Hani al-Masri
Al-Monitor (Opinion)
December 20, 2012 - 1:00am


Important developments indicate that the Palestinian leadership and the various Palestinian forces are wasting a golden opportunity to develop a new strategy and build upon the recent resistance victory and steadfastness in Gaza and the achievement of obtaining a non-member UN observer state.

The Palestinians should build upon what has been achieved and end Palestinian divisions as part of an integrated process to revive the Palestinian national cause. They should rebuild the national movement, restructure the PLO to includes the various Palestinian forces in order to face the present and future challenges and risks, learn from history, and understand the new givens in Palestine, the region, and the world.

But instead, we hear that the Palestinian leadership is trying to resume negotiations with the Israelis, as if 20 years of negotiating and the disastrous consequences it produced are not enough. Hamas is busy solidifying its authority in Gaza and obtaining Arab and international recognition, while it has not yet held the long-delayed elections, which is affecting its role in various issues, especially reconciliation. Hamas says that it wants reconciliation and that the ball is in President Mahmoud Abbas’ court, while in fact the ball is the court of anyone who acts responsibly, takes the initiative and puts the national interest above individual, sectarian, and factional interests.

Making things worse, reconciliation is being delayed to give priority to the resumption of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in Jordan next February, right after the Israeli elections. If so, then why not just follow Dennis Ross’ advice and resume negotiations even before the elections? Let us not forget that Ross is a proponent of “managing the conflict” theory whereby there is a “peace process” but no peace.

What’s more, and despite Palestinian and Jordanian denials, forming a confederation is now being discussed. Reliable sources confirm that the idea was proposed to test the reaction. It seems like a desperate attempt to revive the “peace process” and prepare for the next phase, whose most important feature will be a frantic attempt to redraw the Middle East map and remake it in a way that, unlike in the past, does not solely depends on outside plans but rather on exploiting the justified and necessary Arab revolutions in order to achieve goals that are opposite than those of the revolutions.

So, proposing to form a confederation now is an attempt to strengthen forces that oppose the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise in the region, that is, the “Sunni project,” which includes Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and other countries, in the face of the Iranian Shiite axis, which includes Iran, Iraq, Syria under Assad’s rule, and a part of Lebanon.

What prevented the formation of a confederation in the past is preventing it now: A Palestinian state is completely rejected by Israel, whether or not it is independent or attached to Jordan. A confederation is simply not in the offing despite what is being said. Therefore merely talking about confederation is a sure way to stir strife between Palestinians and Jordanians, and among the Jordanians themselves — since many are of Palestinian origin — without getting any closer to ending the occupation or establishing a state.

This proposal must be immediately withdrawn because it could destroy Jordan. Examining confederation or other formulas should begin only after the occupation ends. Examining such options now would clear the occupation of responsibility and portray the problem as being one among Arabs, who sometimes want to destroy Israel and throw the Jews into the sea, and at other times only believe in violence and oppose peaceful negotiations. But when the Arabs chose to participate in the so-called peace process they found themselves in a never-ending spiral of concessions. Whenever they offered a concession, they were told more was needed.

After the Arabs recognized Israel — without the latter recognizing the minimum of Palestinian rights — and halted the resistance, prosecuted the resistance fighters, and put forth the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002, we entered the post-Arafat phase. After he was assassinated, we started the phase of proving that we can build institutions, as if the victim is the one responsible for the occupation. When the plan to build institutions was exhausted, they proposed the confederation plan to divert attention toward other issues and prevent us from concentrating all Palestinian, Arab, and international pressure toward changing the balance of powers in a way that would be costly to Israel and defeat the occupation. Only then can the occupation be defeated and a Palestinian state established. But returning to the futile cycle of negotiations without any pressure cards and amid Palestinian division is not only a mistake, it is an unforgivable sin.

But there is a way for us to break out of that catastrophic reality and transform the victories achieved at Gaza and the UN into a blessing instead of a curse.

Salam Fayyad’s sudden call to boycott Israeli goods can be part of that strategy. So is the call to popular resistance, a general boycott of Israeli goods at the local, regional, Arab, and international forums, prosecuting Israel for its crimes, and imposing sanctions — but on condition that these actions are serious and not just slogans for local consumption or temporary reactions to permanent Israeli actions.

We need strategic plans aimed at directing all Palestinian energy, resources, competencies and capabilities toward the struggle to end the occupation, achieve freedom, return refugees, and achieve independence. Resistance sows and politics reaps the rewards. If nothing is sowed, nothing is reaped.

The Yarmouk camp under fire. Palestinian prisoners in Iraqi jails.

We cannot end this article without condemning the bombing of sites in Yarmouk by Syrian warplanes. Nothing justifies targeting civilians. The Syrian regime and all Syrian parties should keep the Palestinians outside the war. The Palestinian leadership should assume its responsibilities, protect the Palestinians, and condemn the parties that want to use them as fuel in the crisis.

I demand an investigation regarding the information that more than 400 Palestinians — and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis — are jailed in Iraq. A conference in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails is being held while no effort is being exerted to release the Palestinian detainees in Iraq.


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