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What next for the Palestinians?

Jan 02,2018 - Last updated at Jan 02,2018

As a direct result of President Trump's Jerusalem declaration, the Palestinian issue has come to the forefront again after having been marginalised and overshadowed by many other consecutive regional developments.

Clearly, its reemergence is due to a culmination of factors and approaches that have proven to be totally unsuccessful, to put it mildly. In fact, two decades of wrong peace processing have been totally counterproductive making things much worse than they began with. 

Re-emergence does not, therefore,  mean a retry of the same old methods; a reentry in the same cycle that kept going round in circles for 25 years; a rehash of the tired mantras of the two-state solution and the other worn-out formulas that served only to grant Israel the time it needed to colonise the Palestinian land and to create irreversible facts on the ground; or the idea of  "conveniently" leaving it up to the Palestinians and Israelis to sort out one of the most difficult conflicts in modern history between themselves.

Neither should the Palestinians rest on their laurels because of the seeming victory accomplished at the UN General Assembly and the sizeable International support they managed to rally for their cause; the status quo, even if reshaped, cannot be sustained. 

The Palestinians need to usher a new strategy. They need to radically, though rationally, reconsider their situation. 

Both the Palestinians and the so-called international community should learn the lessons of the disastrous experience of the post-Madrid peace-making era; both should recognise their poor management and handling of the process.

The long-standing Palestinian conviction that only by exercising limitless moderation, by making successive concessions and generous compromises, and by constantly reducing their rights, they would secure international support, was wrong. Rather than adapting to their occupiers’ needs they should have held on to their legitimate rights as defined by international law. 

As victims of aggression, eviction from their land and decades-long occupation, the Palestinians should only demand the implementation of the UN resolutions as a basis for resolving the conflict. They should not offer solutions of their own; not cede 78 per cent of their land including most of Jerusalem; not make advance declarations of their willingness to accept illegal Israeli colonies built on what little is left of Palestine — the 22 per cent — under cover of territory swap; not to keep assuring their Israeli oppressor occupier of their commitment to not resist the occupation or fight for their usurped rights even peacefully; not to enter into accords, Oslo, which was the perfect formula, not only for legitimising the occupation, but also for turning its security and administrative burdens on the occupied Palestinian victims with full acquiescence from their Palestinian Authority; and not to keep firing empty threats of heading to relevant international bodies every time there is a crisis. Fake sulking and empty threats are totally ineffective. No one takes them seriously any more. 

Of course, conflict settlements require compromises. When opposing parties sit across each other at the negotiating table to negotiate, compromises do take place. But they happen reciprocally and evenly as part of a final deal. There is no precedent in history where one side, the weaker side, continued to offer concessions while the other, the stronger side, kept demanding more and getting more, except in this convoluted and badly mishandles Palestinian situation.

Since its creation, not once has Israel declared any of its future intentions. Israeli leaders only stress their security needs; their right to colonise the Palestinian land; their insistence that the Palestinians have to negotiate with them without any defined terms of reference; they demand that the UN should not be involved or indeed any other party other than the Americans, which is constantly guaranteed to be on Israel’s side.  The Israelis never define their borders or openly announce what the Palestinians would get in a possible settlement. In fact the Israelis keep upgrading their often-prohibitive demands and moving their goal posts. Any, and every conciliatory step, the Palestinians and the Arabs make towards the Israelis, is often matched by several Israeli steps away. The gap keeps getting wider and that has been the norm all along. 

Naturally the alternative for the Palestinians is not an open armed rebellion. The Palestinians have the right to resist occupation under international law, but that is not a practical option under the prevailing circumstances and neither is dissolving the Palestinian Authority.

Without any counterproductive aggravation, the Palestinians can abandon the peace process with all its attachments, including Oslo and its disastrous strangling measures. They can retract all their previous concessions demanding instead the rule of law; full implementation of UN resolutions and full application of UN rules and conventions. 

Understandably, that is not going to be easily acquired as the UN is not that effective being largely controlled by some influential powers that cripple its appropriate functions. However, such a peaceful Palestinian position, only demanding international justice, would deprive Israel of much of the undue concessions extracted outside the rule of law over the past decades. 

The question remains whether such a Palestinian stand, if supported by the Arab League member states, would advance peace in the short term? 

May be not. But it will place the entire case in the proper legal perspective. 

The Palestinians have been out of their land or under occupation for more than 70 years. Their condition cannot get much worse than it has been for so long; take  Gaza as a case in point. Also for Israel the status quo may not be that tenable. Under the circumstances, that ended by the Trump declaration, Israel was having it both ways. It was keeping the occupation, continuing with its creeping colonisation, denying the Palestinians any of their rights, while at the same time escaping any accountability as a violator of international law and it was gradually gaining respectability as a result of Arab and Palestinian concessions. Such concessions encouraged many foreign powers to adopt much more favourable attitudes towards Israel. They did not need to be more royalist than the king.


This will change if the Palestinians just say: We made major concessions, we ceded our land, we agreed to massive compromises, we renounced violence, we accepted to serve the occupation, we even created a security apparatus to police the occupation on behalf of the occupier, we witnessed the colonisation of the little left of our land and we sustained decades of humiliation and oppression. We did all this for the sake of peace but we ended with no peace and in the meantime our rights have been steadily annihilated. We might as well and as a result demand our rights in full in accordance with the rule of law, not one measure less. There is nothing more peaceful, more rational and more correct. It can be done. It can be done without antagonising Washington or the so-called international community.

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