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Palestinian successes need to be turned into practical progress

January 25, 2014 at 2:03 am

The history books will record November 2012 as the month in which the Palestinian people achieved three major victories which could change the power equations in the region:

The important military victory against Israel’s “Operation Pillar of Defence” was represented by the success of missiles fired by the Palestinian resistance. It matters not whether they were Iranian-made or produced locally; they reached Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and sent four million Israelis scurrying into air-raid shelters in panic.

The diplomatic victory of the UN agreeing to President Mahmoud Abbas’s application for recognition of Palestine as a “non-member” state cannot be overstated. Votes in favour came from 138 countries, with only nine countries voting against. Most of the latter are too small to be of any real significance, something that reflects badly on, and should be no source of pride to, the ringleaders of the “no” vote lobby in America and Israel.

The third victory is the emergence of the enhanced possibility of Palestinian national reconciliation, with serious understanding between the two main protagonists, Fatah and Hamas.

Israel has thus suffered a military and political loss which was reflected in its leaders’ hallucinations that the international recognition of the Palestinians’ state is of little importance. Would they have invested so much in trying to get a “no” vote if it means nothing? And if it is not important, why the need for desperate retaliation, not least through the announcement of 3,000 new housing units in settlements in the occupied West Bank?

The important question now for the Palestinians is how to build on these successes in the coming weeks and months in a manner which strengthens them against Israeli mischief. They also need to turn the achievements into positive changes on the ground, such as at the International Criminal Court.

Moreover, celebrations of UN recognition should not be exaggerated, despite its importance, as the state of Palestine still only exists in theory. It is worth remembering the joyful celebrations in 1988 when the Palestinian National Council adopted the “declaration of independence”; and after the Oslo accord, following which some people even put olive branches in Israeli soldiers’ gun barrels because they thought that the Palestinian state was close to reality.

Civil disobedience in all West Bank cities and villages against the Israeli occupation should be escalated in order to maintain the current momentum resulting from the victories in Gaza and the UN. If the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah could gather tens of thousands of people to celebrate and support President Abbas, then why can’t it direct the same crowds to demonstrate against the settlements and the humiliating Israeli checkpoints?
National unity should be achieved by following-up on Hamas’s support for Abbas’s UN move with the release of political detainees and proceeding towards reconciliation on a multi-option basis, including Palestinian resistance in all its forms.

It goes without saying that the Palestinian national constants must be stressed at every opportunity, including the right of return for refugees, occupied Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state and maintaining the possibility of a one-state solution.

The Palestinians must not give in to US and European pressure to go back to negotiations with the Israelis without pre-conditions. Nor must they give up their right to join the International Criminal Court in order to bring Israeli war criminals to justice.

President Abbas succeeded in ending his isolation in the Arab and international arenas because he did not buckle under Israel’s psychological terrorism to which he was subjected to make him change his mind. He did not give in to Barack Obama’s blackmail and he has to continue moving along the same path, because the next stage is going to witness vicious Israeli sanctions, especially as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to regain some credibility as he seeks re-election.

The Netanyahu government can stop transferring tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority; it can also pressure the US Congress to withhold the $200m it sends annually to the PA; and no one can stop Israel if it decides to cancel the VIP cards it gives to top PA officials. However, such harsh procedures will end up being in the best interests of the Palestinian people who may well vent their anger in a third intifada.

After the celebrations, the Palestinians will discover that the Israeli occupation is still in place; the daily humiliation at Israeli checkpoints is ongoing; illegal settlement expansion is at its peak; official Arab support is still absent; and media interest is decreasing. They should therefore develop a “road map for the struggle” to overcome these negatives and face them with strength. The responsibility for this lies primarily with the Palestinian Authority.

President Abbas holds five important positions: Palestinian President, President of the Palestinian Authority, President of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, President of Fatah, and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. His most important title, though, is that given to him by Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman after his approach to the UN: “political terrorist”. This was emphasised by the “moderate” Tzipi Livni, a former Mossad agent who boasts about killing Arabs; she described Abbas’s step as a “strategic terrorist attack”.

If I were President Abbas, I would be pleased about this new title, which means a lot, coming as it does from his enemies. I hope that he can keep this honour because his biggest achievement, in my eyes, is not UN recognition but the effective annulment of the Oslo accord. That agreement was the biggest mistake of the Palestinian national movement and its basic cancellation should not be mourned.

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