Palestinian hostility towards the American plan has increased as it became clearer and more obvious that the Americans are looking for a way to implement the deal as a fait accompli, so that the Palestinian leadership has no choice but to accept. Possible scenarios of imposing a fait accompli are coming to understandings with parties other than the Palestinian leadership, such as an understanding with Hamas through Qatar and other countries, trying to contact Palestinian businessmen, and so on. US Secretary of State Jared Kushner’s interview with Al-Quds newspaper, which the Palestinians understood as an insult, was basically Kushner saying that they would give up their national demands if wages improve. This was a harsh blow to the plan.
When the peace and settlement projects began, in the 1980s and 1990s, the Israelis proposed slogans such as peace for peace or (Israeli) security for peace. At that time, the Israelis, especially under the leadership of the Likud government led by Yitzhak Shamir, offered nothing but to stop the state of war in return for stopping the Palestinian resistance. This position aimed to evade peace, but indicated that resistance is the element of strength possessed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). Meanwhile, the PLO and the Arab’s proposal was “land for peace”.
Peace meant first and foremost the end of resistance, and land meant the 1967 territories. To a lesser extent, peace meant normalisation and openness to the Arab states. If we look at the current position we find that what the Israelis and Americans want is what was the least important aspect of peace, i.e. normalisation. The American decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has proven three things, one of which is in favour of the American-Israeli plan, and two against it. They made sure that the Palestinian security coordination will not stop, and that what the Palestinians have offered (peace) continues even if they do not get the land. They have even recognised that even Hamas is moving towards civil struggle. However, the American side was surprised by the seriousness of the official Palestinian refusal to engage in a new futile negotiating process, while the Americans and Israelis impose fait accompli policies. The other surprise is that the official Arab position rejects this deal unless a Palestinian state is achieved, even if there is an Arab position that believes that Iran is considered its top priority.
The most dangerous issue is that now, the most important Palestinian playing card is, at least partially, in the hands of the Arab regimes and not in their own hands. If the Arabs truly agree to normalisation, the last Palestinian playing card would almost disappear.
The alternative may not be the return to armed struggle, but, in addition to the popular resistance and Palestinian national unity, there should be an escalation of action on an international level and international organisations to disturb the Israeli situation, including the PLO’s adoption of an effective boycott against Israel.
The Palestinian position may currently be better than imagined in terms of obtaining relative Arab support for their position. However, without improving the balance of power and increasing the number of cards in the hands of the Palestinians in particular, the position will not be as strong and the fear of how long the Arab position will remain the same will arise once more.
This article first appeared in Arabic in The Palestinian Information Centre on 4 July 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.