The Palestinians’ best options
RAMALLAH - The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has slipped down the region’s priority list since “Arab spring” revolutions swept across the Middle East and forced governments and people to focus on domestic troubles.
Internationally, it is not any better.
Europe jilted its largely vocal pro-Palestinian stance to focus on trying to resolve the Syrian crisis, host hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees and tighten security in the face of threats from Islamic State (ISIS) militants, who attacked the heart of the French capital in 2015.
The United States, the sponsor of Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations, is turning its attention inward as campaigning heats up for presidential elections.
US President Barack Obama has little time to achieve a breakthrough by pushing the Israelis to return to the negotiating table and paving the way for Palestinian statehood.
The talks stalled years ago with no indication when they would resume.
In the meantime, Israel continued its unilateral moves: beefing up Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands, provocations at a revered Muslim shrine in Jerusalem and a stifling blockade on Gaza since 2007, which ruined the economy and further frustrated people who feel they are confined to a big jail.
For several months, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been calling on the international community to support an international peace conference because of the deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) ruling Executive Committee, said Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA) acknowledged the futility of the US monopoly over peace talks, which reinforced the imbalance of the process by equating the occupier and the occupied.
“We will not make the same mistakes. We are pushing towards a time frame with international intervention and guarantees to hold Israel accountable for its crimes and violations of international law,” Ashrawi said.
Palestinians say the PA must invest in and support the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement and intensify efforts on the international level, such as in the International Criminal Court (ICC), to provide protection for the Palestinian people.
Political writer Sam Bahour said “efforts on the global stage should continue to focus on recognition of the state of Palestine and increase the intensity of actions that add a cost to the occupation, such as BDS efforts.”
Another option is realising reconciliation with the militant Palestinian Hamas and the formation of a unity government.
Former minister Majida al-Masri said an end to Palestinian divisions would strengthen the Palestinian representation externally and support the people’s political, economic and social steadfastness.
Since the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel continues to benefit from the division to sabotage efforts to establish a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip and stall peace talks.
Bahour stressed that the Palestinian internal situation could no longer sustain the lack of unity, loss of public legitimacy and lack of a post-Oslo peace accords strategy.
Palestinian unity, learning from the failures of the 1994 Oslo accords, a sound strategy moving forward that addresses Palestinians’ rights first and foremost, is bound to change the current situation, he explained.
According to Ashrawi, reconciliation would help Palestinians activate the political system, have elections and secure public and international recognition.
While Palestinians say reconciliation is the answer to their inability to solve many internal and external issues, they seem less united regarding whether they should adopt nonviolent or armed resistance.
Rateb Abu Rahme, coordinator of the popular committee in the West Bank village of Bil’in, said he firmly believes Palestinians have a great chance to succeed by supporting popular resistance and turning it into a prevalent intifada to face Israel’s expanding settlements and disregard of Palestinians’ rights and extrajudicial killings.
Fahour approved, saying: “It would be wise for us to find other venues of resistance where we have an advantage, such as non-violent civil disobedience.”
Despite its small accomplishments, many believe non-violent resistance is the most apt alternative at the moment as Israel attempts to take advantage of the surging violence since October 2015 and youths’ involvement in stabbings and vehicle-ramming incidents against Israelis.
“We cannot afford to allow the current acts of violence by our young to blindly lead us to a battleground that Israel repeatedly drags us to, violence. This is the only game Israel knows how to play,” he said.
Insisting the lull is just a phase, Ashrawi said: “As the Arab world fights for democracy, governments will devote their powers for the Palestinian cause once again, because leaving it unresolved will only increase violence in the region.”