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Abbas' humiliating climb down was made on Palestinian 'Independence Day'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on 11 November 2019 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on 11 November 2019 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

It was no surprise to see the Palestinian Authority return to its security coordination with the Israeli occupation forces. What was surprising, though, was that some people were surprised that the PA president, whose term of office ended years ago, escalated his threats to end security coordination with Israel, cancel the Oslo Accords and recognition of Israel and return to popular resistance against the occupation. However, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, Mahmoud Abbas always climbs the tree and then is forced to come down. He has climbed down, but when did he actually do so?

Abbas climbed up in May, when Netanyahu announced the annexation of the West Bank. Now his climb down follows the announcement of 1,257 new illegal settlement units in a dangerously strategic area as part of a Zionist plan to isolate occupied East Jerusalem from its Palestinian surroundings, in order to complete the Judaisation of the Holy City so that it can never be the capital of any future Palestinian state. We already know that the Palestinian security forces will guard this and other colonial settlements and settlers, as they do the others.

This is all just a variation of the "deal" to fragment Palestine and its people and erase their presence in their own land. Yes, Israel is violating UN Security Council resolutions and international laws and conventions, but the international organisation has never really served justice for the Palestinians having been usurped before the eyes and ears of the world. No one has answered Palestine's cry for help. In fact, the UN and the "international community" has legitimised Israel's occupation and the trampling of Palestinian rights.

Thus, Abbas' climb down was ironic, not least because he chose to make his move on Palestine's symbolic Independence Day. That was most unfortunate. The Declaration of Independence in 1988, with Jerusalem as the capital, was an important historical event announced in Algeria; it formed the strategic foundation upon which the path to Palestinian statehood was built. Dozens of countries recognised the right of the Palestinians to independence based on this declaration, but it was nothing but a dream that has not been fulfilled, thanks in large part to the leaders of the Fatah movement. They started it all with the Declaration of Independence from the Palestinian National Council and this was followed by the late Yasser Arafat signing the Oslo deception, which led to the loss of what was left of historic Palestine. Now Abbas is ending the dream with the return of security coordination with the Israeli enemy on its anniversary, and replacing it with a nightmare.

READ: Disappointment with PA's resumption of security coordination with Israel

Many are unaware that it was Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish who wrote the Declaration of Independence, which is why it was hopeful and revolutionary. When the painful reality is adorned with the dreams of poets, I find that I align myself fully with all the dreamers and the return of all of Palestine. For us, it is not only a geographical area, but a long history rooted in the depths of the land which attests to the struggle of a people who shed their blood upon its soil, all wasted by the leaders of the Oslo Accords as they toasted their pyrrhic victory. Bizarrely, the PA spokesmen declared that restoring security coordination with the Israeli enemy is a victory for the Palestinians.

Irony is piled upon irony in all of this. The PA and many others were complaining bitterly about the normalisation deals between Israel and some Arab countries, describing them as a "stab in the back" of the Palestinian people (which they are). Palestine, they insisted, is the central issue of the Arabs, but today they are boasting about "independence" and returning PA ambassadors to the UAE and Bahrain, cheering about this historic victory. It beggars belief.

Such a disgraceful and humiliating lack of backbone within the PA has encouraged Arab countries to rush to normalise relations with Israel. They see that the Oslo-created authority has colluded with the occupation and sold the Palestinian in return for crumbs from the colonial-occupier's table. Security coordination by the PA is worse than all of the normalisation deals put together; obeying Israel is more shameful than anything that the normalising Arabs have done.

Palestinians protest normalisation with Israel in Gaza on 15 September 2020 [SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images]

Palestinians protest against normalisation with Israel in Gaza on 15 September 2020 [SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images]

Yes, Palestine is the central issue of the Arabs — or it was — but who reduced it to a purely Palestinian issue? Who placed it specifically under the control of the PLO, which is controlled by Fatah, which alone decides its fate?

Historically, Palestine was an Islamic cause, then they made it a purely Arab issue, after the establishment of the Arab League. Then that toothless body reduced it to the control of the PLO and made the organisation the only representative of the Palestinian people. This neglected Palestinian rights and wasted a long history of struggle, selling the blood of the martyrs to the Oslo Accords for the sake of a "Palestinian National Authority" with no nation and no real authority. The PA is nothing but a branch of the Israeli security services to protect Israelis, including the settlers, and to maintain stability in the occupation state.

READ: A return to collaboration over Israel's security narrative

The reality is that, even while Abbas was in his tree, security coordination did not stop for a minute. Claims to the contrary were part of the charade which allowed the anger of the Palestinians about Israel's annexation decision to abate. Annexation has not been cancelled, of course, it is merely postponed. In the meantime, what Abbas has called "sacred" security coordination remains the secret of the PA's continued existence paid for by Israeli money tainted by the blood of the martyrs.

For all of this charade to play out the way that Abbas wanted, it had to be preceded by a historic announcement about Palestinian reconciliation and the holding of legislative and presidential elections. Hamas believed this and met with Fatah leaders in Turkey, where they agreed to hold elections within six months. "It is hard to believe that reconciliation is possible between two parties heading in the opposite direction," I wrote at the time, "even if they prayed for the party going against history, geography and religion to change their path and follow the other. This would at least create a meeting point at which time reconciliation would not only be possible, but an obligation."

Hamas fell into Abbas' trap, which gave him national cover to improve his negotiating position with the Israeli and American leaders. Once Trump lost the presidential election in the US, reconciliation disappeared along with the false promises. Essentially, Abbas used Hamas and the rest of the resistance factions as a bogey to scare the Israelis and Americans so that he could climb down from his tree.

READ: The PA has turned its back on the people of Palestine

Some media outlets have reported secret meetings between the PA and Israeli leadership and the messages exchanged between the two. Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi participated in one of these meetings and Defence Minister Benny Gantz personally supervised communications with the Palestinians. On 17 November, the head of the General Authority of Civil Affairs, Hussein Al-Sheikh, met with Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the [Palestinian] Territories (COGAT), Kamil Abu Rukun, to discuss the restoration of security and civil coordination with Israel, restoring the situation to what it was before 19 May.

These meetings were taking place in secret, while the Palestinian reconciliation play was on the stage for the whole word to see. Its latest act was the meeting in Cairo in mid-November.

PA deception and malice are its default positions, as it was born out of deceit, and fed on submissiveness. What is really surprising, though, is the position of Hamas, and the other Palestinian factions which accepted this humiliation and slap from the PA.

"If Abbas is truly sincere in reconciling with Hamas," I wrote in my aforementioned article, "for the sake of the unity of the Palestinian people, and not simply to block the path of his rival, Mohammed Dahlan, whom the Israelis and their Zionist Arab allies are preparing to succeed him, he must tear the Accords up and take off his Oslo coat. He must carry a rifle on his shoulder and don the Palestinian keffiyeh, a symbol of pride and dignity, to heal the rift and reunite the people. This will allow them to stand tall in the face of the current challenges, not least the unjust terms of the so-called deal of the century. Will he do that? He probably won't, but if he does I will take my hat off to him and bow to him with all the free people of the world in appreciation and respect."

Well, I don't need to buy a hat, because Mahmoud Abbas stayed true to form and double-crossed his people. Now more than ever they deserve a change of leadership.

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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