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The successful Palestinian dialogue

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  • ummyakoub
    The successful Palestinian dialogue By Hasan Abu Nimah - Jordan Times Dec 31, 2003 EARLIER THIS month, a dozen Palestinian factions sent representatives to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2004
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      The successful Palestinian dialogue

      By Hasan Abu Nimah - Jordan Times Dec 31, 2003

      EARLIER THIS month, a dozen Palestinian factions sent representatives
      to Cairo to discuss their next moves. The assembly covered the entire
      Palestinian political spectrum, from hardliners Hamas and Islamic
      Jihad, at one end, to Fateh, which forms the core of the Palestinian
      National Authority, at the other. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed
      Qureia joined the Cairo dialogue to add his weight to the Egyptian-
      sponsored effort. The Cairo meeting was only the latest instalment of
      an early effort which began in Gaza and ended without reaching the
      conclusion hoped for by many observers, including the PNA. This
      result would have been an agreement by all factions to declare total
      ban on all acts of resistance to the Israeli occupation, ending
      not only attacks on Israeli civilians, but even attacks on occupation
      forces. In short, it would have meant an unconditional and total end
      to the Intifada, with no guarantee of any Israeli reciprocity.

      Israel, no doubt with the intention of making the assembled
      Palestinians' task even harder, announced in advance that it would
      not accept any "truce". Rather, Israel maintained its insistence that
      Qureia "disarm and dismantle" all "terrorist" groups, rather than
      negotiate with them, and promised to continue its assassinations and
      attacks as long as the PNA failed to do that.

      No meaningful effort was made by any of the erstwhile supporters of
      the truce, inside or outside the region, to pressure Israel into
      abstaining from such destructive and preemptive pronouncements and
      actions. Nor was there much emphasis on the obvious point that no
      truce could work unless it is respected by both sides.

      But this time, this was not due to the usual diplomatic reluctance to
      say anything that might annoy Israel. Rather, it is due to the total
      acceptance of the concept that what blocks the path to peace is
      nothing but Palestinian "terror", and not Israeli occupation,
      colonisation and the massive violence used to carry them out. While
      this logic has, of course, been accepted by the Israelis, Americans,
      the Europeans, the UN and other actors in the region, what is most
      alarming is that the PNA itself has now internalised this wrong view.

      When the Cairo talks ended without agreement on a much anticipated
      truce, many who had taken the outcome for granted were shocked by
      the "failure" of the talks. But perhaps the outcome was actually a
      success.

      Qureia insisted that the talks had not failed, but this was just face
      saving, since he stood to benefit most, politically, from waving a
      truce in the face of the Americans and the Israeli occupiers. The
      previous truce, which virtually eliminated violence against Israelis
      for 51 days, was systematically destroyed by Israeli assassinations
      and attacks. This debacle led to the fall of Qureia's predecessor,
      Mahmoud Abbas. Rather than winning any credit for the truce, Abbas
      was routinely blamed for presenting the truce as an alternative to
      fulfilling his supposed commitment to end the very existence of
      Palestinian resistance groups by launching a Palestinian civil war.
      Abbas' inability to fulfil the escalating demands of the Israelis and
      Americans, while at the same time having absolutely nothing of
      substance to present to his own people, led to his downfall. The same
      fate is likely to await Qureia's government.

      The point that went mostly unnoticed in Cairo, while attention was
      focused on the elusive truce, was of much bigger significance and
      probably one of the hidden causes of disagreement: it is basically
      ridiculous to demand of the victim of occupation, who is constantly
      under attack, to declare a truce. It is the aggressor, the attacker,
      the occupier, the land confiscator, the coloniser, the assassin, the
      house destroyer, the possessor of the most lethal war machine, and
      the law violator, who should be required to disarm, stop his attacks
      and declare a truce. His victim has no power to do that on his
      behalf.

      But on the basis of the absurd prevailing logic, a Palestinian truce
      would really mean total surrender to the occupation. The Palestinians
      would simply be putting their hands up while Israel's plans to
      complete the colonisation of all Palestine are completed, while the
      Palestinians sit by, vainly awaiting the mirage of salvation from a
      hypocritical world, an incapacitated UN system and a United States
      that always sides with Israel and writes the cheques that directly
      fund the occupation and the settlements.

      The reality is that it is the Palestinians who need the truce most,
      particularly Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders who are being targeted
      by Israel's death squads. From their perspective, a reciprocal truce
      would make a lot of sense. But a commitment not to respond to
      Israel's ongoing aggression in any way would simply have been
      foolish, especially given the Israeli promise to continue
      assassinations no matter what, as during the first truce. By
      rejecting a one-sided truce, the Palestinian factions learned from
      the earlier experience and decided against signing their own
      execution warrants.

      In the West, there exists the perception that what was at stake in
      Cairo was whether or not Palestinians would continue attacks on
      Israeli civilians. In reality, there is little controversy about
      this, and the parties in Cairo were close to agreement on sparing
      Israeli civilians from the bloody conflict. In fact, since the Haifa
      bombing which killed 21 Israelis in early October, there has been a
      de facto suspension of Palestinian attacks on civilians in Israel.
      The international media have dubbed the period since then one
      of "relative calm", because few Israelis have been victimised. Yet,
      from early October until late December, more than 100 Palestinians,
      the vast majority civilians, were killed by Israel, despite the
      absence of attacks on Israelis, according to a report from The
      Electronic Intifada. Because the victims of violence are principally
      Palestinians, they are unnoticed, as if their lives had no value.

      What the opposition factions wanted to discuss was announcing an end
      to violence, not as a unilateral step under Israeli and American
      pressure, but as part of a broader Palestinian strategy. In
      particular, they wanted to put an end to the political chaos in which
      PNA ineptitude and lack of strategy has plunged the Palestinians.
      Most of the disagreement was because the opposition wants to end the
      PNA's and Fateh's monopoly on power. While being willing to give up
      nothing, the PNA demanded that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all other
      factions grant them full political authority to deal with all issues
      related to peace and negotiations. Given the PNA's unbroken record of
      resolving any deadlock with Israel by conceding more Palestinian
      rights, and the fact that dubious plans such as the "Geneva
      Initiative" and the Nusseibeh-Ayalon agreement regularly emerge from
      the top PNA ranks, no one was likely to buy this.

      The Cairo "failure" simply demonstrates, once again, that recycling
      the failed experiments and formulas of the past cannot end the
      violence, let along lead to peace. Unless the entire approach of
      those who have the power to influence Israel changes, namely the US,
      Europe and the UN, the conflict will grind on. Issuing statements
      demanding that the Palestinians "do more" in a situation where they
      hold almost none of the cards is politically expedient, but useless.

      In the absence of serious international efforts, all that is left is
      to continue counting the dead on both sides, while the names change
      in the office of the Palestinian prime minister and the so-
      called "peace plans" that have been circulating, unimplemented, for
      decades.

      The writer is former ambassador and permanent representative of
      Jordan at the UN. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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