Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech to the Palestinian Authority leadership (on Saturday August 16) confirmed his commitment to the Egyptian initiative, “as there are no other viable initiatives”; the truth of the matter is that there are no other initiatives on the table nor will there be any in the future. Abu Mazen does not see Egypt as a mediator, but a party on the Palestinian’s side.
The Egyptian initiative treats the victim and the oppressor as equals, equals in the act of occupation as well as in resistance and calls for the “cessation of hostilities between the two parties”. In addition to this it is designed to lead to a ceasefire between Palestinians and Israel and then resort to more talks.
Initially a majority of Palestinian factions rejected the proposed initiative. However, as their leaders wanted to preserve Egypt’s political and geographic role, especially as it is the largest Arab state, its proximity to the Gaza Strip and the importance of its border crossing between the two sides, amendments were made. The Palestinian side, with its various factions and wide political spectrum, unanimously agreed to these amendments.
However, Israel then, as usual, rejected all six of the Palestinian demands and promising it would look at these issues later. Israel only accepted improving the movement of traffic, individuals and trucks with humanitarian aid through the Gaza crossings.
By agreeing to this, Israel attempted to mask the ugly face of its occupation of Palestinian land and mitigate the impact of the massacres and crimes committed, not just during the genocidal war but against the Palestinians in general. Israel’s image has been greatly shaken in the international arena as a result of these actions.
Israel is trying (in true Kissinger style) to manipulate and manoeuvre the ongoing negotiations in Cairo to convince the Israeli public that achievements have been made.
The vast majority of Israelis consider their state’s aggression against Gaza to be fair. According to a survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, Israelis believe that the war against the Palestinians is legitimate. The Israeli authorities want to continue to reject Palestinian demands and it will, therefore, not be easy for Netanyahu to alter his country’s image.
Egypt’s experience with Israel over the latter’s withdrawal from the city of Taba confirms that Egypt should have recognised that Israel violates agreements. Israel insisted on the city of Taba remaining an Israeli city, despite the Camp David Accords including a clause demanding Israel’s withdrawal from Taba. Only after arbitration in an international court did Israel agree to withdraw from the city.
As I have previously said, it is impossible for Israel to agree to any Palestinian or Arab demands made in negotiations, so why does Egypt insist on postponing the Palestinian demands until later negotiations? This highlights Egypt’s true role and the legitimate questions as a result of this.
Despite all this being clear, President Abbas announced his adherence to the Egyptian initiative. He said in his speech to the Palestinian leadership, “What is important for us now is to stop the bloodshed and killing of Palestinians”. The killing of the Palestinians began with the establishment of the Israeli state, both with and without large-scale military aggression.
After the Oslo Accords were signed with Israel, massacres, settlements, and crimes against the Palestinians increased. After negotiations between the PA and Israel nothing has been achieved but continued Israeli stubborn rejection of Palestinian national rights, increased land confiscation, home demolitions, tree uprooting. This is all alongside an increased Israeli appetite to devour more Palestinian concessions and impose more crippling conditions on the Palestinians in order to establish a mini-state stripped of sovereignty which has at its core a self-governing authority stripped of all privileges.
What does President Abbas want from this speech? Despite him being forced to change his political discourse in light of Palestinian steadfastness and a brave and effective response to the Zionist aggression, and the pain of the Israeli public, Abu Mazen is trying to go back to negotiations with Israel. He is also trying to postpone Palestinian demands so that Palestinian factions remain committed to negotiations, as well as trying to prove that the PA should be the go to point for all Palestinian issues. Abbas also wants to establish and instil the approach of negotiations and establish the idea that armed resistance brings nothing but destruction and the death to the Palestinian people.
Translated from Al-Sharq newspaper, 20 August, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.