Palestinian leaders excel in political humiliation

Sunday 14/05/2017
Walking a tightrope? Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat walks from the West Wing to speak to reporters at the White House, on May 3. (AFP)

Reading through the litanies spouted by Saeb Erekat, secre­tary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), it is difficult to find an instance in which the rhetoric does not evoke contradictions.

Erekat, who was part of a delegation travelling to Washing­ton ahead of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s meeting with his US counterpart, Donald Trump, managed to consolidate the fragmentation of the Palestinian territories using a simple formula characterising the international diplomatic agenda.

Three aspects are normally invoked: Israeli settlement expansion, the two-state para­digm and purported US efforts to renew negotiations. A recent variation uttered by Erekat accuses Israel of “sabotaging US efforts to renew the peace process.” To affirm the duplicity, Erekat condemned the Israeli imposition of “the colonial enterprise” while invoking adherence to the two-state illusion.

Palestinians are completely misrepresented by their interna­tionally recognised leaders, who speak of absolutes — international legal recourse, UN resolutions and documenting of Israeli interna­tional law violations. They grovel while Israel receives assurances that its settler expansion can continue undeterred and the international community can indulge in human rights rhetoric without enforcing implementa­tion. The result is unbridled impunity.

Without any doubt, Israel and the United States have perfected the safeguarding of impunity through political power. However, legitimising impunity from the echelons of the Palestinian Authority bequeaths Israel and the United States with additional leverage. Erekat has erroneously articulated a purported difference between Israeli and US perspec­tives by stating that the latter is partial to a solution.

Evidence illustrates the oppo­site. Israel is the largest recipient of US military aid. It ensured the subjugation of the Palestinian Authority to Israel through security coordination, which has jeopardised the lives of Palestin­ian families due to widespread incarceration. There has also been a constant refusal to acknowledge the illegality of settlements, preferring instead to rely upon euphemisms such as “new realities on the ground,” which was coined by former US Presi­dent George W. Bush, and seeking to focus on disapproval rather than legality.

The current political framework with Trump at the helm also conveys how Palestinians have been rendered collateral damage. Appointing a pro-settlement ambassador to Israel and the back-and-forth haranguing about moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem show how the United States is interested in Israel retaining its political hegemony.

There is no possible scenario, therefore, in which Erekat can claim that Israel is jeopardising US efforts towards renewing negotia­tions. On the contrary, there have been several instances in which Palestinian rights could have been asserted, yet these possibilities were perpetually annihilated by the Palestinian Authority.

When the Middle East Quartet belatedly declared that the two-state paradigm was obsolete, Palestinian leaders failed to seize the opportunity to declare an alternative agenda. Like Abbas, Erekat has repeatedly elevated compromised negotiation and recognition of Israel over Palestin­ian liberation.

Hence, dissociation has occurred on several fronts. By alluding to a purported difference between Israeli and US policy, Palestinian officials have invented a new narrative in which the United States dons the guise of a fictional ally. By insisting upon recognition of Israel, criticism of Israeli policies is nullified because there is no acknowledgement of the historical colonial process that led to the expansionist frenzy.

The result is an immense political humiliation inflicted on the Palestinian population that embodies the potential to frag­ment the Palestinian territories permanently. While Israel is actively seeking to ensure complete domination over them, Palestinian leaders emulate the international community and indulge in catchphrases that illustrate the divide between the people and political charades.

There is always an opportunity to alter the political narrative by embracing the collective struggle. Palestinian Authority leaders have instead affirmed their partiality to the exploitation of their popula­tion.