The PLO leadership fell into a trap when it tried to replicate the Egyptian approach of achieving a unilateral, negotiations-based peace accord with the Israelis. Unlike the Egyptians, the PLO was never speaking on behalf of a country which was seeking to renegotiate its borders. The PLO, rather, was the political representative of a people and a cause and who it was entitled to represent in negotiations with the oppressor provided that the latter could be made to accept the cause's legitimacy. In the case of the Palestinians, however, their oppressor never did accept that their cause was just, insisting that the Palestinians abandon
|Palestinian negotiators seem to have jumped out of the Israeli frying pan into an American fire.|
any commitment to their own cause—even if only rhetorical and theoretical. Of course, with the very legitimacy of the Palestinian cause being called into question, there could be no legitimacy for the armed resistance, either. In return for these concessions, the Palestinians would receive control of authority structures without sovereignty, the primary role of which was to preserve security in the midst of an occupation.
Just as soon as the PLO leadership accepted this path, with the ostensible aim of salvaging what they could of the Palestinian people's demands, the organization was transformed from a movement for national liberation into a political institution that was stripped of sovereignty; it came to hold all of the responsibilities of a state body, but none of its rights. In turn, arbitration over the Palestinian cause came to be based on the balance of power between two parties, and not on the inherent justice of the Palestinians' cause. Given this reality, the Israelis have been able to liberate themselves from the strictures of any agreements, lopsided as they were, and to intensify the construction of settlements in the midst of an occupation.Today, it is negotiations — and not the resistance — that have become futile.
The US-sponsored negotiations have become a farce, typified by a putative inability of Obama's America to achieve anything, and by Kerry's theatrical, duplicitous shuttle visits. We all know that Kerry was put up to these visits by the president, and he is well aware that they are a charade put on to preserve the fiction of a “peace process”. The only hope for the overturning of the balance of powers came from initiatives lying outside of the negotiations framework. These initiatives included the Second Intifada (whence the lack of unanimity amongst the Palestinian leadership allowed Israel and the US to single out Yasser Arafat as a target), armed resistance, and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign alongside other promising civil society initiatives that continue to take shape. In response, a number of attempts have been made to create a new reality which supersedes the zero-sum game of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and which re-introduces the Palestinian cause to the international arena.
These attempts to re-introduce the Palestinian cause to the international arena have included half-hearted expressions of unease towards the US-sponsored bi-lateral peace negotiations, which have lasted two decades without bearing fruit. The Palestinians hope that the US can be shamed into making concessions, just like a condemned prisoner might hope to escape the gallows once his horse is allowed to testify. What they fail to see is that the United States has no shame: while Obama and Kerry resent Netanyahu, even despise him, for the way in which he shows up their incapacity and for the Israeli Premier's imperious tone, the Americans continue to demand that the UN resolution be drained of any substance, at the risk of exercising their veto.
The Palestinian leadership's attempt to bring their cause to the world stage would have proven useful if it was done in a spirit of defiance aimed at overturning the status quo, such as what happened during the struggle against Apartheid. Instead, they have remained stuck in the mindset of bi-lateral negotiations, with the difference this time being that their interlocutors are the Americans and not the Israelis. Palestinian negotiators seem to have jumped out of the Israeli frying pan into an American fire. The new negotiations may drive the Palestinian leadership to make concessions on the crucial “final status issues”--such as the status of Palestinian refugees, and of Jerusalem—and which lie at the heart of the Palestinian cause; they would make such concessions not to achieve a just resolution, but merely for the sake of securing an international agreement. Yet everybody knows that no such agreement could ever be implemented in the present regional and global climate. The success of any such negotiations with neither a bridging of the gap between the parties' points of view, nor a change of the balance of powers between them, would result in nothing more than craftily worded statements. There will be no consensus on how to interpret these exercises in semantics, far less on how to implement them. Instead, the Palestinians will be running to stay in place, except this time they would be staying in place after having conceded a number of issues at the heart of their cause, and having foregone a lasting peace.
Re-introducing the Palestinian cause to the world stage would be productive on the proviso that the Palestinian leadership abandoned the negotiations mindset that has consumed it for so long. In other words, the Palestinian leadership must adopt the revolutionary demands of boycotting the occupation and the system of racial segregation in Palestine. In such a way, and armed with a democratic political agenda that is bolstered by the justice of their own cause and the tyranny of occupation, the Palestinian leadership can again lead a liberation movement on the global stage, one which is enriched by multi-faceted paths of resistance to the occupation.
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.