Oct 07 2015

No direction in Palestine

Published by at 8:46 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics

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By Daoud Kuttab

The escalating violence in Palestine is producing a multitude of commentary and reactions, but few are able to answer simple questions like what is the direction of the tension, what is the end game and what do people expect.

There is no doubt that the absence of a national agreed-to Palestinian strategy is at the heart of the problem.

Without unity between the PLO and Hamas, unity of Fateh members or of Palestinians in Palestine and abroad, we have no chance of cobbling together a coherent national liberation strategy.

Major levers of power in Palestine are tied up. Well-known factions and movements have their hands tied and are unable to move.

Years of Israeli repression have had their toll on the ability of leaders to chart an independent strategy.

In the absence of organised Palestinian institutions, parties and factions, what we are seeing today is an ad hoc Intifada by individuals, which has no clear plan, direction and strategy.

Without clarity and sustainability, such individual actions, while praised by an angry Palestinian public, will not go far in reversing a trend that has been etched in reinforced concrete.

The Israeli wall, as well as the clever outsourcing of most security operations to the Palestinians, has resulted in a win-win situation for Israel, which sits and watches as Palestinian security does all its dirty work. Palestinians relieve Israelis of patrolling the Nablus casbah.

It is becoming clear now that there is a limit even to Mahmoud Abbas’ patience.

While the Palestinian president continues to believe wholeheartedly in the negotiating/political track as the only viable path ahead, he is becoming frustrated with the Israelis, and even more, with the apathetic Americans who seem to have lost interest in the Palestine issue.

Unconfirmed reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry asked Abbas to give Washington six months before the US returns to an active role in Palestine have a ring of truth to them.

The US, having resolved the Iranian nuclear problem through multinational diplomacy, wants to use that international goodwill to deal with Palestine, but only after resolving the Syrian crisis.

When Abbas announced from the UN rostrum that Palestinians may no longer be obliged to adhere to the Oslo Accords, his words ended much more than a 22-year-old memorandum of understanding between the PLO and Israel.

Abbas’ statement blocked any remaining ray of hope for a better future for the Palestinians

The majority of the Palestinian population today is young. The Palestinian Census Bureau says that out of the 4.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, 70 per cent are under the age of 29.

This might be what triggered the violent reaction we are seeing today in Palestine, but without a concerted strategy, there is real worry that this wave of opposition to occupation will fizzle out.

In Jerusalem, Palestinians feel the entire burden of the Islamic world on them as they try single-handedly to defend Islam’s third holiest mosque.

Except for empty rhetoric, the Arab and Islamic worlds are watching silently as a handful of Jerusalemites try to fight the powerful Israeli security machine intent on changing the decades of status quo on the premises of Al Haram Al Sharif.

It should be no surprise for anyone that Palestinian youth react violently when faced with a future that has nothing pleasant to offer them.

They see the impotence of their own leadership, which has washed its hands of the Oslo Accords, and that even a sovereign state like Jordan, which is a strong ally to the US and has diplomatic relations with Israel, unable to do anything to stop the daily Israeli aggression on Al Aqsa Mosque and the restriction of the right to worship, enshrined in all international covenants and guaranteed in the Israel-Jordan peace treaty in which the Kingdom is given special standing in regard to Al Aqsa Mosque and other religious places in Jerusalem.

Perhaps the one place with the biggest cause for hopelessness is Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian population feels totally abandoned by the world.

Even Gaza’s southern Arab neighbour, Egypt, has been denying the right of movement to Palestinians in the strip, under the excuse that it fighting violent extremists in the Sinai Peninsula.

The flooding of the borders with water after the destruction of some 3,500 houses on the Egyptian side of Rafah has further frustrated Gazans who are left entirely at the mercy of the Israeli occupiers.

Hopeless and without a clear national strategy, Palestinians will continue to move in various directions without any major breakthrough, unless the international community gets seriously involved.

The escalation of violence will most probably shake up things in major Western capitals, but due to the Obama-Netanyahu tension over Iran, there are few expectations that the Americans can have any political credit to dispense here.

The pressure on Palestinians to come together is always much greater when blood is split.

If the current violence and the accompanying Israeli repression will not succeed in getting Palestinian leaders to put aside their grievances and work together for the common good, it is not clear what will.

Palestine is hurting and the people are yearning for answers that require novel ideas.

But the most important idea today is a classic one. Unity and a clear, doable, strategy are the best answer to the questions everyone is asking today.



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