Death of Nation Status?

Bias breeds disillusionment

US pro-Israel bias, evidenced again in Geneva, has even the top levels of the Palestinian leadership thinking about ditching the two-state solution, writes Khalid Amayreh in Ramallah

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has voiced deep disillusionment over the “diluted and duplicitous” American stance towards the issue of Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Palestinian officials in Ramallah called the American position unacceptable and incompatible with the rule of international law. “The US says it is against settlements and settlement expansion, but what we see on the ground is that the US government is voting against any international resolution critical of the Israeli settlement policy.”

Earlier this week, the US voted against a decision adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva to investigate Jewish settlements. The decision, which also demanded a reversal of the settlement policy, was adopted with 36 votes in favour and 10 abstentions. Only the US voted against it.

Following the decision, Israel decided to cut ties with the Geneva-based council, citing excessive politicisation of the council and rampant hostility to Israel.

The US decision to vote against the UNHRC resolution, though quite expected, may have been influenced by the election atmospherics in the US and meant, at least partially, to appease and woo the powerful Israeli-Jewish lobby in Washington. Castigating the American move in Geneva, a visibly frustrated Saeb Ereikat, chief Palestinian negotiator, urged Arab states to try “to put an end to this travesty that keeps repeating itself”.

“It is time the Arab states spoke in voice to America in a language based on interests and expediency, not diplomatic niceties. America won’t respect us if we don’t respect ourselves.”

Ereikat’s exasperated tone follows US efforts to thwart and frustrate every political and diplomatic effort by the Palestinians to declare statehood and gain international recognition for Palestinian independence from decades of the colonialist Israeli occupation.

Observers in occupied Palestine argue that the ubiquitous proliferation of Jewish colonies in the West Bank, especially East Jerusalem, the contemplated capital of a contemplated Palestinian state, has effectively killed any remaining reasonable prospects for the creation of a viable and territorially contiguous Palestinian state.

Last week, Ahmed Qurei, who occupied several key portfolios during Yasser Arafat’s era, was quoted as saying that the time for establishing a true Palestinian state had passed.

“We must not continue to deceive ourselves and our people. The chance for the establishment of a real Palestinian state, that would be truly viable and enjoy territorial continuity, is over. We therefore must seek an alternative, namely the establishment of a unitary state between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean in which all people can live equally as citizens irrespective of their religion of ethnicity,” Qurei said.

Palestinian sources close to the Ramallah leadership have intimated to Al-Ahram Weekly that Qurei is not the only one within the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) establishment that is speaking about a one-state solution.

“I believe that everyone has lost hope for the two-state solution. And I think that President Mahmoud Abbas is one of those who believe that pursuing the vision of having a viable Palestinian state has been reduced to a sort of wishful thinking given Israel’s phenomenal settlement expansion. I think the one-state solution will be the Palestinian strategy for the future.”

PA leader Abbas, who is facing a preponderance of internal problems, including a severe financial problem and a seemingly failing reconciliation with Hamas, has been saying that he will send a decisive letter to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The Palestinian leader has not disclosed the contents of the letter, but rumours in Ramallah are that Abbas will send Netanyahu a final warning that “if you don’t put an end to settlement activity, the Palestinians will opt for the one-state solution.”

Some PA pundits have speculated that Abbas might resort to dismantling the PA once and for all and let the international community take care of the situation.

The Obama administration reportedly asked the Ramallah leadership to revoke the letter move, the Americans having been made privy to its contents. The Obama administration is also trying to convince the Palestinians to keep a low profile, at least until November, when the American elections take place.

It is widely believed here in Ramallah that Abbas has received “strong assurances” from the White House that Obama will make “strenuous efforts” to a achieve final peace in the Middle East if he wins a second term in the White House.

However, almost everyone here is sceptical about Obama’s assurances and that very few people if any are willing to give the American president the benefit of the doubt.

Moreover, some Palestinian officials are convinced that the host of internal problems besetting the PA these days, including the crushing financial crisis, are deliberate tactics of pressure and blackmail intended to bully the PA leadership into making far-reaching concessions to Israel.

Also this week, imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti urged President Abbas to halt all forms of security coordination with Israel. Writing in a letter smuggled from the Hadarim Detention Facility and published by the Maan news agency, Barghouti wrote: “The function of our security apparatus is to provide protection for Palestinian citizens, not the occupiers and settlers.”

He added: “All past experience proved beyond doubt that there is no peace partner in Israel. What is even worse is that Jewish settlement tripled or quadrupled in two decades of futile negotiations. In Jerusalem, the de-Arabisation and de-Islamisation is assuming an unprecedented accelerated pace. This is why our people must resist this policy with all means available within the 1967 territories.”

Barghouti also called for a “comprehensive boycott for Israeli products and produces at all levels as well as encouraging Palestinian products in ways that would increase Palestinian employment and invigorate local economy.”

Barghouti is widely taken to be the most popular Palestinian leader in the West Bank. He is serving five life sentences in Israel for his role in the last Intifada.

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