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Despite a clear admission, Mahmoud Abbas’s statement is not unequivocal

January 16, 2018 at 3:20 pm

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets Palestinian authority executives at the Prime Ministry building in Ramallah, West Bank [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Israel is, allegedly, furious. The fact that Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas has finally declared the Zionist entity “a colonial project” has unleashed a tirade of insults. Yet, while accurate, as with other PA-issued declarations, this description of Israel is a belated recognition of the facts. Only a strategy that is derived from a unified Palestinian front and acknowledges a history of anti-colonial struggle can validate Abbas’s statement.

So far, the cautious decisions emerging from the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s Central Council’s meetings are to stop security coordination with Israel and to suspend recognition of Israel. These, however, are conditional and reveal the underlying flaw in Palestinian politics – an insistence upon adherence to the two-state compromise.

Since US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, Israeli ministers have been more forthcoming in their rejection of the internationally-imposed demand. Israel, however, was able to bide its time due to international political support for the colonial project. The PA, on the other hand, has exacerbated its inferior position by waiting until Palestine is almost entirely depleted, before publicly affirming its recognition of colonialism. In addition to delays, there is no formal departure in political rhetoric from the two-state paradigm, which casts doubt upon Abbas’s statement, no matter how much Israel is purportedly angered.

If there was outright rejection of the imposed two-state framework, Abbas’s words might have prompted new political strategies. As things stand, there is valid concern that the statements could be merely met with derision. By mixing an assertion of Israel’s colonial nature with international demands, Abbas has signalled that there is no departure from the prevailing politics other than an interlude.

Read: I urge President Mahmoud Abbas to step down immediately

How can Abbas reconcile his statement regarding colonisation with an insistence upon the two-state paradigm? The only way this can be done is by forcing himself to accept the permanence of colonisation, as is inferred with the PA’s acceptance of territorial fragments upon which a hypothetical Palestinian state will be built. If this is the case, Abbas is tethering Palestinians to a strategy in which, rhetorically, emphasis will be made upon the most prominent comments. Politically, however, Palestinian rights will continue to be determined by an international community that is explicitly aligned with Israel.

At an international level, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon has already complained in writing to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres about “vile fabrications” in response to Abbas’s statement. Despite the pledge to eradicate colonialism, the international organisation is a staunch supporter of Israel’s colonial presence in Palestine. The PA has not challenged this perception. Instead, it has repeatedly drawn attention to Israel’s violations against Palestinians without emphasising the colonial context, which worked to Israel’s advantage.

Mahmoud Abbas turns a blind eye on Gaza's blockade - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Mahmoud Abbas turns a blind eye on Gaza’s blockade – Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

The Israeli reaction to the “colonial project” as described by Abbas can become a cause for concern only if the PA is ready to evaluate and change its politics and narrative. However, if the PA insists on adopting the middle ground which nullifies this admission, prioritising fluctuations rather than articulating the Palestinian legitimate right to anti-colonial struggle, Palestinians can expect additional violations and isolation as a result of the collaborative effort between Israel, the international community and the PA itself.

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