By Stuart Littlewood – London
See this embarrassment as your big chance – a God-sent opportunity to sweep away the shameful Palestinian Authority. Then make a fresh start.
Bypass Israel and its twisted backers and deal direct with those responsible, the United Nations.
Don’t think that you are the only ones with traitors in your midst. We too have our quislings. They have given away our sovereignty to the EU and Brussels, sold off our national assets to foreign corporates and shackled us to the US-Israel ‘axis of greed’. They have even abused the trust and loyalty of our troops by committing them to illegal wars that have nothing to do with defence of the realm and everything to do with advancing the crazed ambition of foreign "allies" to get their dirty mitts on other people’s resources.
Following the latest revelations, courtesy of Aljazeera, about the antics of PA negotiators behind closed doors, the PA’s normally invisible man in London, Manuel Hassassian, made a surprise appearance on the BBC’s Newsnight programme. He explained that the negotiations in question (involving Condoleezza Rice, the then-US secretary of state and Tzipi Livni, the then-Israeli foreign minister) were not considered to be negotiations at all. They were “an exchange of ideas, informal talks”.
Hassassian said: “Always the Palestinians have been the underdog. We never had a symmetrical relationship in terms of negotiations. All the time we have been dictated to by the US government and the Israelis because they have had the upper hand."
Welcome, then, to the brave new world of Palestinian negotiations, where the underdog sits down to asymmetrical talks, which are not serious talks, and gives away his most important bargaining chips before the real asymmetrical talks begin… knowing full well that they are strictly non-negotiable.
No International Law in the ‘Negotiations’
The Palestinian embassy in London defended the bumbling negotiators by posting words of praise by United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, on its shiny new website. Serry said: “I can personally attest to the commitment of the Palestinian leadership to secure the legitimate rights and interests of the Palestinian people, based on international law and UN resolutions.”
This was reinforced by an official press release from the negotiating team saying: "We seek to establish a sovereign and independent Palestinian State along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and to reach a just solution to the refugee issue based on their international legal rights, including those set out in UNGA 194. What an accurate record will show is that we have insisted that any solution be grounded in principles of international law, which Israel has consistently refused to accept or recognize.
"Even though many ideas have been discussed by the two sides as part of the normal negotiations process, including some we could never agree to, we have consistently said any proposed agreement would have to gain popular support through a national referendum. No agreement will be signed without the approval of the Palestinian people."
The awful truth is that international law has never been a feature of the talks. So why is the PA engaging in this farce in the first place?
Another scandalous disclosure is the British plan to collude with the PA and Israel in "degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists", detaining key middle-ranking officers of Hamas and other armed groups, and recommending temporary internment with EU funding – all utterly unlawful of course.
As The Guardian points out, the documents highlight the intimate level of military and security cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli forces. "The bulk of the British plan has since been carried out by the West Bank-based PA security apparatus which is increasingly criticised for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture."
I have asked my MP, who is a Foreign Office minister, for the truth about the role of British intelligence in drawing up a secret plan to crush Hamas, and asked if anyone in the Foreign Office can explain what threat a resistance movement fighting illegal occupation poses to the UK.
I don’t expect a sensible answer as the British government is stuffed with Zionist supporters from the prime minister down.
The disclosures also seem to show that PA leaders have been obsessed by their hatred for political rival Hamas, which trounced them in the 2006 elections, and by their determination to remain the dominant force against the people’s wishes. They even tried to tighten the blockade on their own countrymen by complaining to the Israelis that not enough was being done to destroy the tunnels under the border between Gaza and Egypt. As if that wasn’t enough they invited Israel to reoccupy that border zone.
In short, they did everything possible to widen the gulf of internal division, with Israeli and American help, and of course played straight into Israel’s hands.
Negotiations ‘Only Serve Israel’
A few months ago Hamas’s strategy for ending the Zionist occupation and restoring Palestinian rights was set out by Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal. The key points were these:
– Hamas only employs “legitimate resistance” – i.e. against the enemy occupying Palestinian land and holy places.
– Hamas believes negotiations right now would only benefit Israel. Peace cannot be made when one party is so powerful and the other so weak. For the Palestinians negotiation under these circumstances means surrender.
– Hamas does not recognise Israel. Doing so would effectively legitimise the occupation and the rest of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, and would be unacceptable in terms of international law and human values.
– Hamas is not looking for recognition by the West. It already has the legitimacy of the ballot box.
– There will be no peace in the region until the powers deal with Hamas and respect their interests and rights and quit favouring Israel at Palestine’s expense.
– Hamas is in no great hurry.
Meshaal is clear that Palestinians entering into negotiations must be united. Negotiation today – under the current balance of power – serves only the enemy. The situation on the ground has not yet reached a stage where Israel is forced to resort to negotiation; it still refuses to withdraw from Palestinian lands, and does not recognise Palestinian rights.
Just as there is currently no parity in the field of confrontation, there is also no parity around the negotiating table. In these circumstances negotiation is a "fruitless gamble".
As regards the incessant demands for Hamas to recognise Israel, Meshaal said: “We refuse to recognise the legitimacy of Israel because we refuse to recognise the legitimacy of occupation and theft of land.”
All this chimes remarkably well with a report some two years ago by the Palestine Strategy Group called ‘Regaining the Initiative – Palestinian Strategic Options to End Israeli Occupation’, funded with EU money. It reminded Palestinians what their strategic objectives should be and urged them "to seize their destiny in their own hands” by refusing to enter into peace negotiations unless the international community dealt first with issues relating to national self-determination, liberation from occupation, individual and collective rights, and enforcement of international law.
Only when these priorities are met, says the report, can peacemaking and state-building begin.
That, surely, is the line to take. You don’t negotiate with an armed occupier’s jackboot on your neck, nor should the international community expect it. And why do Palestinians need to do deals with Israel when borders and other matters were defined by UN resolutions and international law long ago?
The study also spelled out the need for national unity. "A house divided against itself cannot stand… Palestinian strategic action is impossible if the Palestinian nation is unable to speak with one voice or to act with one will."
Its concluding remarks are very appropriate right now:
“What Palestinians must be prepared to undertake is nothing less than a final and conclusive strategic battle with Israel. Palestinians should not be deterred by the past, but should look with confidence to the future… Palestinians have more strategic cards than they think – and Israel has fewer.”
It’s a pity the PA and its leaders never read the report. Maybe it just didn’t suit their deluded purpose. Either way, those losers are not part of the future.
What it would take to turn the situation round is a matter for urgent discussion and action. It’ll certainly require incorruptible unity leadership, tactical courage, a bold communications strategy inside and outside the Middle East to mobilise worldwide support, and resolute determination of the highest order.
And with great respect to Hamas, if it is to be a leading player (which is surely inevitable) it really should be persuaded to re-write its charter straightaway.
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.