Nov 10 2011

Palestinian strategies post-UN vote

Published by at 12:05 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics,US-Middle East

By Daoud Kuttab

If the UN bid for Palestinian statehood has shown anything, it has shown the Palestinians, again, who their friends are.

It was clear, despite US President Barack Obama’s earlier rhetoric, that US would not move in any direction that would upset the Israelis. But it was not only Washington and the British (Tony Blair and David Cameron); it was also the French who are nowhere close to being the true friends of Palestine.

Sure, French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to keep French business ties with the Arab world, so he looks for photo opportunities with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. But when it came to the true test of the French-Palestinian friendship, at the Security Council the resident of the Elysee abstained cowardly.

While the UN bid exposed the hypocrisy of the West, it marked the endof two important phases. Going to the UN marked the total failure of the negotiating process that began two decades ago in Madrid and witnessed the Oslo Accords. And the failure at the Security Council exposes the impotence of the international community.

Abbas asked his top advisers to come up with a post-UN strategy. To the disappointment of some, the new strategy will not contain the option of dissolving the Palestinian Authority. The idea has been debated a lot but never got much traction.

Repeated as late as a few weeks ago by senior PLO official Saeb Erekat, the idea calls for dissolving the PA and throwing the keys to the Israelis. Proponents of the idea feel it will change the paradigm by forcing the Israelis to pay (literally and figuratively) for continuing the occupation. While in theory it sounds good, such an idea will have disastrous effects on the Palestinians. It will reverse the institutional state-building gains made in the past two decades. The Ramallah officials agree on at least this part.

What Palestinians can and need to do is look inwards. A nation fighting for recognition against the odds of a foreign military occupation that is supported by the world’s leading powers cannot afford to be divided. Important steps have been taken when Abbas and Khaled Mishaal, a Hamas leader, signed the reconciliation agreement in Cairo last summer. The agreement now needs to be implanted. An agreed-upon unity government must be formed and preparations for local, parliamentary and presidential elections need to take place as soon as possible.

A national strategy for liberation must be debated, agreed upon and implemented. Agreement on a resistance strategy should be possible now that the path of negotiations and internationalisation have failed.

The term resistance can have different meanings. Some might translate the term to mean violent resistance while others will argue that there can be popular nonviolent resistance. If the latter is agreed upon, it will require a concerted effort to make it work.

Massive popular actions are required to drive home the message of a people tired of decades of occupation. The focus of such action will have to be placed on developing the West Bank areas under total Israeli administrative and security control, referred to as areas C. At the same time, every possible nonviolent means of resistance must be exercised to ensure that no more settlements are built on Palestinian lands.

At the same time with the local popular resistance, an international campaign of boycott and divestment of the Israeli occupiers will need to be stepped up. Palestinians of all colours must join forces with all kinds of solidarity groups to start a worldwide campaign against Israel. The white government of South Africa was brought down as a result of such an international campaign.

The large number of countries supporting Palestinian statehood and large grassroots organisations in countries that do not should produce a powerful message against the continuation of the Israeli occupation and settlement activities.

The Palestinian leadership has shown resolve and commitment to fulfilling its people’s desire for liberation. Abbas has surprised many with his determination against tremendous pressures.

Neither political nor financial pressures worked against Palestinians, surprising many world leaders and exposing them for their inability, or lack of desire, to stand up to Israel, despite publicly disagreeing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

This fortitude should be built on when adopting any future strategy. American tactics and temporary denial of support for the Palestinians have backfired. Washington’s leverage has been greatly reduced after the UN incident, even though the US Congress has recently indicated it will fulfill commitments already made to the people of Palestine.

Palestinians need now to depend on themselves and their true friends to reach the ultimate goal of an independent state alongside Israel.

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