Husam Itani
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
December 14, 2009 - 1:00am

The sympathy in the words of Israeli Minister Benny Begin and the attack of settlers against the mosque of the village of Yasuf in the West Bank, in addition to the tepid response to Palestinian efforts aimed at obtaining international recognition of the state which the Palestinian Authority is threatening to declare unilaterally, reveals the depth of the Palestinian predicament and its urgent need for a approach different from that which has proved bankrupt, in and from the side of the two camps dominating the Palestinian scene.

Indeed, Begin asserted that there would be no freeze in settlement construction and that ten thousand people would move next year into the three thousand housing units which recently started being built in the West Bank, at a time when the mob from the Tappuah settlement was burning the mosque in the small defenseless village.

Begin, a hardliner from the Likud, in fact only speaks what the leader of his party, Benjamin Netanyahu, refrains from frankly saying: that the “freeze” is nothing but a verbal sophism that will not have the slightest impact on settlement-building projects, nor on their inclusion in the future strategic view of the West Bank envisioned by Israel. Rather, it is merely a tactical step dictated by the necessity to avoid the escalation of the diplomatic debate with the United States at an unsuitable time for both sides, nothing more and nothing less.

As for the tepid international response to the Palestinians’ call for taking into consideration their suggestions to declare the Palestinian state, it has several reasons, some of them connected to the international climate as a whole, as the general interest is turning towards issues of the global financial crisis, the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, and environmental problems on the one hand, and others related to the dismal failure in which the Palestinians are lapsing in reformulating their national project and achieving minimal reconciliation between them on the other.

Needless to say that the Palestinians themselves bear responsibility for an important part of such a reality, as they insist on trying again what has already been tried. There is nothing new in speaking of the method which Hamas has adopted in Gaza and which led to the war, of which the first yearly commemoration is approaching, while the wreckage of the homes of Palestinians remains in the same state in which Israeli warplanes and bombs had left it. And regardless of whether Hamas describes such a war as a victory or as a disaster, clearly the result of the war has been to impose further regression on the general Palestinian stance and to accumulate difficulties before the formation of a national consensus over a minimal program.

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Fatah movement, which runs and supervises the opposite part of the general recalcitrance, are in no better shape. Indeed, faced with the Israeli settlement drive reaching unprecedented levels, the PA and Hamas have found available no means to protest other than refraining from returning to the negotiations table, coupled with a refusal to resort to steps of moving the status quo, such as resorting to popular demonstrations and peaceful protests, for example, according to what can be understood from the statements made by PA officials, who see no perspective of a solution other than negotiations, which they refuse to return to, and in complaining to the United States. It is not known how those who support the project of declaring the state will answer the question related to the source of the abilities necessary to impose it as a status quo on the ground, i.e. much more than what is planned on paper.

Perhaps the President of the PA Mahmoud Abbas refraining from visiting the refugee camps during his last visit to Lebanon provides an indication of the two different worlds in which PA officials and the victims of the Palestinian nakba (catastrophe) live. Abbas is busy with great things, of course, and promises future visits, naturally.


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