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What are the options for the Palestinian Authority?

Majed El-Sheikh

November 1, 2013

Twenty years after the Oslo Accords were signed, it can be concluded that they were, quite simply, 'Israeli'. From the very beginning, the consequences of Oslo have been radically different from how they were imagined by Palestinian minds. Perhaps this was part of the Israeli plan all along because the agreement facilitated the continuation of the Allon project, which linked villages to civil administration, a plan that successive Israeli governments have remained loyal to in an effort to undermine Palestinian initiatives.

Despite the fact that both sides have gone through with the exercise many times, negotiations resume occasionally without addressing the foundations that were set forth by Oslo. Thus, Oslo for the Israelis is now nothing more than a policy that can be ignored at will. At the top of the Palestinian national project - limited as it is by Oslo - sits the Palestinian leadership which has been transformed into a quasi-autonomous authority. The PA's attempt to maintain this self-rule often leads it towards making decisions that are contrary to the national liberation project and the establishment of a state that does not adhere to the 1967 borders. Furthermore, this potential state does not exclude settlements or settlement expansion projects and it does not guarantee that Palestinians will not be excluded from their Arab hinterland. Moreover, the future Palestinian state is unlikely to have control over the Jordan Valley and its borders with Jordan will not be defined clearly. In an effort to delay reaching an agreement and continuing procrastination, the Israeli government has now suggested the idea of 'land swaps', demonstrating further a rigid and unwavering policy. Israel continues to prove that it is obsessed with the issue of national security and that it is their number one priority.

Let us put aside the absurd notion that an agreement will be reached in the current round of negotiations or even twenty years from now. The experience of this bitter reality has proven that Israel, as the ruling occupier, has not demonstrated a shred of willingness to abandon the fait accompli of occupation and force. The Israelis have no motive to reach a deal, not least because the current situation works in their favour. Any agreement would decay quickly and fade away in light of the current regional and international environment, with which the international community is preoccupied. Among the many complications arising from this dire situation, the most important question is simple: what has remained of Oslo after all these years?

What the Israelis have relied on and continue to rely on is to maintain full and absolute control of security and economic development in the occupied Palestinian territories, which they believe were promised to them by God. Hence, control over the land is the long-term physical embodiment of a divine colonial-settler promise. Nothing can prevent or wear down this colonial project so long as the Palestinian side abides by the limits set out by Oslo instead of dreaming of establishing an independent and sovereign Palestinian state (with democratic and secular values) on all of the territory that constitutes historic Palestine.

The post-Oslo hope that Israel would withdraw its occupation forces behind the 1967 border no longer exists. Such withdrawal is needed in order to allow for the effective and practical establishment of an independent Palestinian state or the embodiment of the two state solution, which was not part of the original agreement but was adopted verbally as a policy by Netanyahu and a group of Israeli ministers. All that remains is that we are likely to see yet more abortive measures resulting from rounds of useless negotiations and a so-called transitional period, although no transition was made during the years drowned by Oslo. All the while, the Palestinian side has not been seen or heard. The Palestinians have not been allowed to make even the slightest progress in achieving their national goals.

Furthermore, successive Israeli governments have succeeded in achieving the majority of their objectives as well as building the so-called separation barrier, increasing the size and number of illegal settlements, and continuing the Judaisation of Jerusalem. The Palestinian national goal has been turned from a liberation project into a crisis management project.

For this reason, it has become very important to advance the most prominent tenets of the national liberation project. It is also important to formulate a new strategy to combat the Israeli occupation that takes into account the limitations of Oslo. The numerous disadvantages of Oslo have been exposed over time with the expansion of the settlements and the continuation of the occupation, which both contradict the essence of the agreement. It is imperative to move towards new forms of militancy with the renewal of the Palestinian national project. It needs to be re-determined according to the narratives and events that have been occurring on the Palestinian national scene.

The goal of the Zionists is to erase Palestinian identity geographically, politically and demographically from the land of historic Palestine. Israel is working towards ensuring and protecting the interests of settlers in the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Jordan Valley.

Palestinians need an Arab Spring revolution to overthrow the tyranny of occupation. This must be done without handing over power to or inheriting a system that adopts extreme "modernisation" policies or religious fascism. In order to rebuild the Palestinian political system, the national project must be rebuilt and renewed, and removed from the hands of the factions which practice favouritism and authoritarianism as part of their narcissistic attempts to salvage what has been left post-Oslo. The negotiations and security coordination with the Israelis all rely on dealing with occupation forces at the expense of the Palestinian national cause as embodied by the PLO.

The Palestinian Authority must be accountable to the PLO, which in turn has to be revived so that it is truly representative of all Palestinians. The PA needs to abandon the current negotiations and look for new ways to renew national resistance. Without such changes, the national project of liberation will be moribund and likely to remain so.

The author is a Palestinian writer. This article is a translation of the Arabic text published by Al Hayat Newspaper on 28 October, 2103



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