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An illegitimate president agrees to aimless negotiations

By Abdel Bari Atwan

Since his inauguration as president of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas has backed-down repeatedly from a number of demands, destroying his credibility, and that of the entire Palestinian people, in the eyes of Arabs and the rest of the world. He vowed not to resume negotiations following the Annapolis conference while settlement building continued, but he did. He said that he would not move from indirect to direct negotiations unless some sort of progress was made, but he is now preparing to travel to Washington next week even though none of his conditions for talks have been met.

It is unclear why President Abbas is attending negotiations which basically have no points of reference although if there were any, he would respect neither them nor those representing them, nor would he abide by their aims. It is no exaggeration to say that Abbas neither respects the Palestinian people and their views nor recognises their existence.

In the past, Mahmoud Abbas would resort to the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization   not to the Central National Council   to adopt a resolution which supports negotiations in response to US pressure. However, lacking personal legitimacy and confidence about getting such support, he no longer commits himself to this step and tends to decide on his own the fate of the Palestinians, the logical extension of which could be signing a peace agreement in his name alone.

Only nine members of the PLO Executive Committee attended the last meeting, although official Palestinian TV showed a crowded room of participants to give the impression that the quorum was complete and that its decision was thus legal. It was one of Abbas's most serious political deceptions against his own people. He is not supported by a long list of representative bodies: the Popular and Democratic Fronts, the Palestinian People's Party, the remnants of the Palestinian and Arab liberation movements, the ten factions represented in Damascus (including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the PFLP-GC, and most of the resistance movements in the Gaza Strip), and the Palestinian Economic Forum. So by whom is he backed? And who is he representing in these negotiations?

One day after the approval to go to Washington, there was a news leak reporting Abbas's anger over US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statement confirming that the negotiations will take place without any preconditions, echoing the verbatim demands of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. It was said that Abbas calmed down after calls from the US State Department, but then Palestinian negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekat claimed that the PA President would not return to negotiations "if one stone was put on top of another" in the Israeli settlements.

Dr. Erekat has obviously completely forgotten about the series of "no talks unless…" statements made by President Abbas and himself. They are all on YouTube if he needs a reminder. None of the Palestinian objections lasted more than a few days, sometimes just a few hours, before they were replaced by a big "yes" supported by naïve and unconvincing justifications.

It is no coincidence that every time the Palestinian President decides to undo one of his preconditions, or all of them, and return to negotiations, the salary payments of the 160,000 PA employees are delayed. This is accompanied by lengthy reports on the magnitude of the budget deficit and the threat of non-payment for months should US demands not be taken into account. Thus, the most pernicious achievement of the Palestinian Authority is the transformation of the people of the West Bank and part of Gaza into "salary slaves" subject to monthly blackmail. What we fear is that this slavery will lead to giving up all of Palestine or what remains thereof.

The most serious consequence of the "economic peace" adopted by the PA is the obliteration of the Palestinians' honourable history. Just prior to the creation of the Authority, one of the most prominent and powerful slogans in Palestinian history was "bread with dignity". Now the new generation in the West Bank knows nothing about the Intifada, or any other resistance options for the Palestinians apart from negotiations in order to get a salary at the end of the month. This generation knows little about the situation that existed during their fathers' time, when the PA was much better than it is today and things were clear: on one side the Israeli occupation, and on the other, popular and fierce resistance.

Today, while there is still an occupation, on the other side there are local agents whose priority is the safety and comfort of the Israeli settlers, agents who are willing to stand up brutally to anyone who insults or annoys them through prayer calls and the recitation of verses from the Qur'an from minarets across the occupied West Bank. The Minister of Islamic Endowments (Awqaf) and his fatwas issued to appease the illegal settlers fly in the face of logic and all Islamic requirements. The Palestinian security forces have become an extension of their Israeli counterparts and coordinate their work with the US against their own people who are considering a return to the pre-PA status quo.

Netanyahu lies to the Arabs and Americans alike, but he does not dare lie to his allies in Israel's ruling coalition, or the Israeli electorate, because he will be held accountable if he does not remain committed to the platform on which he came to power. There is no such accountability for President Abbas, no opportunity for the people of Palestine to remind him of his electoral platform or any ability to threaten a vote of no confidence in his presidency; his legal term of office ended two years ago despite which he still acts as if he is the unanimously-elected president with an open mandate.

The White House is well aware of these facts, as it well aware of the Palestinian Authority's decision-making mechanism and the weaknesses of those around the president (they have no political authority or strength). As such the US administration exerts pressure and issues orders safe in the knowledge that they will be followed without hesitation.

With the blessings of certain "moderate" (that is, similarly US-compliant) Arab leaders by whom President Abbas will be surrounded in Washington, we are facing a new massacre in the annals of the Palestinian cause, this time by political means, and a humiliation of the Palestinian Authority. Perhaps those leaders will encourage Abbas to shake hands warmly with Netanyahu in front of the television cameras in Washington as they announce "a significant breakthrough in the peace process".

There is nothing new in saying that these negotiations will not result in a fair, or even unfair, peace deal. The latest show in town is intended to create a smokescreen and the right circumstances for yet another war against a Muslim country, which is at the top of the US and Israeli agenda.

The former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir agreed to attend the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991 to provide cover for the destruction of Iraq and the killing of hundreds of thousands of its people, and to plan negotiations with the Arabs to take place for more than twenty years into the future without giving an inch of concessions to Palestinians. Coincidentally, Shamir's right-hand man in Madrid was none other than Benjamin Netanyahu. Thus, Shamir's planning has been completed almost a year ahead of schedule before the "peace process" turns twenty; the results of that process on the ground are known to all and do not need to be explained.

Netanyahu will continue on the path of his teacher Shamir, doing whatever he wants so long as the "salary slaves" appreciate the economic peace, prefer bread over dignity and forget that they are the sons of the greatest uprising in modern history.

Source: Al Quds Al Arabi

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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