Palestinians Deserve Better Leadership

By Hasan Afif El-Hasan

While attending the French sponsored Union for the Mediterranean conference, the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, was quoted by BBC saying “the two parties, Israel and the Palestinians, are serious about achieving peace”. Really?! May be peace on Israel’s terms! And on July 1st the Associated Press reported that Abbas facilitated a friendly meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani during the 23rd Congress of the Socialist International meeting in Greece. Abbas was shown displaying a satisfaction grin while his two friends Talabani and Barak were shaking hands. I dare to ask why does the Palestinian leader seem happy when the man who commits daily crimes against his people, occupy their lands and build the separation wall is being introduced to the President of an Arab country that does not recognize Israel officially! Abbas knows more than anybody else that Israel seeks normalization before peace with the Palestinians and Talabani-Barak hand shake is one step toward normalization.

And in the 2006 Nobel Prize Laureates Conference in Petra-Jordan, Olmert told his audience: “There will be blocks of settlements that can’t be evacuated, they will not be evacuated”. And few minutes later, Olmert warmly embraced Abbas and kissed him on the cheeks while his military was conducting bloody campaigns of killing, abduction and destruction in the West Bank and Gaza. 

Is Abbas acting as a Palestinian leader or as the best friend Israel ever had? The Guardian was on target when it concluded in November 2007 that “Mr. Olmert relationship with Mr. Abbas is the only political asset he [Olmert] has got left….and that a de facto coexistence [between the Israelis and the Palestinians] can be achieved without a comprehensive peace agreement [read status quo]”.

I wonder if Abbas attends these conferences to promote the interests of Ehud Olmert government by pretending that Israel is serious about achieving peace. Instead of advancing the cause of his people, he was playing the role of a collaborator by testifying to the good intentions of the Israeli leaders. But facts suggest that the Israeli leadership strategy of prolonging negotiations is to maintain the status quo of apartheid indefinitely and strengthening Israel’s hold over Palestinian lands. As a Palestinian leader, Abbas should be talking about what Israel has done to destroy his people and how it has circumvented the final status negotiations.

The Palestinians consider the bid for two-state peace making has died because Israel is not serious about achieving peace as Abbas alleged in Paris and while Abbas was happy that Talabani and Barak were shaking hands, Barak military were destroying and confiscating properties and shooting and arresting Palestinians in Nablus and other towns in the West Bank, the power base of Abbas. Shouldn’t Abbas feel the pain of the people he claims to represent? Israel continues its program of land grab and naked racism. Abbas should have used the international conferences, whether in Paris or in Greece or in Petra or anywhere as platforms to tell the world the truth about the peace talks and the real situation in the occupied lands.  

Members of a South Africa human-rights organization, some of them had struggled against the apartheid segregation regime, visited the occupied land a week ago. They expressed shock and dismay at the conditions in the West Bank, according to the Independent newspaper. They concluded that the separation wall, the checkpoints, the permit requirement for Palestinians travel and Jewish only roads in the West Bank are worse than the rules imposed on the blacks by the White minority government during the apartheid era. An ANC parliamentarian, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge said “Even with the limits of movement to South Africa [during the apartheid], we never had as much restrictions on movement as I see for the people here [in the occupied land]”. Another member, a leading human-rights lawyer said, “The issue of separate roads [different registration of cars driven by different nationalities, the indignity of producing a permit anytime a soldier asks you for it, and of waiting in long queues in the boiling sun at the checkpoints just to enter your own city, I think is worse than what we experienced during apartheid”.

Israel will get everything it wants from the Mediterranean Union Partnership Conference including legitimacy and recognition by Arab members without giving anything back, and the Palestinian people will be the losers. The Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni said, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict need not be an obstacle between countries in the region”. Israel may be able to succeed in joining the Mediterranean union with eight Arab members including the Palestinian Authority. By not promoting the interests of his people, Abbas and his cronies are accomplices to the long suffering Palestinians under occupation or in refugee camps. His leadership is morally bankrupt for trading the national cause for promise of donors’ money and the fantasy titles with privileges and a fiefdom in an Apartheid regime. The Palestinian Authority does not exist in any meaningful, tangible terms, according to the Palestinian scholar, Issa Khalaf.

It is imperative for the Palestinians to stop supporting the bankrupt and corrupt group that saddled them with the Oslo agreements catastrophe, and choose better leadership. No population since the nineteenth century sacrificed as much as the Palestinians to hold on to their land and achieved so little if any, mostly because of poor leadership. They should have the leadership they deserve; they must choose better leaders. 

-Born in Nablus, Palestine, Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D, is a political analyst. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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