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With leaders like these there is no hope for Palestinian independence

Hot on the heels of the revelation that an Israeli mole has been operating from within the office of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, for the past 20 years came the admission by Major General Majid Faraj, the head of the Palestinian Authority’s General Intelligence Service, that his officers have foiled 200 attacks against Israeli targets since the current intifada began in October last year. Neither of the two disclosures was surprising; after all, the Ramallah authority has a distinguished record of collaboration with the Israeli occupation. What they serve to confirm, though, is that with a leadership like this, the people of Palestine have very little hope for independence.

It is fair to say that the Palestinians are saddled with two occupations: one Israeli and the other run by the PA. While the former remains an unacceptable relic of 19th century European colonialism, the latter claims sole legitimacy because the PLO fired the “first bullet” that started the Palestinian revolution in January 1965. Five decades on, the revolution has been stripped of its essence and purpose. The original slogan of “total liberation” from the Israeli occupation has given way to “security coordination” with the Israeli occupation.

Not even the father of the revolution, Yasser Arafat, was immune from the consequences. Today, the widespread view on the Palestinian street is that he was murdered by an individual or individuals within the PA in Ramallah who poisoned him on behalf of Israel.

Security coordination is one of the central pillars of the 1993 Oslo Accords which incumbent President Mahmoud Abbas engineered and which Arafat endorsed. Annex II of the Declaration of Principles authorised the establishment of a joint Palestinian-Israeli Coordination and Cooperation Committee for mutual security purposes. In Ramallah, the authority has been so committed to its implementation that on 17th September 2009 Erekat told former US Middle East Envoy David Hale, “We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law. We continue to perform our obligations.”

Fast forward to January 2016 and the admissions by both Erekat and Faraj published in the American magazine Defense News leave no doubt about their attempts to grovel before the administration in Washington. Their interview was, apart from anything else, part of a campaign to win US approval to succeed the octogenarian Abbas.

Of course, it is one thing to win the favour of a US administration, but it is quite another to win the trust and respect of the Palestinian people. Herein lies the dilemma for those leading the PA.

For quite some time now they have been sending conflicting signals about ending their security coordination with Israel. Two years ago Abbas told a group of Israeli activists visiting his headquarters that, “Security coordination is sacred and will continue whether we agree or disagree on policy.” Now, faced with increasing calls from within his own movement, Fatah, and the Palestinian public for an end to the farce, his stance has shifted continuously, depending on who his audience is.

Speaking in Bethlehem during the Orthodox Church Christmas celebrations on 6 January, Abbas said that the PLO will decide on the matter at its general congress. He knows full well that the likelihood of the PLO congress meeting any time soon is virtually nil. The following day, the Israeli daily Haaretz confirmed that the level of security collaboration has indeed been heightened. “The Israeli security establishment is seeing a significant change for the better in the way the Palestinian Authority is addressing terror in the West Bank,” it reported.

With literally nowhere to hide, the president decided last Saturday to come clean and admit before the media that despite calls from a number of factions, security coordination will continue. “We carry out our duties in the best manner and we prevent operations [against the Israelis].” No one will lure him into a battle that he does not want and is incapable of winning, he added.

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Having served as president for eleven years, reports are rife that key Arab states, as well as the US and Israel, are about to call time on Abbas. Political paralysis prevails both internally and externally. Not only has the president alienated major nationalist forces like Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Islamic Jihad, but he has also presided over an ever-worsening rift within Fatah. As for the “peace process” with Israel, that ground to a screeching halt more than two years ago. Out of sheer desperation, Abbas has decided to play his final card by calling for an international peace conference on Palestine. Thus far, it has failed to evoke any interest among his people because no one wants another version of Oslo, with yet more capitulation and humiliation.

With a leadership that gives priority to the security and interest of the occupier rather than the well-being and rights of the people living under occupation, the Palestinians may as well say goodbye to their dream of independence. Their current leaders give them no reason whatsoever to be optimistic.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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