Year of Living Dangerously: Palestinians on the Brink

By Mikail Jubran

During the past couple of weeks we have witnessed a somewhat stall of the Arab spring. An ongoing civil conflict that is raging in Libya pits the ‘ancien regime’ against a rag-tag rabble of self-proclaimed freedom fighters who thought that international intervention would guarantee their success. It appears they may have miscalculated terribly the tenacity of their well-entrenched opponent. Now, even Syria is showing signs of popular revolt. While this new Arab Order may appear to be in some disarray, among the Palestinians a simmering anger percolates. This fury could be about to spill over into popular rage.

One stark fact confronts the Palestinian leadership and that is they never faced a more seminal moment in time. While there is always hope for the future, the Palestinian people need to search for it and seek it in the right places. They should no longer allow themselves to be blinded by their own ideological hallucinations and obsessions. The Palestinian Authority is fearful of their own population, who has been closely watching the explosive events in their backyard.
The stirs of echoes for a new Palestinian political strategy reverberate within the power circles of Ramallah, with ideas and notions in abundance. However, can and will the Palestinian leadership show the boldness to grasp a new direction before its ongoing dilemma deepens further? To escape this ever-widening stalemate, and act to progress forward, the PA must grasp true political reform in which the past must not become prologue. In other words, any basis for reform and elections in the Palestinian territories – formulas embodied in the Oslo accords – are defunct. The Palestinian leadership must shed the burdens of its past failures. They need to enumerate an entirely new basis for their political legitimacy. This can only be created by the ultimate and sole source of authority – the Palestinian people; for it is only their leadership that can articulate and implement authentic programs of structural, legal and procedural reform; fundamental change that is proactive and not reactive, and is fully guided by the Palestinian people themselves, and for their specific benefit.

The machinery of Palestinian society – from the teachers, lawyers, jurists, trade unions, along with the assistance of the numerous NGOs operating within the Palestinian territories must become the center foci on which Palestinian reform is premised. A newly elected representative Constituent Assembly would need to act immediately to establish a mandate that would end Israel’s occupation – not negotiate with it. This entails truly creative methods of struggle that fully mobilizes all Palestinian resources available to isolate and make untenable the main aspects of the occupation. An Israeli component comprised of groups or individuals, with whom a common basis of resistance against the occupation is established, must assist in the advancement of any new Palestinian strategy.

Palestinians should have learned much from the history of the struggle that the South African people endured and the vision they sought of a multi-racial society in which no group or individual was ever swerved. Therefore, the Palestinian people must resist the images emanating from Israeli violence, forcible separation and the subordination of Palestinians to any notion of Jewish supremacy.

In the aftermath of the recent and ongoing violence in Gaza and the West Bank, Israel’s government has only shown that it wants nothing more than to make Palestinian life collectively more miserable and even more unlivable, whether by military attacks or by impossible political conditions that only serves to suit Prime Minister Netanyahu’s obsession with stamping out Palestinian political activism. He is blinded by his own ideological hallucinations and fixations to see that he can bring neither peace nor security. Netanyahu’s recent threat to take unilateral action such as annexing all Israeli settlements on Palestinian land if the Palestinians unilaterally seek world recognition of a state has underscores these manias. He has even said that Israel would limit water supplies and restrict Palestinian use of Israeli ports for trade and commercial purposes. Netanyahu’s opening volley is the Knesset’s newly passed law authorizing Israel’s Supreme Court to strip anyone convicted of espionage, treason or aiding the enemy during war of their citizenship – a gross display of Israel’s arrogance of power. This move is indeed a dangerous turn for all Israeli Palestinians.

What American and European reaction to Israeli intentions to carry out its threats can Palestinians expect? The Palestinian leadership can only contemplate this as it watches other Arab leaders ingratiate themselves with the U.S and vie for the title of most important U.S. ally. This shows that Arab leaders are simply ignorant of how contemptuous most Americans are of them, and how little understood is their cultural and political status in the U.S.  Furthermore, American ignorance is equaled by European attitudes toward the mainstream Arab leadership, and of which are permeated with utter indecisiveness. The EU only scurries about dispatching emissaries to Tel Aviv and Ramallah, make blaring declarations from Brussels, fund a few projects and then, more or less, leave it at that. European leaders are not taking unilateral Palestinian moves toward statehood seriously – hence their cool reception to PA intentions to push for a vote at the United Nations next September.

Today, the U.S. is consumed in denial about Israel’s treacherous policies and its shocking behavior toward the Palestinians, as well as the intense efforts of its defenders to force the U.S. to turn away from Israeli outrages. Israel is so sure that it can maintain its current policies in the Palestinian territories and offer no incentive to make any concessions to the Palestinians as long as it receives the billions of dollars in gratis U.S. aid.  The U.S. is not prepared, and never will be, to link U.S. aid to Israeli compliance with international law. Thus American officials flaunt their ignorance when they out rightly deny Israel’s brutality and the stark realities of its occupation; they are ever so intimidated by the Israel lobby that they are afraid to confront those realities.

Yet, in light of the aforementioned realities, it appears that Israel’s Netanyahu may have his back to the wall. He is uncomfortably aware that Israelis live in dangerous times considering today’s political rumblings shaking the Arab world. There is no doubt that he fears Israel’s international isolation. On the other hand, maybe he fears that the PA may ultimately collapse, forcing Israel to reoccupy major Palestinian towns and cities thereby incurring severe financial strain on the Jewish state and leaving Israel to face violent Palestinian resistance.

These haunting consequences have forced Netanyahu to unfold another so called “Peace Plan” possibly during his upcoming address at the AIPAC conference in Washington. This “new spin” envisions the establishment of a Palestinian state with provisional borders comprising about half of the West Bank with the deferment of any talk on core issues to a more opportune time. To the Israelis, the term provisional really signifies permanence. Netanyahu makes this move because he has no real policy, or it could be that maybe he does in fact have one – to prevent the establishment of any sovereign Palestinian state, and to enlarge and strengthen the settlements – in effect perpetuating Israel as apartheid, and a garrison state.

 It will be obvious to the Palestinians that such a plan will have nothing to do with peace. It only serves to stall any negotiations, as Netanyahu will act to leverage these until the Palestinians accept outrageous Israeli demands and requirements – i.e. recognize Israel as a state of the Jewish people. If one looks at the fine print they will see that Netanyahu’s scheme is not really new. It actually is a take from a combination of already failed plans of the past under Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak, which also gave the Palestinians barely half of the West Bank and under suppressing conditions. Netanyahu knows that time is running out for Israel and so it must pull all the stops to deny a Palestinian state whose existence will force him to settle the issues of borders, settlements, and a land corridor to Gaza, the status Jerusalem, and sharing water resources. He would be happy to drag out any negotiations until there is nothing left to negotiate. Make no mistake; this is what his real intentions are. The man has to act to appease his right wing government so he can hold on to power.

These exigencies are now shaking the PA leadership into some introspection. They know that they cannot continue to allow themselves to be continually bombarded by double-speak from the Americans, whom the Palestinians feel, are pointing a gun to their head. The PA leadership also realizes that they will need to counter Israel’s policy of encouraging internal strife among the Palestinians. This is what makes Palestinian political unity ever so urgent. The PA leadership must face the inevitable – reconciliation with Hamas is imperative. This is why young Palestinians go out into the streets in Ramallah and Gaza alike. Unity is not only in the interests of the Palestinians, it also serves the interests of the Israeli state. Enlightened Israelis know this well.

The determined show of diplomatic independence and its campaign to get international recognition of their state will indeed pose a challenge for the Palestinian leadership. They cannot wait for Israeli actions, which will sooner or later, take the Palestinians over the brink. What their leadership must do is prepare to undertake nothing less than a strategy that will mean a conclusive diplomatic battle with Israel. To effect this, the Palestinians must not be deterred by their past mistakes. They cannot afford to look back. The PA must play their strategic hand and realize that Israel has no more cards to deal.

Most of all, Palestinians have to realize that they too, live in dangerous times.

– Mikail Jubran is Palestinian pro-reformist advocate and a specialist on Palestinian political affairs in Ramallah, Palestine. He served as the Director of Communications with the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission in Washington, DC from 1988-1993, and now divides his residence between Ramallah and Washington, DC. He contributed this article to

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