Last September, the Palestinian UN initiative caused an international
Some described it as taking the lead; others – particularly
Israelis – considered it a non-helpful unilateral move.
Last year, the
Palestinian political scene, stagnant for years, sprang back to life.
Journalists went from talking about the slow progress after the Arab
revolutions, to attending conferences, producing stories and looking for
analysis on politics and international laws.
Campaigns and patriotic
songs were all over the national media outlets. The top story was the
Palestinian attempt to gain international recognition for the state of Palestine
from the UN.
Most of the details were kept secret. Would Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas head to the General Assembly or the Security
Council? What would he cover in his speech?
But one precise question was on the
minds of many: What would come after September? The implementation of UN
Resolution 194, negotiations, an end of occupation, or complete pandemonium?
“October will come after September,” came the answer from a cynical friend,
self-described as realistic.
Indeed, although Abbas received a triumphant
reception by his people in the PA’s headquarters a few days after his speech, it
is safe to say now, almost a year since the UN bid, that the step was a symbolic
It definitely put Palestine back on the international agenda,
but only for a while; no political process was built on it. On the contrary,
West Bank settlement continues to increase, though internal checkpoints are a
bit more tolerable.
Abbas says he will not go back to the negotiation
table unless Israel halts settlement building, and acknowledges clear terms for
the peace process, the right of a Palestinian state to exist on the lands Israel
occupied in the 1967 war.
The two parties should talk. But about what?
Israel’s vision of the solution to the final status issues doesn’t seem to need
Especially when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu openly
says he will not negotiate on Jerusalem – just like his no to the 1967 line, no
to a settlement freeze before Israel is acknowledged as a Jewish state, and no
to the return of Palestinian refugees.
To some Israelis, the status quo
that the illegal Jewish settlement in the Palestinian territories created makes
it harder for Palestinians to negotiate with them.
settlements should be evacuated or swapped; however, Israel has invested in
these settlements in a way that does not allow for a simple solution. Indeed,
according to international law, all persons born in the West Bank have a right
to remain citizens of whatever state emerges on this territory.
reports by Agenda – The Israeli Center for Strategic Communications shows that
there is nearly no mention of the occupation in Israeli media. Some may even
ask, “What occupation?”
Israel has no intention of settling with Palestinians
now. Sadly or not, there isn’t even a reason. We don’t pose any direct threat.
Most Israelis believe that the tall, gray and ugly barrier has played a role in
the lack of attacks; however, the truth is that most of the Palestinian people
no longer have the will to resist the occupation because they no longer trust
their leadership. Many who fought in the first and second intifadas and spent
many years in prison have received little support upon their release and are
depressed by what they perceive as corrupt and defunct leadership in the West
Bank and Gaza.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, for in this
strange little concoction that we call Israel and Palestine, no fewer than
25,000 Palestinians illegally cross daily to work in Israel.
I SPEAK of
all this to demonstrate the strangeness of the current state of affairs. In my
own mind, the conflict doesn’t seem complicated anymore, so much as surreal – a
bizarre mix of fact and fiction. The UN bid appears now as a meaningless gesture
from a Palestinian leadership desperately attempting to cling to any semblance
of resistance as it finds itself increasingly powerless and unsupported by its
Journalists have returned to sleeping long hours, sometimes
covering the “fun” stories their international media agencies demand.
those whose hopes were high in September need some kind of victory. At least a
change of some kind. The youth are eager to fight for their future, for sake of
the country they would love to see free, and not to be labeled as traitors or
accepting of injustice – especially when settlers’ attacks continue to provoke
I spent last week talking to Palestinian mothers trying to
prevent their children from participating in demonstrations or leaving the house
when the Israeli army is around. Needless to say, these mothers want the best
for their children. Some consider them wise for keeping their children out of
confrontation with the army, others see them as unpatriotic and unwilling to
sacrifice for the cause.
I did a quick poll in the streets of Ramallah
earlier this week. I asked people randomly whether they were pro-negotiations or
against them. Some of the older people acknowledged that such a path was a
failure, but said it was the only alternative. Others said Israel did not
seriously intend to negotiate with us.
Dismantling the PA and holding
Israel responsible for us as an occupying power is not an option the US is
considering. But when Abbas comes to the conclusion that negotiations will go on
and on, I think he might take the step.
People close to Abbas whisper in
private sessions that the old man is fed up with the situation, with Israel,
with Hamas and Fatah as well.
In this minuscule poll I conducted, some
youth expressed their excitement over this; they wished Abbas would be that
On the Israeli side, it is no longer clear that an
occupation even exists, and security concerns are vague at best, especially
regarding the efficacy of the barrier, among other things – such as the Iranian
threat. Further, the discourse on either side is becoming exceedingly
asymmetrical, with Palestinians clinging to UN Resolution 194 and the Israeli
leadership all but explicitly denying its legitimacy.
This is part of the
fiction. The facts are that this political stagnation on both sides is sitting
on a powder keg of economic inequality that is uncomfortably being approached by
the flames of populations pushed to the financial brink, threatening to blow
this little sliver of land to kingdom come. In the last 20 years of meaningless
political theatrics, has anyone noticed the ridiculous prices of housing in
Israel and Palestine? So what are our options at this point? Are there any
options? Add to an already difficult situation the inability of progressive and
moderate elements on both sides to create any political momentum, and our
situation seems all but hopeless.
Indeed, this is our only hope: that
responsible leadership emerges on both sides, leadership that is unwilling to
play Russian roulette with the economics of a politically volatile situation and
that is willing to address objectively the major issues, such as settlements,
the Right of Return, Jerusalem, the Green Line and water. As things stand, the
discourse of each side is not even within reasonable disagreement, for to
genuinely disagree, two groups must first agree that they are discussing the
Moderate politicians who place as much weight on the
economic side of things as they do on the political, who have a grasp on
reality, who want to serve this beautiful little land that we all call home, are
our only hope.
What frightens me is that moderate, liberally minded,
progressive people, at least in my age bracket, are becoming exceedingly
They are leaving to live their lives in less contradictory and
fantastical places, where perhaps they feel more able to influence the world
around them positively – or perhaps just to live in peace.
The writer is
a Palestinian freelance journalist and producer working in the West