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Since issuing the Balfour Declaration in 1917, the Palestine Cause has been one of the most complex and insoluble political issues the world has known. Except for the Kurdish and Kashmir cases, the Palestinian cause may be the only case covering two centuries without the slightest progress.
Therefore, no one can promote illusions about the Palestinian Cause. Despite establishing a Palestinian entity in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel controls the entire land of historic Palestine. The Palestinians are either refugees or subjects to occupation. They suffer from the siege and the Israeli discriminatory policies.
Israel asks the Palestinians – i.e., its victims – to recognise it as a Jewish state. It wants them to recognise its historical narrative and right to exist. That includes removing them from place and time, depriving them of their homeland and identity and humiliating them. It will not be astonishing if Israel asks the Palestinians to apologise for disturbing Israeli life by staying in there and resisting!
Israel was not satisfied with the Palestinian leadership taking its people towards a settlement that gave up two-thirds of their land. Moreover, it did not see that the Palestinian leadership sought relative justice in a negotiated solution to the various aspects of their cause. The Israelis require nothing short of the Palestinians’ complete, publicised and written surrender. In other words, Israel wants the Palestinians to see establishing a Palestinian state as an acceptance of putting an end to their conflict with Israel.
Since its inception, the settlement process has neither been a realistic nor a good choice. There is an imbalance of power in favour of Israel. This state did not grow as one with a culture enabling its citizens to renounce its colonial, settler and racist nature. Moreover, Israel did not enter this settlement process to solve the crises of the Palestinians. Its intention was not to reach settlement agreements with the region’s countries.
Israel entered this process to adapt to global changes, improve its image, and free itself from the burden of the Palestinians. That explains the Israeli arrogance and stubbornness, for they missed the opportunity for peace and normalisation with the Arab countries by disregarding the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002.
In short, Israel wants to get rid of the Palestinians as an economic and security burden that weighs on its budget and army, as if they were irregularly introduced to space and time, considering them a demographic threat to its Jewish state, and their presence a distortion of Israeli “democracy.”
The past three decades proved that the Oslo process was a risky and adventurous gamble, even compared to the preceding circumstances of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. That includes their ability to move, work, and even resist the occupation. That is why they broke out in the first Intifada before establishing the Palestinian Authority and bringing the factions and the PLO back inside Palestine.
The Palestinians dreamed of establishing a homeland and a state for themselves. Yet the establishment of the Authority turned out to be a burden that weighs heavily on the Palestinians’ shoulders. It curbed their struggle against the occupation, divided them, and tainted them with the Authority’s corruption. Add to all of that the blurring of their cause in the eyes of global public opinion by showing the conflict as it was between two equal rights and two negotiating parties!
In reality, establishing the Authority led to two effective and dangerous changes. The first is that a large part of the Palestinians started working in the Authority’s service and security apparatus, meaning that they are working outside the productive sectors, which negatively affects their living conditions and political perceptions. The Authority has about 160,000 employees today. It depends on donor countries and the tax returns that Israel collects in its favour, which means that this Authority cannot continue without these resources.
The second is that the Palestinians are now in the midst of political and living trouble. If they want to change their options or resist the dictates of Israel, they are unable to do so under their current conditions for fear of provoking reactions from Israel and the Western donor countries whose consequences they cannot bear. In other words, financial dependence brings submission or political appeasement. All of this weakens the Palestinians’ will and their national spirit. It also leads to indifference and corruption.
That means that the dominant political class, which also applies to Hamas in Gaza, is at a crossroads. In other words, there are two options. The first one is maintaining its status as an Authority and ensuring the continuity of its financial resources, along with its political entitlements, including political and security coordination. The second one is leaving this equation with the consequences that may include forfeiting the Authority and its financial resources, which would enhance its legitimacy in Palestinian society.
A proverb says: “You can’t have your cake and eat it.” The problem is that the Palestinian leadership favours such a policy. It declares that it will stick to alternative options, yet it does not take action. It doesn’t even qualify itself and its people for these capabilities.
However, we should point out that this chronic Palestinian weakness, in terms of theory, structure and performance, is the result of several fundamental factors. These include but are not limited to considering Israel as one pillar in the international superpowers controlling the world, the Palestinians lacking a suitable Arab incubator, and the Israelis superiority over them in the balance of power, administration and organisation.
Therefore, unless the structure of the international system and Arab conditions change and Israel matures for settlement, the situation will remain as is. And that is supposed to motivate the Palestinians to pay attention seriously to reorganising themselves and search for another political equation, or another alternative, where they can strengthen their position and prove their rights in a long and complex struggle.
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.