Saeb Erekat: Between policy and fantasy

Mutual loathing is equally served by competitive squabbles for brownie points in raising the bar of anti-Israeli discourse and violence.

By
September 20, 2015 00:14
CHIEF PALESTINIAN negotiator Saeb Erakat (left) waits for for a foreign visitor

CHIEF PALESTINIAN negotiator Saeb Erakat (left) waits for for a foreign visitor at the Palestinian presidential offices in Ramallah last year. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Last week, the Palestinian National Council (PNC) was due to meet after a very long hiatus. Once again, it has been postponed indefinitely.

Perhaps this was to be expected in view of Palestinian fragmentation, divided by tribe or place of origin (West Bank, Gaza), religiosity and naked power. Misalliances and fractures have flourished through the pecking order of patronage and bribery, often creating strange and unstable bedfellows.

Mutual loathing is equally served by competitive squabbles for brownie points in raising the bar of anti-Israeli discourse and violence.

Assaults are further fomented through the structural subsets underpinning blatant terrorism, more commonly known as the coordinated global delegitimization campaigns.

Throughout this public and declaratory array of hostility, behind-the-scenes operational PLO engagement with Israeli authorities – even if denied – continues on functional issues, from security to health to taxation and commerce.

The late Israeli diplomat Abba Eban was wont to say: “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Today he may have considered Palestinian “policy” as a onestep forward, two-step back cognitive disconnect from reality.

This would seem to characterize the master PLO negotiator with Israel under both Yasser Arafat and PA President Mahmoud Abbas – Saeb Erekat of Jericho.

Despite his eloquent public appearances as a good-willed, jovial and rational champion of peace, he is the prime mover of see-saw diplomacy.

In 2014, violating an understanding with both the United States and Israel, he led the Palestinian move to sign onto 15 UN-linked and other treaties, including the International Criminal Court, marking the launch of a judicial jihad against Israel, otherwise known as “lawfare.”

EREKAT HAS now repeated the coup, apparently inspiring President Abbas to announce a putative resignation, reportedly placing him in line as successor.

This maneuver seems aimed at blocking Abbas’ long-time foe, former Fatah security chief Mohammad Dahlan. A Gazan, long exiled by Abbas to the United Arab Emirates, Dahlan has become a conduit for Abu Dhabi funding – arguably a tool to buy dissident Hamas and, perhaps, Fatah support in the battle for Palestinian leadership.

Erekat’s now-postponed PNC meeting was to have been the stage for a dramatic endorsement of Abbas’ presentation to this month’s United Nations General Assembly in New York of the PA’s March 2013 report, titled “Palestine: A State Under Occupation,” whereby the Oslo Accords are to be declared null and void, significantly curtailing further security cooperation with Israel.

Erekat, appointed by Abbas as PLO secretary- general in June 2015, has also embarked on a little-noticed outreach to the Palestinian diaspora, beginning with those in Lebanon and Syria, as noted in the PA’s unrealistic, lip-service invitation to Syrian refugees. More interesting was his visit last month to Chile – which is home to the largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East – and to Argentina, where his presence invigorated the pro-Palestinian BDS crowd.

The Wiesenthal Center’s Latin American representative, Dr. Ariel Gelblung, reported from Erekat’s lecture at the Tres de Febrero (3rd of February) University in Buenos Aires: “The Iran treaty was a huge success for the United States and Europe... We will now call on Europe – led by France – together with the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa], adding Argentina, Japan and the United States to force Israel to recognize Palestine... We will be working for an axis of Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia and support them in the struggle against ISIS [Islamic State]... Hamas must join a [Palestinian] unity government.”

Perhaps Abba Eban’s maxim on lost opportunities should be expanded to include a syndrome of constant confusion between policy and fantasy.

The author is director for international relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.Last week, the Palestinian National Council (PNC) was due to meet after a very long hiatus. Once again, it has been postponed indefinitely.

Perhaps this was to be expected in view of Palestinian fragmentation, divided by tribe or place of origin (West Bank, Gaza), religiosity and naked power. Misalliances and fractures have flourished through the pecking order of patronage and bribery, often creating strange and unstable bedfellows.

Mutual loathing is equally served by competitive squabbles for brownie points in raising the bar of anti-Israeli discourse and violence.

Assaults are further fomented through the structural subsets underpinning blatant terrorism, more commonly known as the coordinated global delegitimization campaigns.

Throughout this public and declaratory array of hostility, behind-the-scenes operational PLO engagement with Israeli authorities – even if denied – continues on functional issues, from security to health to taxation and commerce.

The late Israeli diplomat Abba Eban was wont to say: “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Today he may have considered Palestinian “policy” as a onestep forward, two-step back cognitive disconnect from reality.

This would seem to characterize the master PLO negotiator with Israel under both Yasser Arafat and PA President Mahmoud Abbas - Saeb Erekat of Jericho.

Despite his eloquent public appearances as a good-willed, jovial and rational champion of peace, he is the prime mover of see-saw diplomacy.

In 2014, violating an understanding with both the United States and Israel, he led the Palestinian move to sign onto 15 UN-linked and other treaties, including the International Criminal Court, marking the launch of a judicial jihad against Israel, otherwise known as “lawfare.”

EREKAT HAS now repeated the coup, apparently inspiring President Abbas to announce a putative resignation, reportedly placing him in line as successor.

This maneuver seems aimed at blocking Abbas’ long-time foe, former Fatah security chief Mohammad Dahlan. A Gazan, long exiled by Abbas to the United Arab Emirates, Dahlan has become a conduit for Abu Dhabi funding – arguably a tool to buy dissident Hamas and, perhaps, Fatah support in the battle for Palestinian leadership.

Erekat’s now-postponed PNC meeting was to have been the stage for a dramatic endorsement of Abbas’ presentation to this month’s United Nations General Assembly in New York of the PA’s March 2013 report, titled “Palestine: A State Under Occupation,” whereby the Oslo Accords are to be declared null and void, significantly curtailing further security cooperation with Israel.

Erekat, appointed by Abbas as PLO secretary- general in June 2015, has also embarked on a little-noticed outreach to the Palestinian diaspora, beginning with those in Lebanon and Syria, as noted in the PA’s unrealistic, lip-service invitation to Syrian refugees. More interesting was his visit last month to Chile - which is home to the largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East - and to Argentina, where his presence invigorated the pro-Palestinian BDS crowd.

The Wiesenthal Center’s Latin American representative, Dr. Ariel Gelblung, reported from Erekat’s lecture at the Tres de Febrero (3rd of February) University in Buenos Aires: “The Iran treaty was a huge success for the United States and Europe... We will now call on Europe - led by France - together with the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa], adding Argentina, Japan and the United States to force Israel to recognize Palestine... We will be working for an axis of Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia and support them in the struggle against ISIS [Islamic State]... Hamas must join a [Palestinian] unity government.”

Perhaps Abba Eban’s maxim on lost opportunities should be expanded to include a syndrome of constant confusion between policy and fantasy.

The author is director for international relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.


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