مشاركتي في برنامج أحداث وأصداء على قناة المغاربية بتاريخ 14 مارس 2018
First published by the Middle East Monitor on 27/12/2017
As the dust settles on a significant week at the UN, in which America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was rejected roundly by the international community, the Palestinians have made a commitment not to engage with the US in any future peace talks. Where, though, can the Palestinian President turn to next? What options does Mahmoud Abbas have?
A divided, and in some cases apathetic, Arab world has been experiencing political turmoil since the confrontation emerged this year between the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt on one hand, and Qatar on the other. As young pretenders to their respective countries’ thrones experiment with war and politics, the US and Israel can take a back seat in the hope that Arab states will weaken each other without any interference on their part.
Palestine is no longer a priority for some Arab countries, except where they can exert pressure on the weak leadership in Ramallah to please Washington and, in turn, the Israelis. Like turkeys voting for Christmas, they believe that they will be protected from Iran if they can deliver the complete submission of the Palestinians to Israel’s wishes.
The EU, which rejected Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, saw some of its own members abstain in the vote in the UN General Assembly. The Russians and Chinese, important members of the Security Council, also have limited, if any, influence on Israel or the Palestinians when compared with the Americans. The Palestinian President’s options for an alternative “honest broker” that Israel will accept are thus non-existent.
It has taken Mahmoud Abbas over two decades to admit that the US is so biased in favour of Israel that it cannot play an even-handed role in the search for a just peace. Why it has taken him so long to realise this so obvious fact is a mystery. Successive US administrations have taken their lead from Israel on this issue. It was always the case that any “offer” to the Palestinians would be put to the Israelis first, and that only after they had applied their “security” test to it and given the green light would it be put to the Palestinians.
This formed the core of an exchange of letters between former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and George W Bush in 2004. “In light of new realities on the ground,” wrote the then US President, “including already existing major Israeli population centres, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” He added that, “The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel’s security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.”
While Bush referred in his letter to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 as forming the basis for negotiations, the Israelis worked hard to ensure that the talks which followed were not referenced to any such international decisions.
The Palestinians fell into this trap by failing to insist on international law and Security Council Resolutions as the basis for any talks. This included the last “serious” attempt to bring peace by Barack Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013, which not only failed to bring peace but was also immediately followed by the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza. Kerry persuaded the Palestinians to return to talks lacking in any reference to international law.
Before leaving office, Kerry laid much of the blame for the failure of the talks he had initiated on the Israelis after, of course, reminding everyone of Obama’s “deep commitment to Israel and its security”. His explanation for the Obama administration’s abstention on UN Security Council Resolution 2334 concerning the illegality of Israel’s settlements — instead of the usual veto of anything critical of Israel — was that the vote was about “preserving” the two-state solution. “That’s what we were standing up for: Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace and security with its neighbours.”
The incoming Trump administration disassociated itself from Resolution 2334, with the president-elect himself promising that “things will be different” when he entered the White House. He has certainly been true to his word. While asking Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements”, Trump moved away from the US position on two-states: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”
Trump’s pro-Israel advisers have spent months meeting with the two sides to the conflict. While promising to put a deal on the table soon, this came to a halt when Trump announced on 7 December his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and intention to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv.
Following the US veto of a Security Council resolution rejecting its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and then a large majority voting to pass the same resolution in the General Assembly, Abbas announced last week that he is severing his ties with the US when it comes to the peace process. The Palestinians, he declared, will not “accept any plan from the US” due to America’s “biased” support of Israel and its settlement policy. He also said that the US plan — Trump’s much-vaunted “deal of the century” — “is not going to be based on the two-state solution on the 1967 border, nor is it going to be based on international law or UN resolutions.”
In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to state that, “Abbas declared he was abandoning the peace process and did not care which proposal the United States brings to the table.” Putting a spin on it that is incomprehensible to the rest of the world, Netanyahu told his weekly cabinet meeting, “I think that once again, something clear and simple emerges: The Palestinians are the ones who do not want to solve the conflict.” He will do or say anything to distract us from the glaringly obvious reality that it is Netanyahu’s far-right government that is fully to blame for the lack of peace.
As for Mahmoud Abbas, he has to choose between acknowledging his failure over 23 years to advance the cause of the Palestinians, or going back to the drawing board, assessing the strengths of the Palestinian people and looking for ways to raise the cost to Israel of its military occupation of Palestine. The higher the cost, the quicker that Israel will address the Palestinians’ grievances as they seek to attain their rights.
The Palestinian Authority President’s starting point should be to develop a liberation strategy that excludes reliance on non-Palestinians for its delivery, whilst making it supportable by others, both governments and citizens alike.
The elements of such a strategy should include the following:
- The development of options for raising the cost to Israel of the occupation.
- A declaration that the Oslo Accords are null and void. Israel has done this in all but name.
- To demand UN Security Council protection for the Palestinian people.
- To end the PA’s security coordination with the occupation, as it is both immoral and a free service to Israel that brings no benefits whatsoever to the Palestinian people.
- To ask the UN to set up a coordination mechanism for necessary interaction with Israel on humanitarian matters.
- To ask the Arab League to withdraw the Arab Peace Initiative immediately.
- To restate that the Palestinian refugees’ legitimate right of return is non-negotiable.
- To demand that any future negotiations with Israel are based on equal rights for all who live between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, and acknowledge that this is the only way to achieve real peace.
- To call on the UN Secretary-General to adopt the ESCWA report — “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid” — that he has withdrawn.
- To launch cases at the International Criminal Court against Israel and Israeli officials immediately, starting with the illegal settlement issue.
- To offer unqualified support for the entirely peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and call for its escalation.
- The immediate lifting of all sanctions imposed by the PA in Ramallah on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
- The implementation of the reconciliation agreement with Hamas.
- An escalation of the peaceful and popular resistance movement in Palestine.
- The launch of a reformed and inclusive Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
- A serious engagement with Palestinians in the diaspora and a move towards elections to the Palestinian National Council.
Many of the points listed above should have been guiding principles in the past, but were overlooked in the PA’s pursuit of a pointless “negotiations first and last” policy which has failed by any measure.
Such a strategy will come with a price. It will bring isolation to the Palestinians and will have an impact on them in ways that will make their lives even more difficult. However, the alternative is that they continue to be oppressed with no end in sight if the current policies remain in place. The Palestinians have shown on numerous occasions that they are prepared to pay the necessary price for liberation but they must be told how this will be achieved by a leadership that they have had the chance to elect.
Any objective assessment will conclude that the current leadership is incapable of delivering what the Palestinians deserve and to which they aspire. It must therefore stand aside and allow the younger, talented generation of Palestinians come to the fore and lead their people. The New Year cannot be allowed to bring more of the same at the hands of Abbas and his team. He has other options; he must exercise them.
I was interviewed by Press TV on 12/10/2017
I was interviewed by Press TV on 8/10/2017
First published by the Middle East Monitor on 12/12/2016
From the Middle East Monitor
2016 will be remembered for a new phrase that came to characterise popular uprisings against “the establishment” in the West. From the UK to the USA, “taking back control” struck a chord with the voters when it was adopted by Donald Trump in America and the leaders of BREXIT in the UK. The now infamous image in the golden lift at Trump Tower of President-elect Trump and UKIP’s Nigel Farage was made possible because voters wanted to take back control and thought they would secure it.
The Palestinians too want to take back control of their destiny but how can they achieve this?
In a year which saw their dreams of liberation, freedom and independence dashed once again, they feel their reliance on others to deliver these aims has simply failed. In reality though, it is their leadership which has failed because it has chosen to rely on others to deliver Palestinian rights, but also because it relies on others to ensure its very existence through funding. The Palestinian Authority has also suffocated attempts by the people to rise up against the occupation either collectively or through individual endeavours. As President Abbas has declared repeatedly, the “security cooperation” with Israel is “sacred”, though he does not admit that it only works one way, protecting Israel and never the Palestinians.
Fatah’s seventh congress
Fatah, the ruling party recently held its congress in Ramallah, the seventh since its establishment in 1959. It included a marathon three-hour speech by its past, present and future (elected by acclimation) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in which he reiterated his strategy for delivering Palestinian rights. In summary its internal strategy included reconciliation with Hamas, holding parliamentary and presidential elections, holding the Palestinian National Council. Its external strategy included continued negotiations with Israel, a “smart intifada”, pursuit of Israel through the ICC and continued “internationalisation” of the conflict through membership of organisations.
The reconciliation with Hamas is essential as a united Palestinian people and leadership can put to bed Israel’s claim that there is no Palestinian partner to negotiate with or that the “moderate” Abbas cannot deliver on any agreements because Hamas runs Gaza. Reconciliation would also allow the Palestinian elections, long overdue, to finally take place. Abbas was firm in his insistence that “there can be no Palestinian state without the Gaza Strip.”
Abbas was not very forthcoming on what he meant by the “smart intifada” or “intifada of brains” though he did ask “the leadership” to be out there resisting peacefully with the people.
Peace talks have been dormant even since US Secretary of State John Kerry’s initiative failed back in 2014 and the subsequent Israeli war on Gaza. Attempts at bringing the two sides together have failed to this day and despite Abbas’ brief meeting with Netanyahu at Shimon Peres’s funeral, the two men have not met. It has not been for lack of trying. Abbas confirmed that although he had accepted an invitation from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to meet Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the latter declined the same invitation.
Attempts by France to bring the two men together and to hold a peace conference have also met with Palestinian acceptance and Israeli rejection. Israel’s spin on the reason for the rejection is that the meeting would follow a French-led peace conference, which it considers an effort to impose a settlement on it. Netanyahu spoke to Hollande and said that “if there is no international conference in Paris, the prime minister will come to meet Abu Mazen [Abbas] for direct talks without preconditions.” Israel further claimed that it will “not take part in an international conference that will not contribute to achieving peace”.
In reality, Israel is watching with satisfaction the transition from the Obama to the Trump administration in the US and expecting to be shielded further from any attempts to make a Palestinian state a reality. Why then should it engage wit Putin, Hollande or any other “broker” when Trump will move the US Embassy to Jerusalem and his team do not see the two-state solution as explicitly part of his administration’s strategy?
Options for the Palestinians
The Palestinian leadership has largely relied on unwavering support for the Palestinian cause from the Arab and Muslim world. It regularly consults both about steps it plans to take to ensure they are on board. They in turn have been steadfast in their support for the Palestinians and condemnation of Israel, particularly in international bodies. The Arab League also adopted the Arab Peace Initiative back in 2002, offering Israel normalisation of relations in return for ending the occupation of Palestinian and other Arab land. US Secretary of State John Kerry pushed the Arab states further to including “land swaps” in the initiative back in 2013. Israel has still not accepted the initiative to this day.
Arab states have also worked closely with the Palestinians in the United Nations, putting down resolutions both to the General Assembly and the Security Council. Their efforts in the Security Council have been scuppered by the US veto or US pressure on members that haVE led to potential resolutions falling by default. This included a resolution for the admission of Palestine as a full member. This pushed the Palestinians to the General Assembly to secure an upgrade in Palestine’s status to “Non-Member Observer state” in 2012, perhaps their most notable success in recent years. This was not only because it again demonstrated the overwhelming support for Palestinian rights, but because it allowed Palestine to join a multitude of international organisations and accords. This included the International Criminal Court (ICC) and UNESCO.
The ICC is still considering whether it can bring cases against Israelis involved in the 2014 war on Gaza and illegal settlements. The wheels of justice move slowly and to date the ICC has not declared whether and when it will bring cases against suspected Israeli war criminals. However, in a recent report, the court significantly confirmed that Israel was still in occupation of Gaza and that Jerusalem was illegally annexed. Israel suspects this indicates a leaning by the ICC towards the Palestinian view.
The ICC is one plank of the Palestinian “internationalisation of the conflict” strategy. Another important body is the UN Human Rights Council, which – due to a lack of US veto – often calls out Israeli actions in contravention of international law. The UNHRC produced an important report on the 2014 Gaza war which accused both Israel and Hamas of possible war crimes.
A further significant plank of internationalisation is seeking protection for Palestinian cultural and religious sites through UNESCO’s membership. This again showed some success when UNESCO adopted a motion condemning Israel’s activities around Muslim sits in Jerusalem and while this eventually watered down under pressure from Israel’s supporting states; it still showed what the Palestinians can achieve through careful diplomacy and through their own efforts.
On the ground a recent refusal by PA security forces to allow Israeli army vehicles to enter Jenin is very much in line with the Oslo accords which included Jenin in “Area A” which handed security in the city to the PA. Again, an example of how Palestinians can take matters into their own hands using existing accords and international law.
As President Trump moves closer to the White House and having declared his support for Israel including a commitment to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the PA is still banking on a last minute move by the Obama administration. It is sending a delegation to Washington to seek support for or at least an abstention, for a possible UNSC resolution condemning settlements. Despite suspicions that in its last few days the Obama administration may support such a move, I am not hopeful.
This should signal to the Palestinian leadership that relying on the US or other countries that support Israel when it really matters is unlikely to yield results. They must continue to explore and pursue avenues over which they can exercise some control. It seems that pursuing Israeli violations through international bodies is a sound strategy and the more avenues it can pursue for this the better. Internationalising the conflict is part of the Palestinians “taking back control” of their destiny.
The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is on a mission to finally end the chances of a two-state solution to the Palestine Israel problem. His strategy seems to have the following elements:
There is no occupation
He is now regularly repeating the absurd statement that the whole of historic Palestine belongs ‘to the Jewish people’ who gave had a ‘continuous presence for three thousand years’. Therefore, the indigenous Palestinian people are merely squatters with no rights. The quicker they return the land to its rightful owners the quicker we have peace, or at least the Zionists will.
In addition, the names of places must reflect the reality of the theft of Palestine. Extremist Minister, Naftali
Bennet on a visit to recently taken homes of Palestinians in Silwan that the area was ‘formally called Silwan, now the ‘City of David’.
Hamas is ISIS and therefore the Unity Government is a terrorist Government
He is equating Hamas, whatever you think of it’s strategy with the violent Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL or IS). But he couldn’t be more wrong. Hamas is a national liberation movement, which also holds an Islamist allegiance.
It is interesting though how quickly gullible supporters of Israel, particularly in the US have regurgitated Netanyahu’s analogy without question.
He argues that Israel cannot deal with a Palestinian Government backed by the ISIS like Hamas. The reality is that he does not want to deal with a United Palestinian people.
There are more important issues in the Middle East than the Palestinians
Netanyahu and his spokesmen and his ministers are working overtime to once and for all divert what they consider to be disproportionate attention to the Palestinian issue. There’s Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, ISIL and if course Iran.
Once all of the above has been sorted out then come back to talk about the Palestinians, that is if there is anything left to talk about.
How dare anyone criticise illegal settlements?
This is a real beauty. The recent mild rebuke by the Obama Administration about another batch of illegal Jewish only home units in illegally occupied East Jerusalem was in his view ‘going against American Values’. He claimed that Arabs can buy homes in West Jerusalem so why can’t Jews buy private homes in East Jerusalem. He even claimed some of the new units were designated for Arabs. Both statements are blatant lies.
You can only recognise Palestine on Israel’s terms, basically never
The new Swedish Prime Minister announced in his inaugural speech that Sweden would recognise the state of Palestine. All hell broke loose as the Moldovan turned Israeli Foreign Minister summoned the Swedish Ambassador to tell him effectively what an ignorant Prime Minister Sweden gas, that thus step is damaging to ‘the peace process’ and that there were more important Middle East issues to worry about.
Netanyahu further talked about the need for a new definition of sovereignty (to suit Israel of course). This is dealt with below under the old chess nut, security.
Israel’s security needs require a continued occupation
To put it simply, Netanyahu argues Israel has to maintain the military occupation to guarantee its security. This is code for there can never be an independent sovereign Palestinian state anywhere west of the river Jordan. Any such entity would be another ISIS, he argues.
All of the above amounts to a ‘no solution’ and a perpetual conflict. Further, there is no Pslestinian problem so stop talking about it.
But supporters of justice and those not gullible enough to fall for Netanyahu’s new strategy must stand up to him.
Sweden, having taken its principled stand on recognition of Palestine must see it through quickly. No backtracking please.
The British Parliament votes on a motion to recognise Palestine on the 13th of October. Those UK MPs that support the two state solution out of belief and those pro Israelis that use it to justify endless negotiations have no excuse. They must vote for recognition. The more countries that recognise the state of Palestine, the more pressure will be applied on Israel to end the occupation of a neighbouring state.
Tell Netanyahu to shove his new strategy to liquidate the Palestine cause where the sun don’t shine!
Out of this devastation, a victory
The rockets and bombs stopped at 16:00 hours GMT on the 26th of August 2014, marking the end of Israel’s terror campaign on the Palestinian people in Gaza. There was no formal announcement from Cairo as advertised. Israel remained silent bth in print and on TV and Mahmoud Abbas held a meeting with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to outline his ‘unconventional’ plan for peace.
Spontaneous celebrations broke out first in Gaza, then in the rest of Palestine. Many of those interviewed in Gaza that had lost loved ones and homes, were unanimous in celebrating the victory and praising and thanking the resistance.
At this moment of time, let us all give the unbelievably brave people of Gaza the time and space to celebrate. Yes, the price has been astronomical, both interms of death and injury and in the destruction. Israel showed its true colours, a violent, callus, colonialist occupier with a supremacy and arrogance unmatched in the whole world. The hatred that its campaign in Gaza has generated could be felt for generations to come.Almost 60 families in Gaza were wiped off the national register. Over 500 children have been killed and a total of over 2,100 Palestinians were killed. The over 10,000 injured, many with permanent disabilities and the destruction to homes, hospitals, mosques, water and electricity services is simply obscene.
The reason Palestinians claim a victory despite the above is that Israel failed to achieve any of stated and often changing objectives. Rockets were launched, reaching Tel Aviv right up to the ceasefire. The extent of damage to the ‘tunnels’ is unsubstantiated and the resistance groups have not been disarmed.
The resistance groups did not start or invite this attack. Israel used he pretext of the kidnapping and killing of three settlers to attack Palestinians, first in the West Bank, then in Gaza. Its murderous armed forces killed mainly civilians while the Israeli dead were almost all military personnel. Therefore the terror came from the IDF not the Palestinians.
Israel ends this war defeated, exposed as a racist, brutal occupier, under increasing isolation and facing an escalating Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS). Its multi-billion dollar arsenal of weapons, which it unleashed without mercy failed to bring it victory. Its leaders are now seen as failures, including Netanyahu.
The Palestinians come out of this war more united. This should help them achieve a just peace as the deterrence factor which the resistance holds is now a strong card in their hands. The Investigative Committee into Israel’s war crimes will confirm that war crimes were committed. The Palestinians are now on the verge of signing the Rome Statutes and therefore bring cases against Israel to the International Criminal Court.
So on balance, the Palestinians can celebrate a famous victory. This battle may be over but the war for liberation continues and freedom could be just that bit closer.