It is time for the Palestinian leadership to reconsider its losing bet on the United States, which oscillates from being an opponent that is biased towards Israeli strategy and a fair and neutral broker in the negotiations, a role which it has claimed up until this point.
Whether the PLO decides to recognise the statement mentioned above and whether or not it chooses to act on this basis, the 29th of April should go down in history books as the day that the Palestinian leadership stopped placing all of its bets on the United States, which has failed to mediate a peace agreement between Arabs and Israeli Zionists for more than 20 years. This day should go down in history as the last time America was allowed to play both the role of the mediator and the discounter in its monopoly on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
It is clear that at this point the time has come for the Palestinian leadership to reconsider placing any future bets on the United States. It must establish a certain number of preconditions for Washington should the Palestinians choose to allow American representatives to mediate any future negotiations. They must choose between their biased policies towards the Israeli occupation or to become a neutral and fair mediator, a role that the US continues to claim despite its clear hypocrisy.
It is also clear that the United States does not want to differentiate between the two roles at any time or in any issue pertaining to the conflict. The US also views any Palestinian involvement in this issue as an example of political blindness and any Palestinian commentary on the events taking place in neighbouring Arab countries as a testament to the PLO’s lack of awareness as to where its political interests are.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas came out completely empty-handed from the last round of negotiations with Israel, despite the fact that they lasted nine months, because he gambled on the United States to do something. This has been the nature of the relationship for more than two decades.
Every initiative or accomplishment that could be considered as an advancement for the Palestinian cause has ultimately been undermined by the United States, including the national liberation organisation, bringing an end to the Palestinian revolution started by the “sole legitimate representative for the Palestinian people”. It has even undermined the international community’s decision to consider Palestine as a non-member observer state at the UN General Assembly.
The line charting the Palestinian struggle towards freedom and liberation continued so long as the Palestinian people considered the US and the Israeli occupation as one unified and common front and not two separate and independent fronts. Moreover, the Palestinian national struggle began to decline only after the PLO began to differentiate between the US and the Israeli occupation by assuming that America’s weight and influence in the international arena would force Israel to withdraw from the occupied 1967 territory to establish a Palestinian state.
In light of the United States’ role in mediating relations between Egypt and Israel, as well as the collapse of the Soviet Union, which made America the sole decision-making superpower on the international scene, in addition to the disintegration of Palestinian resistance due to the lack of Islamic and Arab solidarity, the PLO might very well find itself in a difficult position. While not wanting to alienate the superpower it needs US help to regain Palestinian rights which have been violated.
Yet, after more than two decades of the Palestinian leadership placing all of its bets on the United States, there is no longer any doubt that the US and the Israeli occupation are a unified front on this issue. America continues to be Israel’s broker, funder and diplomatic and political advocate, and any Palestinian attempt to turn the US into a neutral mediator and to separate the two entities is doomed to failure, especially after “American promises have evaporated into thin air”.
When media outlets leaked the fact that US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Israel that the failure of the negotiations would lead to a closed road that would essentially render Israel into an undemocratic apartheid sate, his claim caused uproar in the influential pro-Israel Lobby. His resignation has been demanded despite the fact that he has been working as a close ally of Israel for more than 30 years. Kerry has also asked the Palestinian leadership to recognise that Israel is a Jewish state and that it has the right to exist.
Moreover, the leak exposed the failure of both Kerry and his boss, President Barack Obama, to confront Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama failed to hold true to his promise that he would work towards liberating the Palestinian territories and bring an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Jordan River so that a Palestinian state could be established within two years. The actions of the political elite in Washington serve to confirm that the Palestinians’ gamble on the US doing something for them has failed.
In March, Obama warned Netanyahu that the United States would no longer be able to defend Israel if the 9-month negotiations failed. “If the Palestinians feel that establishing a geographically cohesive state is no longer at hand, our ability to contain international consequences will become rather limited,” said the president at the time.
Even so, despite the fact that the negotiations have failed and presidential envoy Martin Indyk has returned to Washington, neither the White House nor the US Department of State have issued a statement about the possibility of returning to the region. This comes amidst reports that Indyk has resigned from the State Department and that he will return to his previous job at the Brookings Institute. Moreover, the Obama administration attributes the failure of the negotiations to “uncontrollable international consequences” that fail to make possible “the establishment of a viable and geographically unified Palestinian state”.
Washington has announced its opposition to the Palestinian leadership’s attempts to access international organisations such as the UN, as well as the initiative to end the national division. Republicans and Democrats in congress have been working to pass the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, which was drafted in 2006 and states that the US government should prohibit American funds from going to the Palestinian leadership or organisations. President Obama’s representative in the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives, Ted Deutch, echoes Benjamin Netanyahu when he says, “Mahmoud Abbas currently stands at a crossroads… does he want peace with Israel or reconciliation with Hamas?”
Obama announced recently that the negotiations are in need of a “pause” or “time out”. The spokesperson for the US Department of Foreign Affairs, Jane Psaki, said that the negotiations must go through a “waiting period before resuming under the auspices of the United States once again because there is only one door to enter from.” The president reiterated later, “Both sides will have to do make very difficult compromises.”
He does not believe that the Palestinian and Israeli leadership will enter this “door” of negotiations within the coming six months, which is the deadline that the American administration has placed on resuming talks. All of these factors prove that Palestinian dependence on American support has proven to be unfruitful since it began in 1991.
One cannot doubt that the Israeli occupation sees the American “time-out” as a green light to continue its settlement and colonisation expansion project. Neither the US nor the Palestinian leadership were unable to stop Israeli expansionism at any time during the negotiations. The gamble has most certainly failed.
Translated from Raialyoum newspaper, May 3, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.