Palestinian Authority boss Mahmoud Abbas has no self-respect and no respect for his constituents. Although the US has rarely shown much sympathy for the Palestinians under Israeli occupation, Obama’s visit to Israel reached a new low. After saying the US-Israeli alliance is "eternal, it is forever," visiting the grave of Theodor Herzl and pontificating about the Dead Sea Scrolls, looted by the Israelis from the Rockefeller Museum in east Jerusalem, the President proceeded to abandon all official US efforts to halt Israeli settlement construction on the West Bank. Was all this a problem for Mahmoud Abbas? No it wasn’t! "Welcome Mr. President! Welcome to Ramallah! Welcome to our ever shrinking fragment of Palestine!"
How can any Palestinian, Israeli or anyone else for that matter, respect Abbas when he puts aside his role as the guarantor of his peoples’ lives and property and welcomes the man who just acquiesced to Israeli colonization in what remains of Palestine? Obama even promised the Israelis that the US would continue to oppose any Palestinian effort to find international legal redress for their plight, a pledge consistent with a US boycott earlier in March of a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.
If Abbas had the least bit of personal or political courage he would have said firmly to Obama: "You are not welcome here."
Only a fool doesn’t recognize that Obama values Mahmoud Abbas only because he is a willing tool of the Israelis. The Palestinian Authority’s major role these days seems to be restraining resistance to the Israeli occupation while ignoring Israel’s galloping land seizures, settlement construction, check points, closures and house demolitions. Israel holds hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners without charge and the Palestinian Authority now also locks up those opposed to political cooperation with Israel, particularly Hamas supporters.
By now it must be clear to every resident of the West Bank that Uncle Sam has nothing meaningful to offer the Palestinian Authority except money to buy its corrupt leadership and to pay its security forces, but only if the Authority functions as an adjunct to Israel’s West Bank security apparatus. No Israelis were killed on the West Bank in 2012. But what did protecting Israeli settlers get the Palestinians? Nothing! West Bank colonization was not derailed by Palestinian passivity. In fact, the absence of an armed resistance to Israel settlement building actually facilitated construction; meanwhile the Israeli military continued to employ lethal force against unarmed Palestinian protestors.
In a speech to a select group of Israeli young people Obama stated, "Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace…" Fair enough, but the problem with Obama’s new stance on Israeli settlement construction is that it places the decision to build or not to build firmly in the hands of the Israeli government. And further, and even more outrageous, Obama promised Uncle Sam’s best efforts to keep illegal settlement construction beyond the reach of the International Criminal Court. Obama seems to have learned an important lesson from the horse whipping Netanyahu gave him in the Oval Office a few years ago: official US opposition to Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories is a policy no one in the US government wanted to take responsibility for.
What can Abbas and the Palestinians expect from the new Israeli government? No letup in settlement building, that’s for certain: Appointed to the Economics and Trade portfolio in Netanyahu’s new cabinet was Naftali Bennett, former chief of the Yesha Settlers Council. Bennett’s view of the West Bank is simplicity itself, "…there is no such thing as an occupation of one’s own land." Uri Ariel, the new Housing and Construction Minister, a man who built his political career advancing Israel’s colonization of the occupied territories, stated his Ministry’s goal will be "many more" settlers and that "there can be only one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea-Israel." Avigdor Liberman, the incumbent Foreign Minister and ex Moldovian night club bouncer, has already stated his opposition to a settlement freeze as has Netanyahu’s Defense Minister, Moshe Yaalon, no surprises in either case.
Abbas now finds himself in an impossible position: He can no longer pretend to his constituents that the Obama Administration will restrain Israeli settlement building. But if Abbas takes Obama’s advice and returns to direct negotiations without preconditions, Palestinian weakness preordains failure. A child can’t bring a child molester to justice alone.
In fact the Palestinians have achieved nothing negotiating within the Oslo framework. As the leaked Palestine Papers reveal, when the Palestinians began negotiating with the Israelis more than twenty years ago they offered numerous territorial concessions in the Old City of Jerusalem and on the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority even agreed to limit the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees to a mere 10,000 out of five million. Negotiation results? No political settlement and 500,000 Israeli settlers in 200 illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Those figures alone show the extent of the disaster which has befallen the Palestinians since the start of the "peace process."
Abbas’ strategy of throttling the Palestinian resistance with the hope of receiving something in return from the Israelis and the Americans has clearly failed. Abbas’ regime has been so subservient to American and Israeli interests that it even refused to forward the Goldstone Report on war crimes during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza to the UN Human Rights Council for action.
Abbas has brought the Palestinians to the edge of another great tragedy, second only to the Nakba of 1948, which will likely see Israeli colonization preclude the establishment of a Palestinian state and squeeze the indigenous population into ever smaller Bantustans. Events have entirely discredited Mahmoud Abbas and senior members of the Palestinian Authority. Their democratic mandate expired years ago and their shameful collaboration with Israel has profited the Palestinians nothing. They should resign immediately.
The Palestinians need to recognize that cooperation with the American government is a dead end. Obama’s trip to the Holy Land shows, if additional evidence were needed, that the US is wholly in Israel’s camp and that Uncle Sam has absolutely no intention of providing the Palestinians with the kind of leverage which would enable them to negotiate a fair settlement with Israel. The US will continue to ignore international law as it pertains to colonization of the occupied Palestinian territories. It will also ignore the reprehensible and outrageous Israeli policies which have caused untold suffering to 1.5 million people in Gaza.
The Palestinians should pursue Israeli human rights violations in the occupied territories through the International Criminal Court and in every other venue they can access. Security cooperation with Israel should end forthwith-unless settlement activity is terminated. Products made in Israel should join the boycott the Palestinians already have in place against goods produced in Israeli settlements-unless Israel lifts the siege of Gaza. Palestinians abroad should support local BDS efforts. Unarmed resistance of every sort should be organized recognizing, however, that it is likely that such efforts will likely be met with deadly force. All political prisoners should be released, especially members of Hamas. The armed forces of the Palestinian Authority should prepare themselves to defend Palestinians, not protect Israeli settlers.
Is resistance the correct course? It is certainly a recipe for further, potentially much greater, Palestinian suffering and death. Is there any other choice? What is best for the Palestinians is not for me to decide. I can only observe that the right to resist a foreign occupier is both a natural and legal right and that history celebrates those who fight to free their countries from foreign occupations while the Quislings, Lavals and Petains are rightly consigned to the dust bin of history.