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Debating the gloomy Palestinian scene

Mar 20,2018 - Last updated at Mar 20,2018

It was a quiet discussion of the situation in the Palestinian territories with a prominent official from the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), who was specially invited to meet a small group of interested academics and politically-concerned personalities at a private residence in Amman last week.

I was there, and most of the questions evolved round the US ultimate deal, the possibility of the emergence of a new Palestinian strategy in view of the fact that the twenty-year-old Palestinian Authority (PA) negotiating strategy has completely failed, and whether the call of PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the Security Council recently for convening an international peace conference to end the American monopoly on the Middle East peace process would be the appropriate alternative.

The Palestinian guest was very objective in describing the poor situation of the Palestinian political landscape. He did not disagree with repeated comments from the group members that a new strategy is absolutely required, that the archaic PLO institutions should be renewed and resuscitated, that Palestinian unity, Gaza and the West Bank, should be differently approached to avoid repeated reconciliation failures and the PA dealings with the occupying power should be radically revised. 

On a different tone, the guest commended the PA's firm stand with respect to US President Donald Trump's declaration recognising Jerusalem as the capital for Israel. He specifically expressed great appreciation for the Jordanian position that led the international efforts to rally support for the Palestinian right to the holy city as the Palestinian capital. He described the Jordanian role and the efforts of His Majesty King Abdullah as vital and instrumental in buttressing the Palestinian adamant rejection of the US move on Jerusalem.

When asked about his, or the PA’s assessment of Trump's ultimate deal, he promptly confirmed outright rejection. He even expressed the belief that the official publication of the US plan could only happen if the plan authors manage to guarantee adequate Arab support for their peace proposals. He was not sure if that would or would not happen.

One of a number of important points the Palestinian guest presented was about the Palestinian state, which he said it does exist as a de facto reality. He did not adhere to the concept that the Israeli occupier should decide Palestinian statehood. Rather than debate the authenticity of the Palestinian right to independence and statehood on their own soil, the Palestinians should focus their efforts on building their institutions and creating their own facts.

The Palestinian guest was emphatic in warning against the danger of the creeping Israeli colonisation of the Palestinian lands. He regretted the fact that this major threat to the very Palestinian existence was not confronted right from the very beginning, just after the 1967 war.

And although he expressed serious doubts about Israel’s intentions to ever reach a settlement with the Palestinians no matter how favourable for Israel the offered terms may be, he did, however, defend the international Palestinian diplomatic offensive which defines the Palestinian terms for a peace settlement within the commonly accepted parameters, a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital of the envisaged state.

Combating colonisation as illegal and as flagrant violation of international law depends essentially on the validity of the verdict that the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are illegally occupied territories.

Although some comments were harshly critical, the debate was mostly cordial and quite illuminating. On the short run, the mood was very pessimistic. The only assuring factor in a bleak situation is the demographic factor: the existence of more than six million Arabs on the historic territory of Palestine. Those people are there to stay despite all odds. They are either equal or even exceed the number of Jews.

If the Israeli colonisation scheme is meant to physically and practically prohibit the rise of an independent Palestinian state, the Palestinian determination to stay on their soil and grow despite the harshest occupation practices in history, on the other hand, is the Palestinian answer to the “Jewish state” and the practical way to render such a claim a mere fantasy. Hence, time is not necessarily on Israel’s side.

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