Yossi Beilin is a smart man – he told us so himself – and because of that, he is quite certain that the Netanyahu government will not accept the four Palestinian demands of (1) the cessation of settlement activity; (2) adopting the 4th June 1967 border as a reference; (3) the release of detainees and prisoners; and (4) going directly to the two-state solution, according to a timetable that goes beyond "the gradual approach". Beilin uses this certainty to propose that President Mahmoud Abbas hand over the Palestinian Authority to the Israeli Government, and not merely dissolve it; that Israel has to take over the burden of managing four million Palestinians outside the Green Line, and providing various health, education and other services; that it should be spending money on its occupation of Palestinian land.
Who is Beilin? He was one of the most active architects of the Oslo Accord and an equally enthusiastic defender of it. Beilin was also, along with Yasser Abed Robbo, one of the godfathers of the Geneva Accord of 2003, which was both praised and criticised. Indeed, Beilin is one of the most prominent leaders of what was once known in Israel as the "peace camp". However, the man has reached a dead end. Oslo was scheduled to be transitory, with a five-year timetable; twenty years later and it still hasn't achieved its goals. The long life of Oslo is thus a sign of its failure, not a witness to its success. Those who still hold on to Oslo, and to the institutions that emerged from it – the Palestinian Authority in particular – are either Palestinians mercenaries on the margins of the PA, or Israelis who use it as the justification for avoiding the financial and legal obligations of the occupation.
Beilin's latest proposal mirrors that of many Palestinians whose voices are getting louder in calling for the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority and handing over its responsibilities to the Israeli occupation authorities, or redefining its role to that of a municipality, with no security or major political function. Such calls are now being heard from supporters of Oslo and the PA, whereas in years past they had emanated solely from opposition groups.
President Abbas personally outlined to Arab leaders and ministers on more than one occasion his evaluation of the current situation. The viability of a two-state solution is eroding fast and the chance to establish a Palestinian state is being reduced. The Israelis, he feels, want to make the PA similar to the "mini-state in southern Lebanon" and to make Abbas another Saad Haddad or Antoine Lahad, turning the thousands of Palestinians affiliated to the security services into another "South Lebanon Army". The PA's Minister of Civil Affairs and member of the Central Executive Committee, Hussein al-Sheikh, has talked about an Israeli strategy to make the Palestinian Authority a security agent for the occupation. He has issued warnings about the implications of Israel returning to "civil administration" mode, using the PA for security purposes and to act as a buffer between the occupation forces and the people living under occupation.
The PA did in fact threaten to dissolve itself but did not do so, so it has lost the shock value of this trump card. It also said that the 26th January would be significant, but that date has passed, as has 26th February and March, and 26th April will pass soon, but nothing has changed. Palestinian threats have been meaningless, so who will take such talk seriously in the future? We all know about the boy who cried, "Wolf!"
Instead of implementing what was proclaimed to be "a new Palestinian strategy" without delay, Abbas is now writing a letter to the Netanyahu government; we will get no more than the satisfaction of conveying the message before Netanyahu will reply with a very practical message of his own: aggression, expanded settlements and their "legalisation", and further blackmail attempts. While our letter apparently needs months to get the words right, Netanyahu will take minutes to impose his response. So we will see dozens more illegal settlement units and hundreds more Palestinians killed, wounded and imprisoned by the Israeli occupation. There is a huge difference between the two messages: one will be words on paper, the other the language of war, conquest and colonisation.
I'm not saying we should take advice and wisdom from Yossi Beilin; I'm just calling for some open dialogue and deep consideration to set the PA straight. Is it still an asset to the Palestinian national project or has it become a burden? Will a comprehensive review of the Palestinian Authority lead to its dissolution or the giving up of some of its functions? Are security coordination and the "Foreign Ministry" things which the PA can continue to handle? Or should it be enough for it to provide municipal services on the basis of "supporting steadfastness" and an abandonment of its dated and discredited obligations? Which are more beneficial: the PA's obligations towards Israel under the Oslo Accord, or those to its own people, eager for freedom and independence? Perhaps most important than either is the Palestinian commitment to ourselves, to those of us who are still waiting to see the practical benefits of the "strategy" which we were promised.
I do not claim to have answers to these questions and I do not even know if there are any. All I know is that Netanyahu is against negotiations and has no honest commitment to the two-state solution and a just peace. Israel is moving further to the right daily and that has to be bad news. There are no signs of a "desired breakthrough".
We wanted a Palestinian Authority which could form the nucleus of a state, but that hasn't happened. So when the road leading from Authority to State is cut off, why do we need an Authority which swallows the PLO and its liberation aims; acts as a "security agent" for the Israeli occupation; helps the Israelis to reduce the price they have to pay for their occupation; and becomes an umbrella for the continuation of settlement activities?These are questions for which the answers can only come through an open and honest national dialogue.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.