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Open letter to President Mahmoud Abbas

May 16, 2018 at 9:38 am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas holds an urgent cabinet meeting in Ramallah, West Bank on 14 May, 2018 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Dear President Abbas

You have every right to withdraw recognition

Let me begin by offering my warmest greetings on the occasion of the blessed month of Ramadan and to wish you continued good health. The events of the last few days have presented you with a rare opportunity, one that may never recur. It is a gifted moment to adorn your legacy in the pages of Palestinian history. Every national leader and public figure thinks about this, so you’re not an exception.

Three months ago you confided in your Fatah Revolutionary Council Congress on how you wanted your political career to end.

Now, on the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, when the US has taken the ‘final status’ issue of Jerusalem off the negotiating table and Israel has massacred scores of peaceful protestors in Gaza, you have no choice but to act decisively and radically.

Here is what you should do. First, you should without any regret or sorrow, withdraw the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) recognition of the State of Israel. Since its leaders have reneged on their international agreements, particularly the Oslo accords, you are absolutely free to do the same. They have proven, beyond any reasonable doubt, that they have no regard for international covenants.

READ: PNC may cancel Oslo Accords, withdraw recognition of Israel

This, you would agree, is not a novel option. It has been debated and considered for quite some time within your Fatah movement. So, rest assured you will find no shortage of support if you make this decision.

Mr President, you will recall the courageous stand taken by your predecessor the late Yasser Arafat at Camp David in 2000. It was the first time Palestinians and Israelis ever discussed the status of occupied East Jerusalem and in particular its holy sites. Until then, as it is now, Jerusalem (including the Haram Al-Sharif) is regarded as part of the illegally occupied Palestinian territories. Arafat rejected Clinton’s proposal of shared sovereignty over the city.

U.S. President Bill Clinton, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at Camp David, July 2000 [Wikipedia]

U.S. President Bill Clinton, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at Camp David, July 2000 [Wikipedia]

Many of those who were present at Camp David confirm that the failure to resolve the status of the Old City’s holy sites contributed to the collapse of the negotiations.

Arafat’s remark to Clinton is as relevant today as it was then: “The Palestinian leader who will give up Jerusalem has not yet been born. I will not betray my people or the trust they have placed in me. Do not look to me to legitimise the occupation! Of course, it can continue longer, but it cannot last forever.”

It was this memorable stand which earned him the wrath of Israelis and Americans alike but it also won him universal support at home and throughout the free world. Eventually, your comrade paid with his life for his stand. It is a real prospect that faces you also, if you follow suit.

In order to force you to concede on Jerusalem Mr Trump has chosen to play the money game, withdrawing funds from the Palestinian Authority which you lead and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which serves 5,266,603 Palestinian refugees.

You know better than most that the use of finances to secure Jerusalem is as old as the conflict itself. In 1896 Theodore Herzl made similar overtures to Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire, promising to relieve his debt burden if he agreed to the Zionists’ request to establish a settlement near Jerusalem. No amount of financial assistance, however, seemed enough to entice Abdul Hamid who famously replied:

“I am unable to compromise one foot of the Holy Land because it is not my possession; it is the possession of my people. My forefathers fought for this land and watered it with their blood. Let the Jews keep their millions. If my Empire is torn apart they may obtain a part of Palestine without having to pay anything. But they must first begin the dismemberment of our dead bodies. And I would not agree for the dismemberment of my body while I am alive.”

Mr President, you will never have the financial backing that Israel enjoys but your greatest capital and best hope is your people. They have after 70 years held on tenaciously to their rights. Their aim has never been the receipt of handouts and charity.

They have made every sacrifice a people can, and should make, in order to win their freedom. Surely the best way to honour their sacrifices made is to reconcile with your sons and daughters in Gaza. They are not your enemies as some would have you believe. After all, you in Ramallah and they in Gaza are all in the same boat – victims of a brutal occupation.

Twenty-five years ago you signed on behalf of the PLO the Oslo accords, which Yasser Arafat liked to call “the peace of the brave”. It has now unraveled because it did not address the underlying grievances and injustices done to your people.

READ: Recognition of Palestine is tethered to an absence of vision

By removing Jerusalem from the negotiating table, the US and Israel have left you with no other option but to withdraw your recognition of the latter. From here on let’s put the horse before the cart – justice before peace.

Last week, a stalwart of the Labour Party and feminist movement in Britain, Dame Tessa Jowell, passed away. In her final speech to the House of Lords she said something of profound meaning and comfort which I want to share with you:

“In the end, what gives a life meaning is not only how it is lived, but how it draws to a close.”

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Daud Abdullah

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