By Khaled Amayreh
(source: Palestine Information Centre)
When addressing Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, Fatah indulges in all sorts of bombastic rhetoric about the liberation of Palestine.
However, in negotiations with Israel and meetings with visiting Western officials, the leaders of the movement would dutifully assure their interlocutors that the rhetoric was only meant for public consumption and that Fatah would eventually accept a “peace” deal with the Zionist state even if such a deal didn’t meet Palestinian expectations.
I recently asked a prominent Palestinian intellectual who maintains close ties with the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership if he thought that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is Fatah’s undisputed leader, had any alternative plan in case the Obama peace efforts collapsed.My interlocutor didn’t mince his words. He said that the only alternative Abbas had to failed negotiations with Israel was more failed negotiations.
Unfortunately, this seems to be completely true.
Abbas views lightly, even contemptuously Fatah’s occasional allusion about resuming “armed struggle” in case Israel refuses to end the occupation. Well, Israel not only refuses to end the occupation, but is also consolidating and perpetuating it by making the prospect of creating a Palestinian state on the West Bank unrealistic and illusive.
But why would Abbas look down on these late-time pseudo revolutionaries within his party, who threaten to rise up anew against Israel while enjoying the fruits of political and security coordination with the enemy they are threatening to fight?
Well, the answer is clear. Abbas thinks, probably correctly, that these Fatah leaders are either hypocrites or liars, or both. After all, most of them have reached the positions they are now having thanks to the close cooperation and collaboration with Israel, mainly against other Palestinians, especially Hamas. Moreover, Abbas knows that most if not all of them, probably with the exception of a few patriotic elements such as the imprisoned leader Marwan el Barghouthi and Hussam Khadr, would think twice before sacrificing their perks and lavish lifestyles to return to armed struggle. The PA chairman also realizes that all the rhetoric about taking an uncompromising stance against Israel with regard to continued Israeli settlement expansion is only meant to appease the local Palestinian public opinion and keeps Fatah ahead in the polls, especially vis-à-vis Hamas. This is because Fatah has been effectively emasculated not only through protracted cooption by Israel but also through systematic containment and domestication by the American-backed PA government of Salam Fayyad. This is the reason that Abbas doesn’t take Fatah seriously and is clearly intent on using the weight of the organization to expedite a deal with Israel that would more or less constitute a de facto liquidation of the Palestinian cause. Abbas and his aides have been saying that they won’t resume “peace talks” with the Netanyahu government. However, in private talks with visiting American and European officials, they voice their willingness to resume talks, without conditions, as soon as Israel is ready. This dishonest discourse only further enforces the argument Israel often makes, that the Palestinians would eventually budge to Israeli conditions if only Israel displayed strength and determination in her position. Well, the ostensible PA strictness with regard to the resumption of talks with Israel is really pretentious and disingenuous to a large extent. After all, this is the same leadership that was indulging in protracted and failed negotiations with the previous Olmert government when Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank was going on at the highest speed. This is what the former Israeli Foreign Minister and acting prime minister Tzipi Livni alluded to recently, saying that if only the Netanyahu government moderated its public statements, the settlement-expansion issue would cease making headlines in the international media and disappear from the international agenda. Livni argued correctly that during the previous government, settlement expansion and peace talks with the Palestinians went hand in hand and the Palestinians lived with this and refrained from making a big fuss about it. Unfortunately, Livni’s prognosis is correct as the increasingly authoritarian PA (Fatah) leadership continues to behave rather haphazardly and irresponsibly, giving Israeli leaders the impression that the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah has no red lines to observe and would sell out vital Palestinian interests and inalienable rights for the sake of obtaining a “state” that has all the hallmarks of capitulation to Zionist insolence. In fact, what Abbas and his coteries in Ramallah are indulging in these days is more than just pacifying and domesticating Fatah to accept a prospective disgraceful deal with Israel on the ground that Palestinians have to be realistic. He is also trying to deactivate the overall Palestinian consensus with regard to national constants on cardinal issues such as Jerusalem and the refugees. Palestinians, irrespective of their political and ideological orientations, have consistently agreed that no deal with Israel would be possible without a total Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967, including all of East Jerusalem . The other cardinal and sacred issue is of course the implementation of the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees uprooted and expelled from their ancestral homeland when the criminal state of Israel was created in 1948. Unfortunately, there is mounting evidence that Abbas and his camp are slowly but definitely abandoning these constants and adopting diluted positions compromising Palestinian rights. For example, the PA leadership seems to be slowly coming to terms with the issue of “land swap” whereby Israel would retain the bulk of Jewish colonies, especially in al-Quds and its vicinity, in return for receiving unspecified land, possibly in the barren Negev desert. This would be a scandalous deviation from Palestinian national consensus because a deal as such would really decapitate Palestinian hopes for the creation of a viable and territorially contiguous state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Similarly, the PA leadership seems willing to accept the liquidation of the refugee cause whereby some of the refugees would be resettled in the West Bank while others would be permanently settled in the host countries, such as Lebanon , Jordan and Syria in which case they would be granted Palestinian passports. Well, accepting such a deal would be a treacherous sell-out of Palestinian rights and perfidious betrayal of generations of Palestinian martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their country and their people. It would also constitute a huge contempt for the PLO, or whatever has remained of it, since that organization has always sought to justify its very existence by claiming to safeguard Palestinian national constants. Well, treachery doesn’t become Halal (religiously lawful) when practiced by an organization that had a revolutionary legacy. This is what everyone must understand.
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