By Attorney-d. Mahmoud Ramahi
Any neutral person looking at the Palestinian situation would see that there is an underlying theme: “negotiations” is a euphemism for Palestinian concessions. This is nothing new, but it is now increasingly obvious. From pre-Annapolis, Palestinian negotiators have compromised to try to appease their Israeli counterparts, but the Israeli tactic of imposing conditions then backing out of them began with Annapolis. The Palestinians themselves imposed many conditions, including the ending of settlement growth, but did not hold out for them to be fulfilled and instead came back empty-handed; the settlements continue to grow and the people in Palestine live under even more restrictions.
In the latest round, the Palestinian negotiators have resurrected the condition that settlements must be stopped before even indirect (“proximity”) talks can begin with the Israelis. Then we saw Hillary Clinton giving the green light followed by Arab ministers doing the same; then the Palestinian Authority’s president – on Israeli television, no less – stated that the desire was for the Arab states to accept indirect negotiations, noting that settlement growth did not stop but were subject to a temporary “freeze”.
Abiding by the go-ahead from the Arab foreign ministers did not last long. After President Abbas stuck to the settlement condition for two months or so, his Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, exceeded his brief (according to statements by Fatah spokesmen) and met with Israel’s Minister of Defence Ehud Barak in Jerusalem. The agenda included core issues that remain “outstanding” in the formal negotiations, disproving at a stroke the claims that the meeting was intended “to discuss [minor] daily matters”. He has thus proceeded to direct negotiations, ignoring the public utterances of the PA leadership, the PLO and the Arab ministers; it is hard to accept that Fayyad has acted independently, without the prior approval of the PLO and the PA, and that the meeting was not part of a deliberate and coordinated strategy.
The fruit of the Fayyad–Barak meeting did not benefit the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation; taking place as it did just a day before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with US President Obama it enabled the latter to announce that Netanyahu is a man who can be trusted to “take risks” for peace. Obama went on to say – and he must think we are all blind – that direct negotiations will begin in September, at which time the Arab ministers are expected to begin their evaluation of the “indirect” talks. The implication is that the Arab states have to accept, as they did previously, the legitimacy of direct talks with nothing in return apart from rewards to the Palestinian Authority for its success in helping the Israeli occupation forces suppress resistance to the illegal occupation. Hence, we see the PA gaining increased powers subject to it putting a stop on acts of “incitement” against the occupation, and anything else that might embarrass Israel in the international community. This is perhaps a direct reference to the UN’s Goldstone Report and the blockade of Gaza.
The question now is whether the Arab foreign ministers will accept the US decision to give President Abbas the green light for direct negotiations or do we wait what would be an amazing decision by the Arab states to declare the failure of the settlement process? And will the US President abandon the conditions he set about security and borders as well as “stopping settlements”, or will we see a President with the courage to level with the Palestinian people and be honest with them?
Just as the start of indirect negotiations was somewhat vague, so will be their end. This has been an option for someone willing to head into the unknown, along a dark tunnel, to find nothing but more darkness at its end; it is the road of the desperate who will come back empty-handed.
What is required from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Fatah movement? Nothing but humiliation for the Palestinian people due to the actions of the Palestinian negotiator; this has been admitted in all but name by some Fatah leaders when they spoke of a US veto on Palestinian reconciliation and the presence of factions within Fatah which are opposed to a united Palestinian approach. The people of Palestine have not supplied thousands of martyrs for the sake of getting a guaranteed salary each month or to set up joint development projects with the Israeli authorities which maintain the illegal occupation of Palestine.
It is time for the Palestinian negotiators to return to their senses and to stop putting all of their hope in the mirage of an agreement with the occupation; such an illusion has no sustenance, no hope and no future in it.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.