Tariq Shadid, 10 Dec 2010
Albert Einstein, a man recognized as one of the greatest geniuses in the history of mankind, once said: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” It seems blatantly clear that those who are in power in the Palestinian ‘National’ Authority have either never read this wisdom, or are stubbornly refusing to understand its meaning, let alone put it into practice.
The Americans have announced in the clearest of wordings that they have abandoned efforts to pressure Israel into enforcing a new moratorium on the expansion of settlements, even though what they were trying to achieve was already deemed insufficient by both the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League.
The Americans were not demanding that Israel stop its expansions in East Jerusalem, though this was a precondition put on the table by the Palestinian Authority for the resumption of negotiations. The fact that Washington was not even trying to achieve this from the Israelis, without losing the confidence of Mahmoud Abbas, indicates that the PA would probably have dropped its demands on freezing settlement expansion in East Jerusalem, if Obama’s Administration would have managed to convince the Israelis to – temporarily – freeze it only in the West Bank.
By assuming this position, Abbas and his colleagues were already sending out a signal of such flagrant diplomatic weakness that the failure of achieving the new West Bank ‘settlement freeze’ was practically a done deal from the start. In fact, it would have come as a complete surprise should the Israelis have decided to impose the new temporary ‘freeze’, since it would have indicated that the Israelis would have suddenly lost their diplomatic chess-playing skills.
Still, this display of lousy diplomatic maneuvering by Mahmoud Abbas was clearly not enough. Apparently, his PA is insisting on proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that it has no clue whatsoever when it comes to strategy, exploiting diplomatic support, or exerting political pressure. To top off the already embarrassing display of failed politics, Abed Rabbo told Voice of Palestine radio what the new PA strategy would be: “This impasse has led the US Administration to choose another method, which is returning to indirect talks … to move the peace process past this impasse and address the final-status issues.” The new plan: to resume proximity talks, and go to Washington simultaneously with the Israelis. Go figure.
In other words, the PA’s diplomatic strategy in the past year can be summed up as follows: to first accept proximity talks despite the continuation of illegal Israeli settlement expansion, to then enter direct talks under a ‘settlement freeze’ – which never entailed a complete stop in building but in fact meant that Israel made some temporary cosmetic changes in order to be able to continue building unabated – and then to finally return to proximity talks when Israel refuses to prolong a fake freeze.
How is Israel supposed to understand this posturing except as a sign of incredible weakness on the Palestinian side, and how are we supposed to expect Israel not to exploit this attitude, when it has become a well-known fact all around the world that Israel has no real intentions of forging any kind of peace agreement with the Palestinians?
Is there is any clearer way to demonstrate your political impotence and thereby totally undermine your negotiating position, than to set an ultimatum and allow it to pass without action? This is exactly what Abbas did, and even twice at least; first he gave the Americans ‘one more month’ when they failed to pressure Israel at the expiration of the ‘settlement freeze’ at the end of September. Then, when the month expired, he still was not brave enough to walk away.
Jerusalem Report 2010
One might have had some understanding for the weak attitude of the Palestinian Authority, if there was a complete lack of support for the Palestinian position on the level of international diplomacy. In reality, it is the other way around. Rarely in the recent history of the Oslo-drama, have there been so many clear signs of support for the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the territories occupied in 1967, as there have been in recent times.
The European Union publicized the ‘Jerusalem Report 2010′ on December 1st, which contains a series of EU policy recommendations. The European Union has seldom been so explicit in its opposition against the Israeli occupation and its settlement policies. The document even stipulates: “If current trends are not stopped as a matter of urgency, the prospect of East Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state becomes increasingly unlikely and unworkable. This in turn seriously endangers the chances of a sustainable peace on the basis of two states, with Jerusalem as their future capital.”
Is this not enough for Mahmoud Abbas, to give him courage in dealing with the Israelis and Americans? We would all wish that he would be this demanding; it would somewhat counter his image of almost limitless weakness that he has been building up throughout the years. But this report fortunately goes a lot further than this. It draws attention to the “serious humanitarian consequences” of Israel’s settlement planning in East Jerusalem, combined with increased demolitions and evictions of Palestinians and curbs on Palestinian building in the sector. We are hard pressed to find any strong public statements even from Abbas himself about these issues.
The EU report continues to assume a position that we can only dream of hearing said out loud in a major political venue by the current leader of the PA. It states that such policies are also harming East Jerusalem’s “crucial role” in Palestinian political, economic, social and cultural life, and causing it to be increasingly isolated from the rest of the occupied West Bank. It also says that Israel’s attempts to exclusively emphasize the ‘Jewish identity’ of the city are threatening to “radicalize the conflict, with potential regional and global repercussions.” And the report even warns of the EU’s increasing concern about Israel’s “use of archaeology as a political-ideological tool” in a bid to cement the Jewish state’s hold over the entire city.
As AFP reported on December 1, the report concludes with a series of recommendations which call on senior EU officials “to regularly host Palestinian officials” at their offices in East Jerusalem, and to avoid having Israeli officials or security accompanying them on visits to the city’s Eastern sector. It also recommends advising EU tour operators to avoid settler businesses in East Jerusalem, such as hotels and archaeological sites run by settler groups. Finally, it proposes ensuring an EU presence when there is a risk that people may be evicted or have their homes demolished in East Jerusalem.
Support for a unilateral declaration of independence
Still, Abbas seems to be insisting that the Americans and Israelis are the only parties he will take seriously. He fails to utilize whatever is available in terms of diplomatic support, and continues to put himself and the Palestinian people completely at the mercy of the Israeli occupiers and their die-hard allies in Washington.
Has there been any loud message of approval from the Palestinian Authority for the support that was recently extended from the South American continent for the declaration of Palestinian statehood, first by Brazil, and then followed by Argentina and Uruguay?
According to PressTV, even France on December 7th expressed its support for a free and independent Palestinian state, based on borders before the 1967 war, quoting Bernard Valero, spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry. Have those who lead the PA tried to capitalize on these new outside initiatives to help break free from an intolerable impasse? Could their lack of response be an explanation for the fact that the buck seems to have stopped with Uruguay?
The strongest words Abbas has spoken so far have been his threats to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, which is something many Palestinians have been waiting for for years. However, even in these bold statements, he chose words that can only illustrate his total subservience to the Israelis: “I’ll ask Israel to take over.” While dissolving the Palestinian Authority is supposed to be an act of rebellion, which is what could have given true weight and strength to his words, Abbas apparently would go about it in a way that would mean nothing more or less than a total surrender. One can hardly expect the unelected leader of an occupied people waging a struggle for their independence, to make a more embarrassing and damaging statement.
Israelis light fires, Palestinians fight them
It is therefore not so surprising that his threats to make moves towards the unilateral declaration of the Palestinian state, which is the exact opposite of saying “I’ll ask Israel to take over”, are barely being taken seriously by anyone. The ‘cry wolf’ phenomenon has already taken its toll; you only have a few chances to say something without adding action to your words, before they start sounding like the whimpering of the desperate.
On that same day, December 4th, his office issued a statement proudly announcing that Abbas had received a telephone call from Benjamin Netanyahu, thanking him for sending Palestinian firefighters to help control the raging inferno on mount Carmel. Of course there was no reason at all for him to send firefighters in the first place, considering the support the Israeli army has been giving on numerous occasions to settlers setting fire to Palestinian orchards, farmlands and olive plantations.
But to go as far as to boast about a telephone call which may well have been initiated by Abbas himself rather than by Netanyahu, practically amounts to putting one’s weakness on blatant display in a fashion that is totally out of tune with the resilient attitude of the Palestinian people he supposedly represents.
The ‘Peace of the Slave’
The real drama is not even described by these deplorable decisions, declarations, and political maneuvers. The real drama of Mahmoud Abbas and his administration is their stubborn dedication to subservience to Israel, the magnitude of which is not even illustrated by the repeated embarrassments they have brought upon the Palestinian people.
Acting in exactly the opposite way of Einstein’s famous advice quoted above, Abbas simply will not change the mentality that has been sowing the seeds of disaster for the Palestinians ever since the Palestinian Authority embarked on the road of the so-called ‘Peace of the Brave’, which obviously deserves the much more realistic name ‘Peace of the Slave’. This failed diplomatic strategy has done nothing but aggravate the situation of the Palestinians living under an oppressive and racist occupation, year after year.
The people of Palestine are being held hostage by an authority, that has no authority except over the income of a considerable percentage of Palestinian families, and they are being dragged towards an abyss of desperation, by an imposed captain who simply does not have the will nor the courage to change course. According to Einstein’s advice this will not lead to any solution nor to any improvement of the situation, and considering the magnificent contributions of that genius to mankind, we have every reason to believe it.
Tariq Shadid is a Palestinian general surgeon, currently working as the head of department in a hospital in the Middle East. He was born and raised in the Netherlands, and wrote numerous articles of political analysis for the Palestine Chronicle in the first years of the Al Aqsa Intifada, which are now bundled in the book “Understanding Palestine“, available on Amazon. For several years, he was an active board member of the Dutch organization “Stop de Bezetting” (Stop the Occupation) headed by prominent pro-Palestine activist Gretta Duisenberg. For almost five years, he was the official media spokesperson for the board of the Palestinian Community in the Netherlands (PGN), and became a well-known defender of the Palestinian cause in Dutch national media such as television, radio and newspapers. He is also a prolific singer/songwriter and producer of songs for the Palestinian cause, which can be found on his website at http://www.docjazz.com. More articles by Dr. Tariq Shadid on RamallahOnline here.