the “peace talks” based on Oslo Agreements were political capitulation. The leaders waited decades until the West Bank and Jerusalem are practically lost and they became entirely incapacitated and ran out of excuses to keep negotiating and the promises of independence no longer convince anyone. Finally and when it was too late, they considered going to the UN demanding some justice. Even then, they hesitated for years. The move is welcome even if it is too late, but knowing the unflattering history and illegitimacy of the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership, it does not mean a change in their behavior. They are re not trust-worthy!
After wasting precious time in futile negotiations, the Palestinian leadership that is dominated by Fatah faction has admitted that the 1993 Oslo accords, which they negotiated and promoted, blocked the path to self determination and statehood. The PA President Mahmoud Abbas finally admitted that “It is impossible, and I repeat-it is impossible to return to the cycle of negotiations that failed to deal with the substance of matter and the fundamental question….” But Instead of quitting and allowing a new generation of leaders with fresh thinking to lead, he decided to indulge in another trial and error process. The question is: Why it took the Palestinian PA leaders decades to acknowledge the obvious!
The answer is in the culture of corruption and personal enrichment that they created and they were comfortable with. It included theft, nepotism, bribery, and smuggling involving senior Palestinian leaders of the PA and Fatah and their families at the highest level. According to the “Middle East Monitor”(MEMO) a policy research institute, Corruption has been practiced on large scale “from the first moment that the PA began to gather the Palestinian people’s money and aid and pour it in the pockets of their leaders.”
Palestinian leaders and their families were transformed from freedom fighters to monopoly-importers of consumer and construction goods, smugglers, real estate moguls, and international weapon-traders. They came from Tunisia and other countries empty handed after the Iraq war when Arab States stopped funding the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and became a filthy rich class in Ramallah in no time.
MEMO investigated the finance of the PA and concluded that “the money which is meant for the establishment of a state quickly turned into balances in Swiss banks accounts, personal projects in neighboring countries and partnerships with Israeli companies. At the same time, the administrative process [of the PA] evolved into an odd regime consisting solely of Fatah members [who constitute majority of the new millionaires club]”.
Example of corruption quoted by the MEMO: “Palestinian sources revealed an official document proving that Ahmad Qurei [who played an important role in the Oslo Agreements negotiations; he was PA chief negotiator and a previous prime minister], was in receipt of $3 million transferred from the PLO account, along with two other unknown persons. The account details and number in Amman were given in the paper.”
Based on a Palestinian-Israeli agreement, Israeli soldiers manning the dreaded checkpoints where ordinary Palestinians are harassed, do not usually search cars of Palestinian elites who have VIP passes. But an overzealous Israeli soldier decided to violate the protocol and search Rawhi Fattuh car while crossing the border from Jordan in 2013. According to the MEMO, “The Israelis arrested Rawhi Fattuh, who was the personal representative of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and who had been the interim PA leader after Arafat’s death. Fattuh was caught smuggling mobile phones in his car from Jordan to the occupied West Bank [to avoid paying import tax to the PA treasury]. The Israeli customs authorities found 3,400 state of the art handsets in the car, valued at over $400,000.”
While ordinary Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are denied what is a natural and human right, their leaders created a mafia like corruption network receiving financial rewards. They cooperate with Israel’s security forces against their own people while watching Israel colonizing their homeland and suffocating Gaza to death; they enjoy life in mansions, import the top German cars, travel among capitals and luxury hotels, and secure investment opportunities, Gulf-based jobs and “Jordanian national numbers” for their children and their cronies.
The present Palestinian leadership is not trust-worthy!
– Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D. is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.