By Jeremy R. Hammond
Palestine’s illegitimate president, Mahmoud Abbas, is doing incredible damage to the cause of his people.
It is betrayal enough that he has decided to return to the U.S.-led so-called “peace process”—which is the process by which the U.S. and Israel block implementation of the two-state solution—despite Israel refusing to show even a modicum of good faith. Under threats of punishment for disobedience and promises of financial reward for compliance, Abbas agreed to return to talks “without preconditions”, meaning while Israel’s illegal colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem continue unabated.
But his betrayal goes much further. He has also expressed his willingness to surrender the Palestinians’ national sovereignty and right to self-defense by agreeing to the Israeli demand that the state of Palestine must be “demilitarized”. Abbas has tried to justify this decision by reasoning, “We don’t need planes or missiles”. But whether having the means to defend the state of Palestine is necessary or not is not the question. It may or may not be necessary, as a practical matter, but by agreeing to Israel’s demand to a “demilitarized” state, Abbas is surrendering, as a matter of principle, that Palestine might have the means by which to exercise its right to self-defense if it ever became necessary to do so—such as if Israel were to do what it often does and launch airstrikes or ground invasions against the state of Palestine.
Why is Abbas making such enormous concessions to Israel? The answer is that the Palestinian Authority, created under the so-called “peace process”, acts as Israel’s proxy security force. Bureaucrats like Abbas benefit from this system, as they have jobs and salaries, and they don’t want to risk upsetting the status quo if it means losing their relatively comfortable lives. The P.A. doesn’t want to risk losing the funding it receives from the U.S. by disobeying orders from Washington. It is rather content on making deals with the devil while maintaining the delusion that this road will somehow lead to heaven. This dependence of the Palestinian government upon the very nation most responsible for supporting Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people and for blocking implementation of the two-state solution is perverse.
The reason the U.S. and Israel consider Abbas a “partner for peace” is precisely because he is largely willing to comply with orders from Washington and Tel Aviv. If he wasn’t willing to do so, he by definition wouldn’t be a “partner for peace” in their lexicon. The Palestinians must have a leadership that the U.S. and Israel don’t consider a “partner” in their efforts to block implementation of the two-state solution if they ever want to see the two-state solution realized.
The Palestinians are not without options. Since obtaining the status of non-member observer state in the General Assembly, they now have legal recourse to the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice. They have the option of bringing complaints against Israel’s violations of international law that prejudice their rights, such as its occupation regime and illegal colonization.
Israel has threatened to withhold taxes it collects on behalf of the P.A. in areas of the West Bank under its control and the U.S. has threatened to cut off aid if the Palestinians pursue such action, but this is also a Catch-22 for Israel and the U.S., since a collapse of the P.A. would not be in Israel’s interests, either.
The Palestinian leadership will gain nothing by negotiating with the government of the country occupying their land, stealing or destroying their resources, and colonizing their soil. The only possible outcome of participating in the charade known as the “peace process” will be the further loss of Palestinians’ internationally recognized rights. That Palestinians must surrender their rights is an explicit precondition imposed by Israel on any agreement to be arrived at via talks. So what is the point of talking?
The leadership of Palestine should immediately end talks and make clear that there is no point in negotiating unless and until Israel ceases its illegal colonization and withdraws from occupied Palestine. They should insist that any talks should be based on the equal rights of both parties, rather than agreeing to the framework of the “peace process” that excludes anything international law has to say about it, in which any agreement to be achieved is not about what Israel has a right to under the law, but what Israel wants that contravenes the law.
The leadership should also immediately file claims against Israel for its crimes against the Palestinians, including the ongoing collective punishment of the civilian population of Gaza, and also against the U.S. for its complicity in those crimes with its financial, military, and diplomatic support for them, at the ICC; as well as request that the General Assembly refer the matter to the ICJ.
The way to make Israel’s occupation unsustainable is for the P.A. leadership to stop acquiescing to sustaining it. Simply choosing not to comply with orders from Washington to maintain the status quo and complacently continue with the charade of the mislabeled “peace process”, to walk away from it and use the legal mechanisms available to them in order to put an end to the U.S.’s support for Israel’s criminal policies by making it politically infeasible to continue, is the only path forward.
If the current Palestinian leadership won’t do that, the Palestinian people need to rid themselves of the Abbas regime, and perhaps rid themselves of the P.A. altogether, and lead themselves down the path towards an end of the perpetual injustices that have been and are being done to them.
If the U.S. responds by cutting financing to the Palestinians, let the world see this “aid” for what it really is: bribery payments intended to keep the P.A. leadership dependent upon and therefore compliant with the very nations oppressing them—namely, Israel and the U.S. The Palestinians are a resourceful people, and economic hardship is no stranger to them. The people of the world are with them in their struggle for justice. They will weather the storm. And the sacrifice of U.S. money to the P.A. seems a small price to pay in order to be done finally with the miserable “peace process” and get on with the process of making peace.
For as long as the injustices continue, there can be no peace. There is law. The path to peace will not be found by continuing with a framework that rejects law. It will be found by choosing the framework that seeks remedy and accountability under the law.
Let the Palestinian leadership stop this nonsense about negotiating with their oppressor while their land is occupied, stolen, and colonized. The time to begin negotiations on a final peace settlement, including a final agreement on borders, is when the occupation comes to an end.
That was the original intent of U.N. Resolution 242, and that is officially, under the law, what the international consensus is of how to achieve the two-state solution. That is the two-state solution.
That is also the reality that the U.S.-led “peace process” has fought so hard for so many years to make everyone forget. The U.S. has effectively reversed the prescription of the two-state solution by accepting Israel’s warped and legally invalid unilateral interpretation of 242, that a final settlement must be achieved first, and only then will it withdraw from some of the Palestinian territory it now occupies, annexing the rest into the “Jewish state”.
The Palestinians need no one’s permission—least of all Israel’s— to exercise self-determination. There is no sense at all in participating in a “process” in which they must ipso facto agree that Israel may exercise a veto power over their own statehood.
The Palestinian leadership must stop choosing that the Palestinians live as oppressed peoples. That will be the next step towards peace.
– Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent political analyst and a recipient of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism. He is the founding editor of Foreign Policy Journal and can also be found on the web at JeremyRHammond.com. He is the author of Ron Paul vs. Paul Krugman: Austrian vs. Keynesian economics in the financial crisis and The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination: The Struggle for Palestine and the Roots of the Israeli-Arab Conflict. His forthcoming book is on the contemporary U.S. role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.