No hope yet for independent Palestinian state

Sunday 02/04/2017

Some parties have tried to paint an optimistic picture of Palestine and Israel’s prospects for a political settle­ment. Unfortunately, this rosy picture is more a reflec­tion of wishful thinking than reality.

A more sensible reading of the region’s political context shows little reason for optimism.

Those hopeful about a settle­ment point to statements by US President Donald Trump, who has given more consideration to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in meetings and speeches. They also bring up the Arab summit, where the issue of Palestine was given priority, as a sign of a con­sensus on the issue.

However, this analysis is flawed for a number of reasons. First, Trump’s disposition towards Palestine is more reflective of his personal ambition than strategic policy. To prove he is a politically competent deal-maker, Trump wants to make his mark on an issue that has escaped resolution for decades. Bringing an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the perfect way for him to silence his critics.

With regard to the agreement among leaders at the Arab sum­mit, we should remember that coming up with a consensus on Israel-Palestine is easier than reaching an agreement on Syria.

As a result, some Arab leaders are convinced that by moving ahead with the Palestinian cause, they can ease public pressure and close a vital gate through which some regional powers in the Middle East are trying to take over the traditional role of some central Arab powers.

Israel, on the other hand, is in no rush to respond to recent developments in the US and Arab camps. It has let those talking about a settlement babble away, while flatly ignoring decisions by the international community in the meantime. Israel has even in­creased the speed with which it is establishing illegal colonies, not to mention violating the rights of Palestinians.

The reality is that those advo­cating for the Palestinian cause are going through a difficult time.

Palestine is deeply fractured and efforts to unite the various factions have failed. The Pales­tinians do not speak in one voice and the Palestinian Authority, whether under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas or anyone else, will find it difficult to garner sup­port for any agreement it might reach with Israel. Those blowing the trumpets of a Palestinian- Israeli settlement must first make progress towards reaching Pales­tinian reconciliation.

In the meantime, the crises in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen have deteriorated to such a level that Arab leaders should give them priority over discussing the Palestinian cause.

While the international com­munity seems to have given some attention to the Palestinian cause, this has not translated into serious action. Most statements on Palestine serve as temporis­ing moves leading up to regional talks, which might include deci­sions involving Tel Aviv. Major powers believe that even the impression of progress in peace talks could encourage some Arab states to endorse the planned changes for the region.

As a result, it seems that reach­ing a settlement on the Palestin­ian territories is contingent on other events in the region. And since the United States does not have a comprehensive view of and for the Palestinian cause, all the noise about Palestine is likely to remain just that, noise.

Israel, for its part, has negoti­ated with the Palestinians for 20 years, giving very few conces­sions compared to the benefits it reaped. There is no reason to believe that the next round of negotiations will be any different.

The dream of an independ­ent Palestinian state is likely to remain a dream. The regional context surrounding that dream is worse than ever and there is no clear vision for Palestine’s future. The balance of power is still in fa­vour of Israel, which always ends up getting what it wants without sacrificing anything.