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Abed Rabbo and his alternative options

The view of Al-Quds Al-Arabi

The Secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive Committee has said that the Palestinian Authority is giving serious thought to ending its commitment to all agreements signed with Israel. Yasser Abed Rabbo said that the PA is considering this as a response to the failure of direct negotiations and ongoing Israeli settlement activity.

Speaking to the official radio station Voice of Palestine, Mr. Abed Rabbo's statement reflects the growing frustration felt by the PA and its officials, of which he is a leading figure. Pressure of sorts from the Arab world and the United States has failed to persuade Israel's Prime Minister to extend a settlement freeze; Benjamin Netanyahu's government has embarked on new settlement building with gusto; six hundred new units in one West Bank settlement alone.

We do not know how serious the PA is about resorting to such an option, as we do not know which agreements the PLO official is referring to. Nor do we know how much time the PA will take to examine the options, or whether his statement is just a tactic to absorb the tension on Palestinian streets and test the water with Israel and the US.

Mr Abed Rabbo is adept at such tactics and has a history of surprising Palestinian public opinion, as he did after signing the Geneva document with Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli Justice Minister. That proposed a settlement plan for the Arab-Israeli conflict which dropped the refugees' right of return. A week ago, he implied the PA's willingness to recognise Israel as a Jewish state in exchange for a Palestinian state within the territories occupied in 1967.

The Palestinian Authority has signed many political, security and economic agreements with successive Israeli governments, and committed itself to all of them; in contrast, the Israelis have never shown real commitment to any, including the road map issued by the international Quartet. It is logical that such agreements cannot be binding unilaterally – in this case by the Palestinians alone   but since when has logic been one of the attributes of the Palestinian Authority, or within the remit and capability of its officials?

Israel is committed, under the Oslo accords, to withdraw from all occupied Palestinian territories within four years of the signing of those agreements, and to engage in intensive negotiations on final status issues such as borders, refugees, settlements and the right of return, and water, leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by the end of the fifth year. All of that should have been, and would have been if Israel acted on its commitments, signed, sealed and delivered by the turn of the millennium.

But that didn't happen, because Israeli governments are not committed to peace with justice. Negotiations have been going on for 17 years, and what has happened is that Israeli forces reoccupied the territories under the Authority's control; constructed its apartheid wall on Palestinian land; and intensified illegal settlement activity in occupied Jerusalem taking the number of settlers to 500,000, half of them in Jerusalem and its environs. In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority continued to comply with its commitment to these agreements and continued political, economic and security normalisation with Israel without interruption.

We hope that Mr. Abed Rabbo carries out his threat and that a decision about the options will be made soon. A good place to begin would be to end security agreements and co-ordination between Palestinian security forces and their Israeli counterparts. Palestinian security must be there to protect Palestinians, not act as an extension of Israel's forces. There must be an end to the arrests by Palestinians of Palestinians resisting the occupation of their land, whether they are from Hamas or Fatah, the party which controls the PA, or any other faction.
The negotiations have collapsed and the Netanyahu government has turned its back on the whole world, in pursuit of its settlement policy; and we heard the Israeli President say that the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is a necessary condition for the Palestinians to show their true intention toward peace. So, what does the Authority expect after all these blows against it and its officials; Israel to demonstrate its own commitment to peace?

We hope that the alternatives Yasser Abed Rabbo is talking about are not the same as that propounded by Amr Moussa, the Arab League's Secretary General, to go to the UN Security Council and present the issue of the stalled peace process to its members. The painful but effective alternative for Israel would be for the PA to end security coordination. The question is, will the Authority, its President and Mr. Abed Rabbo have the courage to do it? Sadly, we doubt it.

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