By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
After wasting twenty years of negotiations in which basic Palestinian rights were squandered while Israel was colonizing the West Bank and Jerusalem and millions of Palestinians rot in refugee camps, Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), decided to ask the UN General Assembly to recognize Palestine as non-member state. The vast majority of the world governments especially in Asia, Africa and South America have been always supportive of the Palestinian cause and direction. The UN vote was substantial: 138 votes in favor, 9 against and 41 abstentions. The euphoria among the Palestinians created by the vote reminds us with the sense of relief and optimism among the Palestinians when the Oslo Accords were signed and sold to the Palestinians by their self-appointed leaders as the road to “the peace of the brave.” Twenty years later, the Oslo Agreements proved to be catastrophic.
Many UN resolutions favoring the Palestinians are collecting dust on UN shelves rather than being enacted. Israel ignored countless resolutions issued by UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice. Israel rejected the Arab Peace Initiative, endorsed by the 2002 Beirut Arab summit, because colonizing the West Bank and Jerusalem outweigh the benefits of formal normalization with the Arab and Muslim nations. Israel has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and it has established low-profile trading and cultural relations with other Arab and Muslim nations without having diplomatic relations, mostly after the signing of the Oslo Agreements. According to Haaretz newspaper issue of last Dec. 28, “Israeli business quietly thrives in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and in far-off countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, too.”
The UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted Resolution 181 in 1948 to create two independent states in Palestine, one for the Arab population on forty-five percent, and the other for the Jews on fifty-five percent of the country after the termination of the British Mandate. David Ben-Gurion accepted the Resolution on behalf of the Jews and their military took over the area assigned to the Jews and large parts of the Arab-allotted territory as well as areas earmarked for international control.
Article 11 of the 1948 UNGA Resolution 194 states: “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.” David Ben-Gurion stated “Israel categorically rejects the insidious proposal for freedom of choice for the refugees, for she [Israel] is convinced that this proposal is designed and calculated only to destroy Israel.” More recently, Ehud Barak stated “We cannot allow even one refugee back on the basis of the right of return.” In 2001, the Knesset passed a law barring Israeli negotiators from discussing the right of return.
After the 1967 war, UN Security Council passed resolutions 242 (1967), 238 (1973) and 429 (1978) that called for Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab territory, but Israel defied the international organization and even annexed East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights. Israel has built more than 120 settlements on Palestinian lands in the four decades since these resolutions were adopted.
The International Court of Justice ruled in July 2004 that the separation wall being built by Israel in the West Bank was illegal and should be pulled down. It obliged Israel to stop construction immediately, dismantle the sections of the wall that have already been built and make reparation for any damage caused by the wall’s construction. That has not deterred Israel from carrying on the land confiscation and building the wall.
After granting the Palestinians a non-member state, the weakness, the autocracy, corruption and incompetence of the Palestinian leadership and the restrictions imposed on the Palestinian people by the Oslo agreements will make it difficult to overcome the longstanding Israeli intransigence and make the transition from a Palestinian Authority under occupation to a functioning state. The Palestinians’ land, the borders and the resources and even the taxes levied on their imports are under complete control by the Israeli occupiers. The only potential power available to the Palestinians is the people, but Abbas assured Israel that as long as he was in power, the Palestinian people would never rise up against the occupation or exercise their right to resistance and self-defense. His police force coordinates with the Israeli security in apprehending people accused of resisting the occupation. Immediately after the General Assembly declared Palestine a non-member state, the Israeli government announced it would build 3,000 new housing units on Palestinian land that is already riddled with Jews-only settlements, towns and highways.
Mahmoud Abbas admitted that the application for non-member status was a second thought and only a reaction to Israel’s policies. He told Palestinian diplomats at a last July meeting in Istanbul that the application for UN membership was forced upon him by Israel’s refusal to freeze settlements’ expansion. He knew that the US would vote against the statehood resolution, but he postponed the move to pursue the bid until the US presidential campaign was over. May be the US told him to do that. The ‘Palestine Papers’ released by Al-Jazeera reveal that Obama’s envoy George Mitchell had told Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on October 1, 2009, that the US would not agree to any mention of ‘67 whatsoever’ in order to avoid “difficulties with the Israelis”.
Abbas indicated that taking Israel to the ICC will be a last resort if it continues its settlement policy in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and the US fails to revive the peace process. He promised Western supporters that the Palestinians would not seek ICC intervention against Israel unless there is a new aggression. The occupation, colonizing the West Bank and annexing Jerusalem are the aggression!
Through all his political life, Abbas has been a concessionist, a push-over and an empty suit with no back-bone. He even agreed to suppress the UN-backed report by international Judge Richard Goldstone about Israeli war crimes against the residents of Gaza Strip in 2008. Abbas revealed the low quality of his leadership and even his manhood in an interview given to an Israeli television station when he relinquished his “right of return” to his birth Palestinian town. He stated: “Palestine for me is  borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever …. This is Palestine for me. I am a refugee but I am living in Ramallah, I believe that West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts Israel.” Amazing! Abbas has thus compromised the very core of the Palestinian struggle. His concession cannot come from an authentic leader of the ‘Nakba’ victims who had been cleansed from their homes and businesses in 490 Palestinian towns and villages by Israeli Jews. Ironically, the Jews who took over these towns and villages claim Palestine as their ‘home land’ because ‘their ancestors’ were born there thousands of years ago.
Abbas, the architect of Oslo Agreements and the endless negotiations with the Israelis that squandered the rights and hopes of the Palestinians, is too weak to make the transition from the under-occupation-PA to a functioning Palestinian state, even a non-member!
– Hasan Afif El-Hasan is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.