By Salah Mansour
Since al-Jazeera TV and The Guardian paper have disclosed the Palestine Papers, it seems everybody has been surprised! The majority of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims were shocked with the level of concessions conceded to Israel, and in the West (especially Europe and the USA) they’re perplexed how could Israel refuse such a generous Palestinian offer to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, such as dissolving the Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return, and relinquishing sovereignty over much of Haram al-Shareef and East Jerusalem! In this article, I will present analysis why we should not have been surprised; this has been predictable for a long time.
Many Palestinians (especially within Fateh party) and Arabs have deluded themselves that they can actually fool Israelis. They have convinced themselves that
- Israeli and the Western powers will actually allow a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip,
- Israeli will be receiving all Palestinian refugees who wish to return, and
- Israel will be giving up sovereignty and control over East Jerusalem.
In a nutshell, the deluded people still believe that Israel will dissolve itself as a Zionist state (where Jews are the majority) and it is a matter of time until both states becomes a one bi-national state; what a pipe dream! Sadly, what fueled this delusion that the Palestinian leadership (Yassir Arafat included) were incapable of telling the Palestinian people at what cost their “Swiss Cheese” Palestinian state will be. To have such a state, not only Palestinians have to give up most of their property rights in Israel (who still own over 94% of historic Palestine), Palestinians have to give up their sacred right of return, give-up sovereignty over much of East Jerusalem, and ending the conflict once and for all. Privately, these leaders negotiated with the Israelis and the US as if Palestinians don’t exist, and spoke to Palestinians as if Israelis don’t exists too! For example, here is a portion of an OP-ED piece by Yassir Arafat published in the NY Times in February 3rd, 2002 clearly giving up Palestinian refugees’ right of return, however, to this date this article is being denied by Fateh and of course the double talk continues:
“We understand Israel’s demographic concerns and understand that the right of return of Palestinian refugees, a right guaranteed under international law and United Nations Resolution 194, must be implemented in a way that takes into account such concerns.” Click here to read the full article.
Let us be frank about this, the problem here isn’t limited to Yassir Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, Ahmad Qurai’, Yasser Abed Rabbo or Saeb Erekat, the problem here that the democratic institution within the PLO body have been systematically destroyed; not only from within the PLO but also within most Palestinian political parties especially Fateh (which was the backbone of Palestinian politics). Lack of accountability within the PLO, made its leadership take the Palestinian people for granted and of course that leads to corruption and to more corruption.
Let us look at the failure of the Oslo Accord as an opportunity to rebuild our democratic institutions from the ground up. Our institutions have to be accountable and transparent especially when it comes to national security matters as the right of return, compensation and Jerusalem. This failure should be the incentive to all of us (especially within Fateh) to clean house.
For a second, let us assume that you are an Israeli leader and you really want to reach a settlement with Palestinians:
- Would you be willing to negotiate seriously with such Palestinian negotiators who tell you one thing and tell their people a totally different thing?
- Would you be willing to negotiate seriously with such Palestinian negotiators who are willing to sellout cheaply the most basic of their people’s rights? Such as their people’s right of return and compensation.
- Would you be willing to negotiate seriously with such Palestinian negotiators who were thrown out of office in 2006 election?
- Would you be willing to negotiate seriously knowing the Palestinian people are divided?
When Israel negotiates with Palestinians, it expects something real in return. Israel is willing to allow a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza only when it is confident that the Palestinian people (not just their leaders) will deliver on ending the conflict once for all. Sadly, the current PLO leadership are pathetically weak and the only thing they can provide to Israeli is to become be its jailers in Palestine; what a shame; what a shame.
Salah Mansour is the founder and editor of PalestineRemembered.com, the largest Palestinian online community.