Sep 13 2002

Towards a proactive Palestinian negotiating position

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

Perhaps one should not give too much weight to the off-the-cuff remarks made by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat during his speech to the Palestinian Legislative Council, but its importance should not be overlooked either.

When he came to the paragraph about the independence of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, Arafat diverted from the prepared text. He told the legislature assembled in his bunker words to the effect that they would do him a favor to relieve him of this awesome responsibility if they are not happy with the way he has been handling his executive powers.

The hint of resignation certainly attempts to fend off the anger of the Palestinian public with his handling of his leadership role. The nearly two years of Intifada have caused a major setback to Palestinian life, economy and sense of direction.

But the power of such a hint is not solely intended to the angry representatives of the Palestinian people; it goes further, to the Israelis and the Americans. While the Americans have called for changes in the Palestinian leadership, Israel has not left one derogatory term that they have not applied to the Palestinian president. Israeli tanks, which were poised a few hundred meters outside Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters, have turned the Palestinian leader into a prisoner in his own office. They have bombed, shelled, blown up and destroyed every symbol of the Palestinian National Authority. Palestinian policemen, most of them uninvolved in resisting the Israelis, have been killed (at times point-blank) simply because of the PNA uniform, which they were wearing.

Yet, despite the rhetoric and the anti-PNA violence, the Israelis have not attempted to harm the Palestinian leader. They have called him irrelevant, yet they are closely watching him, somehow with the hope of reengaging with him at a later date. It seems that the Israelis are waiting for Arafat to declare surrender or to show clear signs of accepting Israeli dictates.

In the meanwhile, the Israelis are present in every Palestinian city, town or village. Their troops are able to enter any Palestinian locale at whim, without even having to hear the lip service rejection that the US was showing a few months ago. At one time, President George Bush declared firmly that Israel must withdraw from Palestinian territories; now even this demand has disappeared from the White House daily briefings.

The problem is that the PNA has not been able to cause the Israelis to pay the logical price for their reoccupation. They are holding three million Palestinians virtually in a large prison. They apply day-long curfews when they want, lift it when they choose. Yet they are not taking any responsibility for the day-to-day lives of the Palestinians even while they are ruining it. As the Israeli journalist Danny Rubinstein said, the Israelis are having the cake and eating it too. They are occupying without having to pay the cost of such occupation.

The price of occupation must be financial, moral and political. An occupier is obliged by international law to provide for the people under its occupation. They must pay teachers and other public servants and allow the people under its military rule a normal, productive economic life. The full price of occupation should be that Israel take responsibility for security matters. Since they occupy all areas, they can’t blame any recognized Palestinian counterpart for what happens in the security field. And the moral price of occupation is the evil it reflects on the state of Israel as a 21 century power that holds a population against their will using tanks and helicopters.

What is saving Israel from having to pay this price of occupation is the presence of remnants of the PNA, and Arafat, in Ramallah.

The Israelis can use this fig leaf to avoid doing anything (except wreck havoc) in the reoccupied Palestinian areas. What is ironic is that this is taking place at the same time when Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is rejecting the Oslo accords and all the agreements signed with the PLO since (treaties which gave birth to the PNA).

The Palestinian leadership must not allow this status quo to continue. If the Israeli troops are not willing to withdraw, Israel has to pay a higher price for its reoccupation. The only way that this price will be paid is for the Palestinian leadership to have to courage to take the political offensive and give the Israeli and the international community an ultimatum.

It is not enough to hint at resignation. The Palestinian leader must force the choice on Israel and the international community. Israel must either withdraw in order for the PNA to be able to work properly or the PNA, including its president, will resign. If the Israelis will be forced to take full responsibility, they will be further exposed as a brutal, anti-democratic and anti-peace regime that is only interested in Palestinian land.

No responses yet

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.