2011: A game-changing year
The coming year will see the transition from the Two State template. Somehow the last-ditch moves for a deal are hardly getting noticed, and in Israel the end of the talks was scarcely reported. The focus is shifting. People are getting prepared.
The best barometer is often Israel’s right-wing think-tank the Reut Institute, which now hints that it is abandoning the legitimacy battle, that it can’t stop criticism even from long-standing loyalists in the Jewish diaspora, and that it is moving the firewall to defend not this or that action or policy but to prevent the thing they feel most threatens the “Jewish Democratic State”: a One State campaign.
On Israel’s left, Gershon Baskin also laments that “if a peace is not achieved in 2011″, the Abbas leadership will go, and the next generation of leaders will demand citizenship and the vote in a single democratic state. “The two-state solution will lose its viability when the majority of Palestinians say ‘we don’t want to negotiate any more’, [and] the peace process as we know it will be officially over.” Over 30 years, he says “I have heard many people warn that we have reached the end of the road on the two-state solution. I never joined the chorus. But today I lead it.” And he begs Netanyahu to put an acceptable offer on the table and thereby prevent the end of the Zionist dream.
Jeff Halper, a giant of the solidarity movement, says he’s optimistic that 2011 will witness a game-changing “break” that will create a new set of circumstances. He envisages two possible events: either the much talked of but, he thinks, unlikely unilateral Palestinian state. Or the resignation or collapse of the PA, which will throw the Occupation back on the lap of Israel. The fall of the PA would end definitively the present “process”, bringing huge upheavals for both sides, and the “end of an era”.
“The political moment looming just weeks or months ahead demands our attention. Life in the Occupied Territories is about to get even more difficult, I believe, but perhaps we are finally approaching the breaking point. If that is the case, we must be there for the Palestinians on all the fronts: to protect them, to play our role in pushing the Occupation into unsustainability, to resist re-occupation, to act as watchdogs over political “processes” that threaten to impose apartheid in the guise of a two-state solution and, ultimately, to ensure that a just and lasting peace emerges. As weak and failed attempts by governments head for collapse, we must pick up the slack. 2011 is upon us.”
However, the “unlikely” option of a unilateral declaration of independence could serve to give the PA an alternative life-support system once the plug has been pulled on negotiations.
Michael Jansen in El Arabiya, reports that George Mitchell is set to bow out or throw in the towel, and may be replaced by Dennis Ross, the architect of the USA’s 1990s shift towards unadulterated full-on support for Israel. The fig-leaf of impartiality will be blown. The PA, intended as an interim body en route to a Palestinian state originally set for 1999, will have no raison d’etre.
Jansen writes: “According to The Washington Post, senior Israeli figures have warned that without a deal with the Palestinians, the PA could disintegrate. If this happens, Israel would no longer be able to count on the cooperation of the Palestinian security forces and intelligence agencies” which have allowed Israel to deploy fewer troops in the West Bank and Jerusalem than at any time since 1987. “In preparation for the collapse of the peace process, the Israeli military has already begun to work out contingency plans for dealing with a third Palestinian Intifada” especially if the very Security Force that’s saved Israel the effort of policing the West Bank for them now does an about-turn.
These forces have been trained and armed by the US General Keith Dayton, who has observed that they “could very well conduct effective resistance operations against Israeli forces once it becomes clear that the Palestinians are in the process of being denied, once again, their right to self determination.”
In the light of this, Abbas’s threats to dissolve the Palestine Authority could be quite a powerful weapon. But this threat can only seriously be used once. Recently the threat to resign personally or to dissolve the PA have been peppered into his public statements, the latest and most serious on 3rd December.
“If Israel does not stop settlement building and if US support for the negotiations collapses, I will strive to end Palestinian self-rule in the occupied territories. I cannot be the president of a non-existent authority as long as Israeli occupation of the West Bank continues. I say that to the Israelis: as occupiers, they can stay put. But the situation cannot remain unchanged.” There are too many Ifs here, no date, no ultimatum. And given that his colleague Erekat explicitly opted for a unilateral State rather than a struggle for the franchise, this doesn’t quite add up.
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