*Former central information officer of Fatah ovement in Lebanon
The unprecedented clash between the current U.S. administration and the Palestinian leadership over the so-called “deal of the century” announced by U.S. has added further complications to the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with a spillover of disarray in the Arab political landscape.
The Palestinians see in the U.S. actions a denial of their national aspirations and a serious blow to the question of negotiations, especially after Washington has begun to implement this policy and impose it unilaterally. This comes in the wake of the withdrawal of the U.S. administration in recent years from being a partner – or even mediator – in the negotiations, leaving the Palestinians and Israelis one-on-one as the region continues to be engulfed in internecine conflicts.
So we are back to the pre-Oslo Agreement square one after a quarter of a century of pursuing a settlement that would meet the bare minimum of Palestinian national interest. Thus, this challenge poses fateful questions for the elites as well as average citizens about Palestinian prospects: Where do we go? Can we stand our ground? And how can we stand our ground while we fail, time after time, to achieve internal reconciliation and witness the erosion of people’s basic needs and the impuissance of the Palestinian political system to address its major issues, with the decline of the democracy that had formerly existed?
The Palestinian leadership was well-aware of these facts when it declared its outright opposition to the “deal of the century.” This opposition has reached the point of political rupture with the Trump administration.
The view of some observers is that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “climbed to the top of the tree and could not find anyone to help him come down.”
“It is true that President Abbas climbed to the top of the tree as a countermove to the U.S. and Israeli parties crossing all the red lines,” the PLO leadership says, “but he also pushed to the limit the political and diplomatic spheres in response to the challenge. Moreover, he no longer had to come down the tree, as long as there is nothing for him to do on the negotiation ground – as there is no negotiation ground – and while popular clashes on the ground with the occupation army are escalating everywhere!”
Where does the Palestinian position derive its ability to hold firm in defiance, despite the fact that many – perhaps even most – have a hopeless view of the Palestinian-Israeli and regional-international scenes?
In fact, the answer to this question may be simple, but it is not simplified, nor does it belong to a particular political group or individuals. It requires a variety of approaches that consider the subjective and objective conditions of the conflict, and the nature of contradictions that can be solved and those that are insoluble. It also considers, in particular, the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli balance of power at all levels. It is the task of the collective Palestinian mind and the collective Palestinian effort, given that the conflict has gone on for over a century and become a priority on the international agenda, as recognized by its most senior spokespersons, most prominently the United Nations.
Firstly, reaffirming our great appreciation for the courage of the Palestinian leadership in accepting the challenge, it must be said that the primary and most important source of strength of the current Palestinian stance is the vitality of the Palestinian society at home and in the diaspora and its historical and qualitative responses to the challenges, at the most intractable junctures, in a way that has made all the difference:
• Despite the dispersion of the Palestinian people and the different laws, systems and means of development that govern them, there has been a positive empirical outcome since the year of the Nakba, as reflected in the Palestinian people’s attachment to their human and political rights, their ability to unite under the harshest of circumstances and their ability to develop their forms of political resistance, including peaceful popular uprisings, not to mention armed conflict.
• In this context, it is possible to reflect on some of the historical features revealing the willingness of the people to bear high costs in defense of their material and moral existence. At the start of the 20th century, the Palestinian people numbered no more than 500,000 individuals. Then more than 615,000 people were lost as casualties in the struggle with the Zionist project, with hundreds of thousands of others injured and millions detained over the course of a century, according to estimates of the relevant institutions this year. Another instance is the Gafni Committee set up by Prime Minister Golda Meir in 1973. Its task was to plan the prevention of the Palestinian population in Occupied Jerusalem rising above 22 percent. Today, Netanyahu is trying everything to reduce the number of Palestinian Jerusalemites, who make up 41 percent of the city’s residents.
• Netanyahu declared Occupied Jerusalem “a united city and the eternal capital of the state of Israel,” heading in the direction of a “Jewish state” and liquidated the Palestinian presence in the territories of 1948. This time the response came from within the territories and from Jerusalem in particular, in the form of an overwhelming popular rising, with Muslim and Christian participation, in defense of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and condemnation of the crime of “selling Orthodox land endowments.” This rising reverberated powerfully in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and Jordan, as well as the cities and towns of 1948! This year’s peaceful “Al-Aqsa Intifada” came as a surprise to the expectations of the Israeli mind, and perhaps to the expectations of many Arabs.
In short, the vitality of Palestinian society, despite its geographical dispersal, is a force that cannot be arrested or destroyed, nor can it be stopped or controlled. This is the source of strength of the recent Palestinian stance expressed by Abbas, reinforced by the sum total of a historic struggle to impose the presence of the Palestinian identity on Israel first, and on all international and regional forums, and reinforced by a more intransigent reality, which is the impossibility of consigning the Palestinian cause to oblivion. The “deal of the century” seems to be a pipe dream in a sick imagination.
Despite the dominance of the U.S. administration in our world, the Palestinian stance played the role of political lever for the Arab Summit held in Dhahran last March, and it is no coincidence that it was called the Jerusalem Summit. The Palestinian peace project is at the core of the Arab Peace Initiative, which expresses common Arab views. It is also a consensus between regional and international working systems, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Group of 77, which appointed the state of Palestine to represent it at the last United Nations General Assembly. The strong position of the king of Jordan on the issue of permanent settlement and the confederation should be noted, as should the official Lebanese position in this regard.
In addition to the above points in answering the question of where the Palestinian political position derives its strength from, another fact is that the regional conflicts that have been going on for seven years ago do not seem to be moving toward inevitable finalities, as some may like to think or promote. They are rather in a constant state of flux, as can be seen through a close inspection of the existing alignments and their contradictions at the regional and international levels. Hence the importance of the Palestinian steadfastness with regard to achievements or outcomes that are no longer reversible. In our opinion, the current Israeli mind needs help coming down from the top of the tree!
A Palestinian woman who took part in recent peaceful demonstrations against the Israeli army said: “We have become immune and numb in the face of guns that are constantly pointed at us!”
And we join the Palestinians in saying: Our bloodshed makes the weight of our bodies dispel their victory, so we are not defeated and they are not victorious! But those at the top of the Israeli pyramid seem to have forgotten what came in Leviticus: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.”