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Both sides are putting in place their preparations for the big Palestine recognition vote in September at the UN General Assembly.
Israel has cancelled diplomatic leave for the month, clearly set its goals and arguments, and told its police to prepare for mass arrests in September. In a cable to all ambassadors, Israel’s Foreign Ministry has instructed them that “The goal we have set is to have the maximum number of countries oppose the process of having the UN recognize a Palestinian state. The primary argument is that by pursuing this process in the UN, the Palestinians are trying to achieve their aims in a manner other than negotiations with Israel, and this violates the principle that the only route to resolving the conflict is through bilateral negotiations.”
Meanwhile Ramallah’s forces are being lined up on their knees, with their backs firmly turned towards the enemy. PA leader Abbas now states that “a statehood push at the United Nations will not advance the Palestinians’ cause”. According to the Maan News Agency’s report, the statehood vote will only be pursued “in order to save face among the Palestinian people”.
So, within a week or two of the first signs from Abbas that he might consider calling off the UN offensive in return for “substantive negotiations”, he has rolled over into a posture of submission, rubbishing his Big Plan for the year as useless, and naming the discredited Saeb Erekat (who resigned when the Palestine Papers leaks exposed his giveaway role) as Chief Negotiator to do a new round of endless dealing over land swaps, Israel’s security, water and settlements and border controls, and the “Jewish” nature of Israel: all the things that the UN recognition vote promised to do away with by a simple declaration of Palestinian rights, “within the 1967 borders”. Period.
As against Israel’s “primary argument” that having such negotiations is a “principle”, Abbas has not even bothered to ask whether this bi-lateral principle of talks with the unilateral invaders of the West Bank, Golan and Gaza should also have been applied to Hitler’s unilateral invasion of Poland, Argentinian General Galtieri’s unilateral invasion of the Falkland Islands or Saddam’s unilateral invasion of Kuwait.
It looks like it’s all over bar the shouting. And there will shouting a-plenty, and rage and fury, from all the people who have been marched to the top of the hill and then marched down again.
The PA leaders may have set out in all sincerity with the UN plan and then found the going too tough. Or maybe the whole thing was a manoeuvre to get more talks (that’s their speciality, after all). Either way it was totally irresponsible. If they go back into negotiations now, having failed in a very public bid to short-circuit them, they will find that they are not stronger but many times weaker. And the danger is that they will be presented with a deal and given no option to refuse it.
What also remains to be seen is whether the popular head of steam that’s been built up on the promise of a breakthrough from the Oslo years (and on the shoulders of the Arab Spring) will have the resilience to hang in there after such a let-down, or whether it will dissipate into cynicism and depression.
What should we do?
♦ CARRY ON ORGANISING. Demand that the PA leaders don’t back off the UN vote. Keep up the pressure on all fronts for BDS and its key demands. The best that was expected of UN recognition was to open doors for sanctions against Israel. Other ways will have to be found to open those doors.
♦ Clear out the PA and its unaccountable leaders, whether they call themselves Fatah, Hamas or “technocrats”. What use are these people, and who elected them? It must be abundantly clear that they are only answerable to their Washington paymasters. Accountability and democracy are essential NOW.
♦ Palestinians are constantly being offered a route to freedom via diplomacy and negotiation because the PA placeholders claim a monopoly on these routes, however badly they navigate them. But what if an alternative leadership opened up these channels itself? In the light of the complete shambles that the PA has produced, could not the BNC itself approach those governments that the PA has left high and dry, with a proposal for a UN resolution, citing and affirming all previous resolutions, and Palestinians’ rights under numerous international laws, and calling for national and international sanctions against Israel in support of the BDS demands?
♦ This may in fact turn out to be a crucial defensive tactic. Apparently if Netanyahu himself scuppers further talks by sticking to the seven refusals he outlined in Washington, then Germany, France and Britain are planning to sponsor a UN Security Council resolution that “calls on the Council to endorse Obama’s [May 19th] speech as the basis for talks”. (Haaretz 13 June)
While this is billed as a move to bring Netanyahu to heel, if that was carried it might over-ride or weaken all the previous UN positions and resolutions on Palestinian rights. It would enshrine what a US President reckons he can propose in the face of the AIPAC lobby as UN policy in place of international law, Geneva Conventions and Human Rights standards.
♦ The best way to rescue the militant energy is to channel it into something much more inspiring and real than a symbolic Declaration. Fatah leader Nabil Sha’ath was quoted in April, ” if a Palestinian state is not established … one option to end the occupation [is] to form one state across all of historic Palestine, in which Palestinians would demand citizenship and equal civil rights. He said leaders were also considering dissolving the Palestinian Authority and ending all Palestinian commitments to Tel Aviv, leaving Israel fully responsible for its occupation.” (Maan News 3.4.11)
♦ We need to ask them when and in what manner they intend to pursue these options? Or whether, in a step away from autocratic rule, they would initiate a public discussion on them, involving political parties, women’s and youth groups, the village committees, trade unions and other civil society organisations.
♦ Better still, these organisations can do it for themselves. Maybe those people within them who have become convinced that One State is now the only remaining way to get justice will take the lead. It may only take one to start the ball rolling. NOW IS THE TIME.
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