Read part 1 here
The Palestinian National Movement, represented by the PLO, adopted the Phased Plan almost half a century ago, 45 years to be exact. Neither the refugees returned nor were the Palestinian people able to exercise their right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. However, the National Movement did indeed succeed in creating and preserving the Palestinian identity and entitativity and reinforced the sense of collective belonging amongst the Palestinians wherever they were. It also put the Palestinian issue on the regional and international agenda, established the PLO as the only legitimate representative of the people, among other achievements that should not be underestimated or overvalued. They must be preserved and developed in order to achieve freedom, liberation and salvation.
In the beginning, the adoption of the Phased Plan was linked to the theory of gradualness and the calculations of the balances of power. After the Oslo Accords, and perhaps before it, the “phased” became “permanent” and the “tactical” became “strategic”. The long and bitter series of negotiations that the Palestinians engaged in with the occupation authority showed a Palestinian willingness to lower the ceiling of expectations. A “viable” state became an acceptable compromise between the occupation and the independent state while Clinton’s parameters for the solution to the refugee problem became the ceiling of expectation, not the minimum requirement to begin negotiations. Moreover, the Arab Peace Initiative gave Israel the right to veto the refugee clause. Today, the government in Washington and the extreme right-wing government in Tel Aviv are removing Jerusalem, the state, sovereignty, refugees, and the June 1967 borders from the debate.
Even the gains achieved by the national movement, which the Palestinians paid a high price for, seem at risk and could be lost. The Palestinians in the diaspora; in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq have taken another long journey to their second asylum in distant places. Wherever the Palestinians are, they act as a large bloc that moves based on independent influences and dynamics that threaten the unity of their cause and its structure, their priorities and their identity. The PLO, which was said to be a homeland for the Palestinians until their homeland is liberated, no longer acts as this for millions of Palestinians, who do not know anything about it or are linked to it by any means. It is merely a foggy slogan that is becoming more and more aged and weak in its performance, if not corrupt and excluded in the minds of the Palestinians.
The rise of Hamas, along with the more serious, longer and deeper division among the Palestinian people, has made the situation worse. This has made the chances of regaining unity and mobilising the national movement slim and prone to be wasted and lost. The Palestinians have paid the dearest price of this in the form of their reputation, the status of their cause, its mobilisation and fighting ability, and the world’s solidarity with them.
In my opinion, the Palestinians must think seriously, and for the first time with the highest degree of responsibility, to restore what they began. This may be a fantasy or delusion, but I think that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict’s consequences and the need to restore and awaken the national Palestinian movement requires us to go back to what we called the democratic solution for the Palestinian cause and the one-state solution. It also requires us to engage in the bitter struggle against Zionism, which is an Apartheid discriminatory system, in order to preserve our individual and collective rights and in the context of an offensive initiative. This initiative must be built on the awareness of the public opinion, not just on the injustice suffered by the Palestinians. We must build it on justice, progression, humanity, the Palestinian struggle and the legitimate Palestinian demands.
Going back to the start first requires us to give priority to strengthening the steadfastness of the Palestinians in their own territories. No other issue should be prioritised over this in order to confront the forced individual and collective expulsion plans under security and economic pressure. Such a shift would require us to reconsider the existence of the PA or to redefine its functions in a manner that would hold the occupying force responsible for its occupation and force it to deal with the consequences, instead of it continuing to exercise a comfortable and profitable occupation. In order to do this, we would also need to reconsider many of our institutions and concepts that have emerged and adapted to a project that has or is almost reaching a dead end.
This article cannot answer all of the questions linked to the idea of going back to the start of what we began, but I can say that the best defence is offence. We can also say that the Palestinians have their backs to the wall and continuing down the path that began 45 years ago will not stop the series of concessions and withdrawals. It may also be said that we are proposing an impossible mission: a democratic solution to the Palestinian cause. Every one of these assumptions involves a different degree of seriousness and open-mindedness. Therefore, I hope this article is considered an invitation for serious dialogue and thinking outside the box so as not to continue to discuss the same ideas and visions that we have for almost half a century.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Addustour on 10 April 2019
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.