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Palestinian Authority is always ready to negotiate, and concede!

Jul 07,2020 - Last updated at Jul 08,2020

The Palestinian Authority has been harshly blamed by some for rejecting the plans of US President Trump to settle the conflict with Israel completely in accordance with Israel's maximalist terms, leaving the Palestinians practically nothing.

Trump's 2017 decision to recognise Jerusalem, all of Jerusalem, as Israel's capital and move the US embassy there, his 2019 decision to recognise Israel's sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and this year's Deal of the Century "peace plan" which almost abolishes all Palestinian rights and allows Israel to annex more than one third of the West Bank, were all widely criticised for a variety of sound reasons.

But mainly these American moves have been seen as flagrant violations of international law and dozens of UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, many passed with US approval.

None of this has, however, been enough to quiet criticism of supposed Palestinian rejectionism. Friend and foe alike have long directed bitter criticism at the Palestinians for having wasted opportunities, for always acting irresponsibly and unreasonably against their own interests and for resorting to counterproductive violence, rather than pursuing constructive dialogue that could have won them peace and statehood long ago.

I did argue on this page against this absurd and biased logic. I concluded that the Palestinians should, in fact, be blamed for excessive negotiations without clearly defined terms of reference and without insisting that unilateral and criminal Israeli actions, especially settlement construction, be halted. (My article here on February 4, 2020.)

Not only did Palestinians continue talks while Israel continued stealing their land, they offered Israel concessions in return for nothing, and without demanding a timeframe for an endless and sterile "peace process".

Surprisingly, and despite defiant rhetoric, the PA's readiness to continue to negotiate has never ceased.

Following Trump's decision on Jerusalem, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas severed all ties with the Americans.

There were nonetheless reports about ongoing contacts between the PA and Washington, even with the Israelis, apart from the ongoing security cooperation between the occupier and the occupied.

Abbas also informed the Security Council in February 2018 of the Palestinians' readiness "to begin negotiations immediately in order to achieve the freedom and the independence of our nation". He also called for convening an international conference to try to break the impasse.

Abbas repeated the same readiness to negotiate last February, shortly after the US published details of its so-called peace plan.

"I would like to say once again that I am ready to start negotiations if we have a partner in Israel ready for peace negotiations under the sponsorship of the international Quartet [the US, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations] and on the basis of internationally agreed parameters," Abbas told the Security Council.

Most recently the Palestinian Authority is reported by AFP to have submitted an official counterproposal to the Trump peace plan to the Quartet.

Again, the PA letter reportedly announced that Palestinians are "ready to resume direct bilateral negotiations from where they stopped" in 2014.

The letter reportedly agrees in advance to a "state with a limited number of weapons and a powerful police force to uphold law and order". It even agrees to occupation by NATO or another force mandated by the UN.

It also accepts "minor border changes that will have been mutually agreed, based on the borders of June 4, 1967".

If this is supposed to shield the PA from blame for being uncooperative with the so-called international community, it also exposes it to even more credible blame that it lacks any strategy or clear principles for negotiating other than to keep offering concessions in the hope that eventually Palestinians will have conceded enough.

There is nothing wrong with negotiations based on a mutual commitment to defined terms of reference and goodwill from both sides.

Israel, however, has never negotiated in good will with the Palestinians. It has only used negotiations as a smokescreen for more colonization and violation of Palestinian rights.

The Palestinians have made repeated offers to the Israelis even before starting negotiations, at the expense of their internationally recognised rights. Even agreeing to a two-state solution means giving up 78 per cent of historic Palestine. But, as noted, the PA has gone much further, giving up even more land and compromising on key rights including the right of refugees to return.

By contrast, Israel has never hidden its intention to control and colonise all of Palestine by creating facts on the ground while dragging negotiations out indefinitely.

One would have thought that the PA would finally realize the futility of its strategy and the need for a radical review of its approach. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case. The fresh concessions directed to the forgotten, long-expired Quartet are shocking proof of PA's desperation to re-enter the same vicious cycle that gained them absolutely nothing and lost them almost everything.

It is not for the victim of injustice and aggression to keep extending a lifeline to their occupiers and oppressors.

The Quartet is under the total control of the US. It was specifically invented to distance the UN, an arena where Israel never felt comfortable, and to keep the US totally in charge.

Would the Quartet now be able to challenge Trump's policies? And what is there left for the Palestinians to negotiate about? Removing more than 230 illegal settlements and 600,000 Jewish settlers from the West Bank; canceling the annexation of Jerusalem; demolishing the apartheid separation wall; nullifying the National State law; ending the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza siege; allowing the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in accordance with international law; allowing the Palestinians to exercise their right to self-determination, independence and statehood without any restrictions on their envisaged state? Is that what the PA expects the Quartet to get them through negotiations. If three decades of endless negotiations had failed miserably to bring the Palestinians any closer to their legitimate goals, why should more negotiations now, under much more unfavorable conditions, do them better? In fact, wasted years of sterile negotiations had distanced the Palestinians from their rights in favour of Israel’s colonisation projects.

The only inescapable conclusion it seems: is that for the PA, living another day or another year at any price far outweighs defending the historic rights of the Palestinian people.

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