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Handing over the keys of power to the Palestinian people

The chief negotiator in the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat, called on PLO president Mahmoud Abbas, to dissolve the organization and throw its keys in the face of the United States if they hinder Palestinian efforts to gain recognition from the UN General Assembly in September as an independent state based on the 1967 “borders.” Erekat threatened implicitly to nullify the 1993 Oslo Agreements, saying: “the Palestinian Authority will either be or will not be the deliverer of independence, and after 2011, there is no room for the continuation of a nominal authority to sanction powers called the Israeli occupation.”

Anyone attempting to interpret Erekat’s words would be confused. Is it a trivial threat from which it is possible to backtrack once an appropriate reward is secured? Is this a definite decision from which there is no return after the Palestinian Authority reached a dead end with America and Israel? Or, is it a belated recognition of the futility of the Oslo Agreements which installed the Palestinian Authority as “a nominal authority to sanction powers called the Israeli occupation?”


All of these are possible explanations, but they are no positive answers to them. The head of Israeli government, Benjamin Netanyahu, threatens on his part to annul the Oslo Agreements if the Palestinian Authority were to unilaterally declare the establishment of a Palestinian state in September. Then, there is the Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, who said, after an emergency council meeting at the Arab League, that the PA are in urgent need of $300 million “to overcome the bottleneck,” pointing out that “the total it has received in aid in 2011 reached $331 million, from which $79 million were from Arab states; this last figure does not include the $30 million in support that Saudi Arabia has given recently.”

This means, after a simple calculation, that about two-thirds of the financial support given to the PA comes from non-Arab sources. Is this not a shameful state of affairs that deserves condemnation?

If the reality is this level of vulnerability and shallowness, what will the PLO do the day after it obtained recognition from the General Assembly for a Palestinian state? How will they confront the possibility of Israel rescinding the Oslo Agreements, and how will they respond if Israel were to escalate the construction of settlements across the West Bank? Or, if it stops the payment of revenue derived from taxes (if any remains), and what will they do if the US Congress decides to cut off aid, as Mr Erekat alluded?

The non-existence, let alone announcement, of a comprehensive plan to face the  political, financial, and economic challenges due after the recognition of the Palestinian state causes an objective observer to wonder whether Erekat’s disclosure is only a prelude to the PLO/PA withdrawal of the plan and return to negotiations; the only “option” which is least harmful to the Palestinian people.

Is this, therefore, the end of the UN recognition project, or is it just a political and media campaign orchestrated to pressure everyone, Arabs, Muslims, Americans, and Europeans, in order to soften Israel’s negotiating conditions for a return to the negotiation table.  That would enable the PLO and the PA to save face before their people?

Whatever the intentions of the PA and PLO, the preferred method to meet the challenges that will arise from recognition of the Palestinian state – annulment of the Oslo Agreements and cutting of American and European aid – would be to deepen the conviction of the world; Arabs and non-Arabs, western and eastern-that the Palestinian people, leaders, factions, activists, and thinkers, are serious and determined to continue their struggle for the liberation of Palestine through the following political programme:

Firstly: to expedite the process of Palestinian reconciliation and strengthen national unity both within Palestine and in the Diaspora.

Secondly: to form a national consensus government to manage the affairs of the Palestinian people during a transitional period, not exceeding six months. Foremost among its tasks would be the organizing of legislative elections for a new leadership from which would emerge a broad national government, which in turn would arrange a presidential election.

Thirdly: the rebuilding of the PLO as the sole representative body of the Palestinian people in word and deed, and as leader of their civil resistance.

Fourthly: an agreement within the PLO, and between all the factions and leaders on a plan to meet the challenges that may arise from the nullification of the Oslo Agreement. This must be undertaken by the Palestinian people acting in consort with the nationalist and democratic forces in the Arab nation and the Islamic world.

Fifthly: to convene an all-inclusive Palestinian conference in Cairo from which would emerge a follow-up council mandated to organise a popular movement for the Palestinians and their supporters around the world in order to restore the centrality of their cause and pressure the Arab states to fulfil their responsibilities to the Palestinian people. The least that can be done in this regard is to provide the necessary financial support to meet the challenges of the time, on all levels.

Through unity and hard work and with their weighty presence in occupied Palestine, and in the neighbouring Arab and Islamic countries, the Palestinians will convince the world of their seriousness. What is required, first and foremost, though, is to hand over the keys of power to the Palestinian people and not to throw them in the face of others.

The author is a Lebanese writer. This article first appeared in Arabic in the Emirati newspaper, Al-Khaleej, 30/07/2011

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

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