Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been thrown to the wolves. No matter how sincere he may be in his efforts to bring a Palestinian state into being, all the cards are being held by and its ally the United States. He’s like a man trying to negotiate a bank loan without income or collateral assets hoping he’ll find the bank manager in a charitable mood. Unfortunately, there is nothing remotely charitable about the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He rejected a two-state solution until he was pressured by US President Barack Obama into paying lip service to the notion.
To be brutally frank, the leader of a people who have been suffocated under occupation for more than six decades has very few bargaining chips. Gamal Abdel Nasser once said, “What was taken by force must be restored by force”.
In principle, there’s a grain of truth to that. For instance, if Egypt had not triumphed in the 1973 war, it would not have regained the Sinai Peninsular, captured by in 1967. When President Anwar Sadat negotiated the 1979 Egypt- Peace Treaty, he sat down with his protagonists as an equal partner armed with his country’s Egypt’s battlefield victories.
The Palestinians have no such clout. Their fighters have fought bravely against the occupier since 1948. Much Palestinian blood was sacrificed during the First and Second Uprising (Intifada) but AK-47s and rockets forged by local blacksmiths are no match for tanks, drones, F-16s, Apache attack helicopters, missiles, cluster bombs and white phosphorus.
Moreover, despite the right of an occupied people to resistance and self-defence, due to the West’s overwhelming pro- bias, when Palestinians use violence they are designated ‘terrorists’. Thousands of such Palestinians labelled as ‘terrorists’ are children locked-up in ’s prisons for daring to throw stones at soldiers.
Indeed, as current discussions are stalled President Abbas has assured that there will be no violent reaction in the case of a breakdown, which must have been music to Netanyahu’s ears. “We tried the Intifada and it caused us a great deal of damage,” Abbas said. That smacks of defeatism but it also happens to be true. Even the fiercest lion cannot prevail when faced with a hunter’s rifle.
So, if the Palestinian leader has publicly acknowledged the futility of armed resistance and doesn’t have any chips to bring to the table what does he have to bargain with?
Not much. Not only is President Abbas not authorised to speak for all Palestinians - who are split between Fatah and Hamas - his presidential tenure expired over a year ago. Therefore, his signature on any agreement wouldn’t be worth the paper it was written on. Within no time, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant organisations would be lobbing rockets at Israeli population centres in the Negev when any deal would be considered null and void.
Over the past weeks, one thing has become crystal clear. As far as the Israeli leadership is concerned the current push for is nothing more than a time-wasting chore to keep the international community off its back.
Netanyahu’s refusal to extend the settlement freeze shows a complete absence of goodwill as does his insistence that President Abbas acknowledge as a Jewish state. ’s leader knows full well that however high the stakes Mr Abbas cannot accept that precondition without comprising refugee rights of return and the rights of Israeli to continued citizenship.
If Abbas were foolish enough to acquiesce over this ideological hot potato, he would be branded a traitor by his own people. It saddens me to watch the Palestinian leader shaking hands with Netanyahu for camera-ops as though they were recently reunited best friends. He is genuinely open to compromise but ’s crafty fox is an accomplished actor with a hidden agenda. He is doing everything he can to gum up the works.
With Israeli colonists already laying the foundations for new constructions on the occupied West Bank and ’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman promoting an exchange of territory mostly populated by Israeli as part of a land swap, President Abbas has put the talks on hold until he meets with other Arab leaders. Lieberman may be a loose-lipped renegade but Netanyahu hasn’t taken him to task or said anything to indicate his disapproval of that revolting plan.
President Abbas is shortly expected to consult with Arab heads of state at an Arab League summit to be held in Cairo. I can picture it now: lots of handshaking and hugs, plenty of heated discussion and condemnation of and a nice, neat joint statement to be filed away with hundreds of others. Sorry, but this simply isn’t good enough.
’s occupation of the Palestinian land, and, in particular, the Jerusalem site of Islam’s third holiest shrine the Haram El-Sharif is not a Palestinian problem; it’s an Arab problem, a Muslim problem. The Palestinian people are our brothers and sisters. Haven’t they been abandoned for long enough? What kind of family is it that stands by doing nothing while their siblings or cousins are humiliated, starved, displaced, imprisoned, assassinated and bombed?
Ideally, parties involved in a dispute should be the ones to solve it, but when those parties fail to resolve those differences time and again, they should take another tack. President Abbas cannot go it alone so he should step away from the negotiating table in favour of an Arab committee made up of, say, leaders from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey.
Once Mr Abbas has garnered a majority consent from his people in the form of a referendum, he should issue a written authority or the ‘power of attorney’ empowering those countries to negotiate on his behalf. The US and Europe should also remove themselves from the arena as they can no longer pretend to be honest brokers. They inundate with carrots sent without sticks.
Arab leaders must step up to the plate before Netanyahu and his expansionist ilk smash it to pieces. They’re already blaming President Abbas for the failed talks and, no doubt, laughing up their sleeves. This giant con has gone on for far too long already. I appeal to every Arab King, President, Prime Minister, Emir and Sheikh. Don’t let them get away with it! Don’t just listen to President Abbas. For once, do something constructive to help him!