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Smotrich displayed brazen Israeli arrogance and exposed Palestinian weakness

March 24, 2023 at 9:01 am

Bezalel Smotrich (C), Israeli far-right lawmaker and leader of the Religious Zionist Party [Social media]

We did not need to hear Israeli Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich denying the existence of the Palestinian people and presenting a map of Greater Israel that includes Palestine and Jordan to understand that the occupation state has a radical, racist government. Nor did we need to witness the passing of an Israeli law that cancels “disengagement” and allows Jewish settlers to go back to the illegal settlements evacuated in 2005 in the northern West Bank, for us to realise that there are no political grounds to deal with this racist government and have any dialogue without a meaningful solution in sight. Palestinians should not even sit with its representatives in any regional or international forum, as doing so rewards it for its stances and crimes that cross every imaginable red line.

What Smotrich did was simply translate his government’s programme into words and an unambiguous image. This says unequivocally that the land of Palestine is exclusively for Jews, and that the rights and very existence of the Palestinian people are not recognised. In doing so, Smotrich and Israel basically justify their violations of international laws and conventions on every level. He displayed brazen Israeli arrogance and exposed Palestinian weakness.

Israel kills Palestinians deliberately and systematically in cold blood and in large numbers; almost 100 have been killed already this year alone. It demolishes their homes and infrastructure while settlers have free rein to destroy crops and farmland. The status of illegal settlements is changed, making so-called Area C more or less annexed to the occupation state.

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Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority acts as if nothing is happening; it repeats meaningless statements of condemnation and denunciation, and calls on the international community to boycott Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers; and then it goes and sits with them in the Aqaba and Sharm Al-Sheikh “security” summits. Israeli officials turn blind eyes and deaf ears to the PA’s words without any serious action being taken to address the extremely dangerous changes which undermine the basis on which Palestinian-Israeli relations are supposed to rest. The terms of the Oslo Accords are not being followed, nor are the international reference points, including UN Security Council resolutions, the “road map” and the Arab Peace Initiative; none are being used as the basis for dialogue.

It is strange that many Palestinians are following events in Israel, especially the massive protests which, it is threatened, may turn into a civil war if the Netanyahu government does not back down from its “judicial reforms”, and they are rejoicing in the potential collapse of the Israeli political system. They do so as if the Palestinian reality is any better and we can benefit from something happening inside Israel or even from the global changes brought about by Russia’s war in Ukraine. We are on the outside of history looking in; we have divided ourselves into two separate entities; and we do not have a single, effective leadership. Our people are extremely frustrated and desperate. Some are trying to take matters into their own hands through improvised resistance in the absence of anyone to lead them on the shortest path to reach their goals.

To our great embarrassment, our leaders still refuse to hold democratic elections seventeen years after the last free and fair general election took place in Palestine, although that would be the most appropriate way to achieve national unity, revive our institutions and restore our democratic life. How else are we to separate the legislative, judicial and executive powers; have complete transparency, oversight and accountability; and eliminate the corruption that has come to dominate every aspect of Palestinian life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?

If the goal of the protest movement in Israel is to prevent a coup against the judiciary which will give parliament control over the courts in the interests of the ruling class, and the state could collapse over this, then what will it be like for we Palestinians, as we no longer have legislative or judicial authorities? Shouldn’t we look deeply into what is happening to us and see how low we’ve sunk, and see if we can rescue ourselves and put our cause on the international agenda in light of the huge changes that are taking place in the world? Or have we already reached the point of no return, with nothing left for us but to wait helplessly for total collapse and chaos?

We are completely lost, without a compass and without a path to follow. The ultimate result is more weakness, humiliation and violations of the occupation forces and settler gangs, who are now controlling Israel and apparently leading it towards its end game.

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Even if Israel collapses tomorrow — and it is much too early for this, even in light of the “existential” internal conflict — the Palestinian people will not benefit if we remain fragmented, divided and without a single leadership and a single programme. The most that could happen is the existence of two societies divided within themselves and fighting indefinitely.

Despite the fact that the international community fails in its responsibilities in the face of the aggression and war crimes of the rogue Zionist state, if by some miracle it decides to act against Israel because of the dictatorial transformations it is witnessing, it will not find a single Palestinian institution capable of leading the Palestinian people in any of the occupied Palestinian territories. The struggle over the meagre crumbs thrown from the main table exhausts and destroys our national project from within, and our situation is no better than that of our enemy, devastated as it is by disagreements over the nature of governance and the state.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Ayyam on 22 March 2023

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