The Palestinians’ best options

Friday 04/03/2016
Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe (R) and President Mahmoud Abbas after their meeting in Tokyo on February 15th

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.”