I would like to move you from the victorious celebrations to the rooms where secret negotiations are held and international decisions are made when it comes to the Gaza Strip in particular. Forgive me, but I believe that our perception of a victory in Gaza requires us to consider Che Guevara's famous quote: "Revolution is created by the most honourable and inherited and exploited by scoundrels."
As many predicted, there was nothing at all surprising about the "surprising non-traditional plan for resolving the Palestinian issue", which was promised by Mahmoud Abbas on the eve of the ceasefire. In fact, one could argue that what ensued is the worst possible thing that could have happened to the cause and that this was due to the steps taken by Abbas himself.
Let us recall that the Oslo Agreement (which in no way exonerates Arafat and the ministers who were with him at the time) was a "declaration of principles" and that Oslo II (The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), which was born from the womb of the Gaza-Jericho agreement, led to the eventual destruction of the Yasser Arafat International Airport in the Gaza Strip. The legacies resulting from these agreements can be considered the "worst of the worst" and yet, what is even worse, is that in reality another agreement, the Abbas-Beilin agreement, was being negotiated in secret and in conjunction with the Oslo agreement behind closed doors.
Those close to Yasser Arafat have claimed that Mahmoud Abbas used to boost Arafat's image as a leader and a "head of state" so that the late leader would leave the actual politics to someone other than himself, and that this someone was none other than Mahmoud Abbas. He had long been preparing to take his place as Arafat's heir after he, of course, completed the challenging tasks that were expected of him as a future leader. Among these was the need to modify the charter of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which ultimately meant that with the right modifications Arafat was no longer needed and the road could be paved for Abbas to take his place. So the story goes.
The secret agreement between Abbas and Yossi Beilin went into great detail and exposed the ugly truth about the Oslo agreement. In fact, many of the points in the Abbas-Beilin agreement retreated from the original points that were discussed and agreed upon under Oslo. Dr Rubhi Halloum gives a detailed description of this secret agreement on his website, including the following: the agreement that Jerusalem, Bethany and the surrounding areas would be placed under Israeli control and that these areas would be governed in a way that was similar to the Vatican; that the largest Israeli settlements would remain; that there would be a mandate period for Palestine that will take place over 20 years; that Palestine would be a demilitarised state; and that UNRWA would be dissolved and replaced with a different organisation that would relocate refugees with less fuss.
And yet, it seems that some of these negotiation points have proven to be even worse in reality, and that the only truth is that now Mahmoud Abbas is president of an authority without any real sense of authority regardless of true political legitimacy and elections. The PLO and Fatah seem to be more and more marginalised with no constants other than the fact that Abbas intends to remain president for the rest of his life.
A closer look at the Israeli occupation confirms the idea that Abbas is acting as a "filter" that encourages and influences Palestinian factions to give up their most valuable politicians to Israel's prisons. He has not asked for the release of Palestinian prisoners and has worked to limit the Palestinian resistance as much as possible. In fact, he has done everything in his power to ensure that Palestinian resistance does not go beyond the negotiating table. He engages outside Arab parties as much as he can for the sake of normalisation and finance and holds them responsible for burdens that he is incapable of bearing on his own. In addition, Abbas does everything in his power to prevent Israel from being held accountable for its actions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; indeed, he has turned this into a business venture for his family members and entourage.
The intention of this article is not to berate Mahmoud Abbas as a person but to expose the truth, which is that very little has been done to shorten the length of the siege and foreign military occupation of an entire land and population. The occupation, as it directly relates to the people of Gaza and the Palestinian diaspora especially, not only threatens Palestinian identity and weakens affiliations with it, but it also treats the Palestinian people as if their existence is anti-Arab and threatens greater Arab survival. Reducing the Palestinian cause to a competition for Israeli approval run by Abbas and Mohamed Dahlan has diminished the efforts and meaning of what Fatah truly is. In fact, this competition seems to be Fatah's only concern right now.
This situation is what caused Gaza to become what it is today according to the laws of nature. If Dahlan's attempt at a coup in Gaza had been successful, Gaza would have responded with true resistance that is so powerful it would inevitably have spilt into the neighbourhoods of the West Bank. It is for this reason that Ariel Sharon agreed to withdraw his forces from the Gaza Strip so that he would be able to focus his efforts on the West Bank, what he called Judea and Samaria, and ensure that he uprooted the seeds of resistance from its lands entirely.
The Israeli far right's rejection of the reconciliation agreement helps to explain the reasons behind its defeat in Gaza; however, we must be mindful of the fact that the Israelis are still promoting the illusion that the Palestinian Authority is the only authority or entity that represents the Palestinian people. The Israeli government and PA are working together to encourage Arab governments in their demonisation of Hamas. The goal behind this is to credit all resistance and all true political change to Fatah and its members. It appears that only the State of Qatar is able and willing to bring a sense of balance to the equation, as all other parties are subservient to Israel's will.
The information that was leaked about the reconciliation agreements that took place in Doha demonstrate that a great deal of pressure was placed on Hamas and Qatar as a sponsor not to place unnecessary pressure on Fatah and consequently spoil Abbas's efforts. However, it has also become clear that neither Hamas nor Qatar are limiting their involvement in the Palestinian cause and that they do not consider limiting Abbas's political influence as their sole goal and purpose. This reality is what worries Abbas and his supporters, who fear that Hamas and Qatar's zone of influence is expanding and that they will be able to counter any disagreement with which they do not agree.
Perhaps what this all means is that Abbas and his team of followers are being placed in a situation similar to the madness of King George III, in that the Palestinian people will refuse to bow down to state-sponsored elections (influenced by the US, Europe and Israel). Soon, the people will find no use for "their George" and say that there is no need for a president who merely relocates from capital to capital and appears on many news channels. The alleged reconciliation agreement, which really is nothing more than an attempt to bring Gaza under the Palestinian Authority's umbrella, has not even succeeded in forcing the government to pay the wages of government employees in the Gaza Strip. The interesting thing to consider is that Abbas has insisted that Qatar pays to the PA the money intended for Gaza's wages so that he will receive it personally and redistribute it to the workers in the territory. Is this what reconciliation means? Has the concept of reconciliation been reduced to Abbas playing the exclusive role of a high-commission bank to the people of Gaza?
What is even more devastating now is that Gaza's historical sponsors now need to pay a sum that is far larger than the sum of the outstanding salaries and that it was suggested that the money allocated for rebuilding the Gaza Strip should go through Fatah first. The cost of human sacrifice, however, cannot be counted and the loss of human capital can never be retrieved or compensated for. In reality, we cannot make any joke out of this because the Palestinian people have remained steadfast in their struggle and they have given up a great deal to stay resilient. The death of one resistance fighter is enough to redeem the homeland and the death of one innocent child is truly too much to be equated with anything else. These two sacrifices alone are far greater than the force of the occupation, its supporters and its collaborators.
A collaborator in this context is anyone who participates in the killing of freedom fighters in any resistance struggle around the globe. This description includes those in Europe and the Western world. The atrocities carried out by the Nazis are what justified the establishment of a Jewish national home on Palestinian soil and it is due to this recent global history that we must define carefully what it means to be a collaborator and what it means to be the occupier as opposed to the occupied.
We now come to what Abbas will do with his powers, as it appears that he will use international platforms to pressure Hamas into signing agreements that he sees fit in light of the great achievements of the resistance in Gaza, which swayed international public opinion from being on the Israeli side to largely favouring the Palestinians. It is clear at this point that Abbas will ask US Secretary of State John Kerry to formulate an agreement that is based on the 1967 borders, one that includes both the West Bank and Gaza Strip in addition to East Jerusalem. However, it will be impossible for Kerry to meet these demands in light of the numerous concessions that the Palestinian Authority has made over the past few decades. It has already agreed to give up much of the territory that was initially included in the 1967 agreement. Abbas has also lost the support of the UN Security Council, which had previously put a timetable on ending the Israeli occupation.
The threats used by Abbas, primarily the argument that, "All doors are open for Palestine to request membership in international organisations such as the UN, which would subsequently afford Palestinians the opportunity to hold Israel accountable for its violation of international agreements and bring an end to security coordination…" is nothing but a well known talking point. In fact, Abbas's "bag of tricks" and negotiation talking points are nothing more than a bag of cheap trinkets that do not mean much in the grand scheme of things.
The truth is that security coordination with Israel is the last of thing Abbas seeks to bring to an end because, quite frankly, it would bring an end to his own security. Indeed, Abbas's "non-traditional surprise", which he promised that he would share with us, turned out to be that he planned to meet with Arab foreign ministers to ask for their help and support at the UN. What Abbas means by this is that he wants to take some of the Palestinian cause's blood off his hands and distribute the blame to other Arab and non-Arab partners.
Going to the United Nations and its hijacked sub-organisations is a mere continuation of Abbas's failed attempt to take the Palestinian cause to an international platform. He seeks to negotiate key factors within this international domain; however, he fails to acknowledge that many members of the UN General Assembly opted not to hold Israel accountable for its crimes during Operation Cast Lead.
Abbas has stated previously that he already accepts the decision of the UN General Assembly, meaning that he has expressed his compliance with the idea that all of historic Palestine is up for auction to the highest bidder with some of these bidders being countries none of us ever hear about unless there is a crisis taking place. It would seem as though those are the demands of the democratisation that is so prevalent in our era.
All of these factors and more are what will raise the stakes in this bidding game and this is why Abbas previously used the term "non-traditional" to describe his willingness to surrender the many sacrifices that have been made by successive Palestinian generations. This is indeed an unprecedented move in the world of global politics because the Palestinian cause has entered the world of gambling.
This talk of "internationalising" the Palestinian struggle in this way would also lead to the internationalisation of Jerusalem or, even worse, the Judaisation of Jerusalem, a project which Israel is already implementing and has become the subject of many academic studies and research projects. Moreover, Abbas has further lost any Palestinian claim to Jerusalem due to his surprise visit to Amman during which it was discussed that Jerusalem and all other Holy Land sites would be placed under the custody of King Abdullah II, as it was agreed upon previously in former treaties.
One must also note that Israel has alluded to the fact that (according to the Arava agreement) all Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank will indeed be placed under Jordanian custody. Abbas has also suggested adding Christian holy sites to that list, which would reinstate Jordan's historical role in maintaining and governing the West Bank. However, this is impossible in today's world because placing Jerusalem's Muslim holy sites under Jordanian custody would require a military force equivalent to that of Salahuddin and nothing less.
The Arab situation in the United Nations today is dictated by the international community's decision to avoid giving Saudi Arabia a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Jordan has submitted a draft to the UN Security Council and it does not differ much from those submitted by Europe and the United States. Because many long-awaited decisions are delayed continuously, as they present opposing Arab and Western views, one can assume that the worst outcomes will come out of resolutions 1850 and 1860.
We need to consider further the dangers of the decision by Europe, America and Israel to grant Mahmoud Abbas the agency to act on behalf of the Palestinian people and for Fatah to act as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians. This misplaced agency is what will result in monstrous decisions of huge proportions.
Translated from Al Jazeera net, 16 September, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.