Palestinians are running out of options

Friday 24/04/2015

Palestinians are running out of political space, political oxygen and options at the same time they find their issue receding from the international, and even Middle Eastern consciousness.
For a people who have lurched from crisis to crisis and calamity to calamity for the entirety of their modern history, the Palestinian predicament is, in many ways, at a new low.
The Arab world has rarely been this preoccupied with other mat­ters. The conflict in Syria alone has been sufficient to ensure that, for the time being, Palestinians no longer dominate the regional agenda. And there are massive other conflicts smouldering.
Yemen is falling apart and is the scene of a major Saudi-led inter­vention, Operation Decisive Storm. Libya, too, is imploding. Both are the scenes of regional interven­tions.
In both Iraq and Syria the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS) group is transforming the regional landscape with unexpected new alliances and uncertain outcomes. This is merely one manifestation of the battle mainstream Arab socie­ties are fighting against a rising tide of fanatics, Sunni and Shia alike.
Given all of this, it is not only un­derstandable, it is inevitable, that the collective Arab attention is no longer focused on the Palestinians.
Israel, too, has little time for questions involving Palestinians. The Israelis have just conducted their second election in a row in which Palestinian issues featured virtually not at all in the conver­sation. No one in Israel has any serious new ideas about what to do about the Palestinians.
There are at least three major Israeli factions. The first, repre­sented by the left and centre-left, continues to seek a two-state peace agreement with the Palestinians, but without any confidence that it can be accomplished. The second is a rising new annexationist wing, which seeks to unilaterally draw new borders in which Israel would formally attempt to seize parts of the occupied territory. The third faction, represented by Prime Min­ister Binyamin Netanyahu, seeks to do nothing. It is comfortable with the status quo and unwilling to take any risks for peace with the Palestinians.
But, far worse, Israeli society is ignoring the Palestinian question because it can. Israel is enjoying a luxury that no occupying power should ever be accorded: the abil­ity to pretend that the occupation and conflict in which it is engaged simply does not exist. This is calamitous from a Palestinian point of view because it means that the Palestinians can be, and are being, simply ignored by the society that will most determine their fate.
For Palestinians this grim reality forces overwhelming questions of how to gain the attention of Israelis and ensure that they understand that the occupation is untenable and comes at a prohibitive cost.
Violence has, time and again, proven to be counterproductive. Ongoing initiatives at the United Nations, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and elsewhere do not change the fundamental realities on the ground. Boycotts and divest­ment are, at most, an inconven­ience for Israel, and for the most part are still largely aspirational rather than accomplished. The nonviolent protest movement is promising but fledgling. And, of course, negotiations have led to a dead end, at least for now.
The United States has monopo­lised the negotiating process but only overseen failure after failure. And now the Obama administra­tion appears to have thrown its hands up in despair, concluding that Netanyahu is determined to thwart progress towards peace but is unwilling to confront him.
With even the United States apparently walking away from the peace process, Palestinians are left with no national strategy, no road­map and no framework for national liberation.
The Palestinian national cause has rarely appeared so forlorn, forgotten and foreclosed. The anger this situation might predictably engender can, in fact, be read­ily sensed when one encounters Palestinians, especially from the occupied territories.
Israel, Arab societies, the United States and the rest of the world may be overlooking them now. But his­tory suggests that, sooner or later and somehow or other, everyone will get a collective wake-up call that the Palestinian issue is not resolved and the Palestinian people are not dead or disappeared.