Abdel-Moneim Said
Al-Ahram (Opinion)
November 18, 2011 - 1:00am

It is reported that in his attempt to pitch to the Palestinian leadership the Oslo Accords, which he played a key role in negotiating, Mahmoud Abbas -- Abu Mazen -- described them as a gamble. Before long it was palpable that he did not master the rules of the game that he had dragged the Palestinians into. It seems that Abu Mazen, like any skill-less gambler, was placing his hopes solely on being dealt a royal flush. Under normal circumstances such a "strategy" would constitute a clear case of naivety if not despair; but when having a dishonest dealer like the United States such an attitude is an outstanding example of self-delusion, to say the least. Nearly two decades into the Oslo Process its catastrophic outcomes are beyond dispute; even Abu Mazen cannot deny them. This might be the impetus behind his desperate endeavours to reach an agreement at any cost, including, as revealed by documents leaked by Al-Jazeera, offering concessions that no Israeli negotiator in his or her wildest dreams could have fantasised securing from the Palestinians.

Abu Mazen's "generosity" has repeatedly been met with relentless Israeli rejection of the minimal Palestinian legitimate rights recognised by the United Nations. His frequent appeals to successive US administrations fell on deaf ears; and the hopes he had placed on Obama quickly evaporated. Under such circumstances, leaders of occupied peoples would probably initiate a new round of struggle or at least contemplate such an option. But not Abu Mazen. Paradoxically, his distaste for any type of resistance has grown proportionally to the Israeli continuous colonisation of the West Bank by the year. While in the past he was adamantly opposed to the resumption of armed resistance, he used at least to advocate non-violent resistance. Today, however, he is even rejecting a non-violent Intifada in the West Bank along the lines of the first Palestinian Intifada in the late 1980s or one similar to the current popular uprisings in a number of Arab countries. Time and again Abu Mazen did not hesitate to use his US-armed and trained security forces to nip in the bud any attempts to organise effective resistance to the Israeli occupation. He made it clear that he is only willing to tolerate protest of the occupation, for instance the marches against the Apartheid Wall in Belin, but not resistance.

Abu Mazen's decision to approach the United Nations demanding its recognition of a Palestinian state on only 22 per cent of Palestine, and in the process conceding maybe for good most of Palestine to the Israelis, is consistent with this view. On the face of it, one could think that this move was less of a gamble than the Oslo Process, if for no other reason but for the fact that over the last several months an increasing number of states had already recognised this virtual state. The recent vote at UNESCO left no doubt that the majority of the international community supports the Palestinian right to statehood, albeit only on a small part of Palestine. But it also reconfirmed an old truth: the United States' diehard commitment to the maximalist agenda of the Zionist establishment that aims to colonise as much as possible of the West Bank through a fervent settlers movement.

The United States' vote at UNESCO and its punitive measures against the majority that granted Palestine full membership through a democratic process came as no surprise. Obama had made it clear on several occasions, most notably during his recent address to the UN, that he was not any different than his predecessors when it comes to Palestinian rights. Like them he would only approve of the crumbs that the Israelis are willing to give the Palestinians in direct negotiations between a Goliath armed to its teeth thanks to the kindnesses of members of Congress, who seem to believe that Israeli settlers and soldiers are more in need of American tax dollars than their hard hit constituencies, and a David. Maybe years after leaving office Obama will follow the example of former president Carter and write a book dwelling on the plight of the Palestinians and criticise the role of the United States in their dispossession, but for now, especially when still having "hope" to get re-elected, he will continue considering a vote in favour of the Palestinians a "change" he cannot afford to believe in.

Abu Mazen knew the quality of the United States' hand from the very beginning. Obama's administration did not keep its intention to use its veto power to deny the Palestinians their right, if its endeavours to bully enough states to either vote against the draft resolution or to abstain reveal a secret. Surprisingly, Abu Mazen showed some will power to withstand American-Israeli pressures -- for a change. But now that the United States has blocked the Palestinian attempt to gain full membership in the UN, what will be Abu Mazen's next move? Of course, he can take his case to the General Assembly where the Palestinians enjoy sufficient support to grant them "observer state" status. However, his aides have been repeatedly affirming that such a status was not their goal. Additionally, does Abu Mazen consider such a symbolic status worth furnishing the Israeli government with an opportunity to once again blame its victims by holding the Palestinians responsible for the next wave of West Bank colonisation that the Israelis will pretend is "retaliation" to his unilateral move?

But Abu Mazen has a card in his pocket that can crack America's hand. He can dissolve the Palestinian Authority, thus officially declaring the death of the Oslo Process. Such a decision can change the rules of the game that have been in place since 1993. In fact, it can create a totally new game, particularly if the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) decides to call for the establishment of one state as the only workable solution to the conflict. Abu Mazen has been reluctant to resort to this option; however, the continuous colonisation of the West Bank and the bursting of the Obama bubble might make him change his mind. Furthermore, he must be aware that the current uprisings in the Arab world in addition to the confrontation over Iran's nuclear programme that is looming in the air have shifted the attention of the media and the Arab and international publics away from the "Palestine Question". While in theory the so-called "Arab Spring" might have a positive impact on the Palestine Question in the long run, it is quite clear that the countries that witnessed these popular uprisings will be preoccupied with their internal affairs for quite some time, probably several years. This makes it even more urgent that Abu Mazen acts now to put the Palestine Question back again in focus.

If Abu Mazen waits for the dust of the transitional periods in neighbouring Arab countries to settle, it will be too late. It is ample time that the Palestinian leadership abandoned the unrealistic idea of a two state solution and push for the creation of one state for all its citizens. Otherwise Abu Mazen's decision to approach the UN would prove to be nothing but a crying call that would cost the Palestinians dearly.


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