Most of the readings of and predictions for the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations anticipate that the two sides will reach a dead end. These predictions are largely based on pessimistic statements made by officials on both sides, as well as on the trends in Israeli public opinion. However, this pessimistic outlook has not prevented a number of optimistic estimations from the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli government, and several diplomatic circles close to this issue.
When it comes to us, we have questioned and continue to question whether or not the negotiations will succeed. We have often repeated and reiterated our belief that the road to negotiations is a dead end and we have often based this assumption on the deep-rooted shifts that have occurred in the Israeli community within the past twenty years, including the trends in Israeli society towards religious extremism, national security, and the growing influence of the “settlement lobby” in internal Israeli politics and its reorientation as a legitimate political party alongside Likud, Kadima, and other parties of the right and far right.
However this time around, we will try to answer the following questions: what if these negotiations successfully lead to reaching an agreement? What will this agreement look like? Which Palestinian rights will be lost on the road to reaching this agreement? Will this agreement be the unwavering and marketable type of agreement? Will this agreement elevate the status of the Palestinian Authority or will it be the final nail drilled into the coffin? Will this agreement be the end of the Palestinian national movement as we have known it since 1965? How will this agreement affect the balance of power within the Palestinian movement’s “national” and “Islamic” wings? Indeed, there are a flood of questions.
As we all figured from the outset, these negotiations have begun by placing the Palestinian negotiators at a very low point, not just in terms of the reality that is present on the ground, which overwhelmingly favours the occupation, but also in terms of the preconditions placed on the Palestinian Authority as well. The Palestinian negotiators have agreed to go to the negotiations without a freeze in illegal settlement activity and without requiring Israel to provide an outline for the negotiations. The only thing the Palestinians got was a “consolation prize” in that Israel agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners who have been in jail since before Oslo. The prisoners have been scheduled to be released in four different groups and before each group is released, the Palestinian Authority must report to Israel, giving them more than enough time to build even more settlement units in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
In light of America’s unilateral role as the sole mediator of the negotiations, the guidelines established by President Clinton, which were rejected by the late President Yasser Arafat, who ultimately paid the price for this with his life, continue to embody the limitations of the American position on this matter. The US advocates for minimal exchanges of territories and Israel remains adamant on its decision that Jerusalem is not under negotiation and that it will remain “eternally the undivided capital” of Israel. Any discussion of the Right of Return has been deemed as “absurd”, whereas the issues of “sovereignty” on the ground, zones, resources and crossings will all be determined by what is needed to maintain Israeli security.
As we have already said, in light of all these determinants, not to mention internal, regional, and international issues, it does not seem that these negotiations will lead to an agreement. However, if a miracle was to happen and an agreement is to be settled on, it will undoubtedly come at the expense of the Palestinian people’s legitimacy and rights. The signatories of this agreement will not be able to market it credibly and they will pay the price by losing their image, prestige and their privilege of action as the representatives of the Palestinian people. This outcome will undoubtedly enable their local rivals and opponents to regain their positions after the mistakes they have made in their previous policies and accounts. More importantly, any “half-worthy” humiliating agreement will not succeed in appeasing the Palestinians in their demand for a fair end to their struggle for justice and freedom. It will not stop them from fighting for the establishment of a sovereign independent state with Jerusalem as the capital.
Any agreement of this nature will not succeed in ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In fact, if anything, it will open the door to a long and bitter era of conflict with Israel and it will legitimise the silenced majority, which until now has been suppressed.
I will also venture to say that if the Palestinian leadership agrees to such a deal, it will not be met with marches of acceptance by a struggling people and nation, especially in the climate of the “Arab Spring”. It is possible that this will cause the masses to begin marching once and for all. Yet, it is difficult to truly determine what the outcomes of any political decision will be when considering the revolutionary trends and rapid changes that are occurring in our region.
This is a translation of the Arabic text published in Al Estqlal Newspaper on 3 November, 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.