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A critique of eternal negotiations at any cost

January 24, 2014 at 6:35 am

Discussing the points of view that support the resumption of “eternal and at any cost” negotiations we can see that some have called publically on the top decision-maker to override the national consensus because it is, they claim, stuck in the past and a slave to rigidity and slogans.

If we examine carefully the main reasoning of such people, we find that it depends on the US administration, especially under Barack Obama. They are also counting on John Kerry’s efforts, determination and seriousness; he has been very persistent over the past few months to bring about the resumption of negotiations. He will need to display similar determination for a successful outcome because he has a dream and believes that he is capable of achieving what his predecessors were unable to do. The compelling argument to those supporting this option is that the US has expressed its intention to establish a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with some modifications, and that Europe has gone further than the US in this regard when it decided to boycott Israeli settlements.

Those in favour of negotiations continue to justify their position by claiming that the US, Europe and the rest of the world are tired of the Palestine-Israel conflict and want to find a solution that is in the best interests of the region and the world. They also want to preserve their waning influence in the region in the face of the hurricane of changes, revolutions and chaos, the end results of which are still unknown.

Those counting on the Americans have not explained why they believe that the US will succeed this time when it has failed for over 20 years. They have ignored the possibility that America will take advantage of the unrest in the region to put pressure on the Palestinians to accept an agreement and to try to establish an Arab-US-Israeli alliance against Iran. They also fear another Palestinian intifada, which will add a further dimension to the Arab situation, driving them to turn even more against America and Israel. However, the intifada card must only be used if and when necessary; it must not be wasted as we Palestinians have wasted many other strong cards in the past.

Moreover, they do not appear to have looked at Kerry’s chances of success in the light of the Obama administration’s complete acceptance of the Zionist narrative. It will not put pressure on Israel and has thus created a serious imbalance in favour of Israel; the US regards Israel as its only permanent and dependable ally. America’s other allies in the region have either fallen already or are under threat. Success in the new negotiations would mean that the US-backed Israeli negotiator has, at worst, been able to maintain the status quo or at best, in Israeli eyes, imposed a solution which liquidates every aspect of the Palestinian cause.

Negotiation theorists are straining themselves to demonstrate that the Palestinian reality is very weak, in part due to the impact of the devastating factional division, in addition to the fact that the Arab reality is worse, and that the whole world is pushing us towards talks. They also suggest that refraining from negotiations will subject the Palestinians to the logic of slogans instead of a more calculated approach. Slogans want everything, we are told, but do not achieve anything, while calculations accomplish things; they forget that an awful reality needs to be dealt with in order to change it rather than accepted and surrendered to.

They have repeated the claim that negotiations mean “bargaining”, which is true, but they neglect the fact that the Palestinians, by virtue of their “rational” leadership has been making more than its fair share of concessions in what have never been discussions between equals. The Israelis have always had the whip hand, backed by the US, of course.

The Palestinian leadership has been pushed to recognise the state of Israel while it has never been pushed likewise to give formal recognition to a state of Palestine. The Palestine Liberation Organisation also gave up the armed struggle and has adopted bilateral negotiations as the only way to resolve the conflict although Israel has not ended its aggressive, expansionist military occupation and racist policies.

The insistence on negotiations under miserable Palestinian, Arab, and international conditions with the most right-wing Israeli government in history is an invitation for the Palestinians to surrender everything. The rights of refugees to return to their land will thus be sold for a mini-state on the lacerated and disconnected leftovers of the West Bank. This is described as “politics as the art of the possible”.

Criticism of the Palestinians’ performance has been inspired by what President Mahmoud Abbas wrote and said after signing the Oslo Accords: this agreement may lead to a state or a disaster, but this depends on the Palestinian performance. The problem is not only in the performance but also the path chosen by the leadership ever since Oslo.

The “negotiation group” held Yasser Arafat and his performance responsible for the failure of Oslo because he did not follow through with the negotiations until the end. Moreover, he did not completely abandon the path of national liberation and struggle and continued to use armed resistance to improve his hand in the talks. The group also holds Hamas and Islamic Jihad responsible because they carried out martyrdom operations in order to disable Oslo and prove their ability to govern and represent the Palestinians, at a time when the Palestinians were required to convince Israel and America that establishing a Palestinian state would be beneficial for security and stability in the region.

These people overlook the fact that the route they are supporting has been tried since the isolation and death of Arafat but has only led to loss of land, political division, a more-entrenched occupation and the expansion of settlements. More of the same will lead inevitably to capitulation for the simple reason that there will be nothing left to “negotiate”.

The root of the problem is that “negotiators” are wrong to believe that that a settlement is possible and within reach. Such a misconception is ultimately destructive because it drains whatever elements of power and unity the Palestinians have left. Most importantly, it ignores the justice of the Palestinian cause, its moral superiority, its core character of national liberation, the determination of the Palestinian people to struggle for their rights, despite all the sacrifices, and a growing international solidarity movement.

There are signs of national vitality in all the forms of resistance and boycott across Palestine and the West Bank and Gaza, and in the Diaspora. A final agreement must, therefore, be fair and not without justice, because the alternative is Palestinian surrender so that Israel’s conditions are met in full. There would be no justice in that at all.

The author is a Palestinian writer. This article is a translation of the Arabic text published in As Safir Newspaper on 6 August, 2013

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.