July 23, 2005
As the “day after” disengagement scenarios become more unclear, Sharon's 'end of the game' strategy is looking more and more vague. Will there be any progress towards peace after this phase? Or even any kind of bilateral political process? Will it be "back" to Road Map? Will it be followed by more unilateral steps? It should be clear that it won’t be what we all hoped for.
The Palestinian leadership should be prepared for the day after. We should be prepared for bitter days to come, including more antagonism between the two nations.
The hope for the resumption of the political process is fading. What could be recorded as Sharon's great “achievement” is his success in keeping Israeli-Palestinian relations at point zero. It seems that what Sharon really wants is for there to be no resumption to any political negotiations for decades to come. In order to achieve this he, it seems has succeeded in eradicating the Road Map because it imposes too many uncomfortable obligations on Israel.
In Sharon’s speech at the recent Caesarea Conference, he noted that the separation from Gaza was based on the assessment that the Jews will never ever be able to reach a Jewish majority in Gaza and they would be better off concentrating their efforts on how to achieve a majority in the West Bank and Jerusalem. For Palestinians it is clear that this translates into no future for the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank and no future for reaching a settlement with Israel. Sharon is telling us that there will be no validity for future Palestinians claims, and definitely no future Palestinian sovereign and independent state with territorial contiguity. Sharon is telling us that we Palestinians have no partner on the Israeli side.
Sharon has continued to use this period to create more facts on the ground. There is not even an attempt to hide his agenda anymore. Worse though, is that he seems to have gotten the US administration to accept his agenda.
Sharon's plan is a backward step, which will force the Palestinian leadership to change its policy and to confront the real intentions of Sharon. The Palestinian Authority will most likely adopt an extreme and rigid stand with the absence of any political progress.
The Fatah Central Committee meeting ended successfully and it managed to overcome all the personal and internal conflict, but this still remains to be tested on the ground. The Fatah’s unanimous position to reject Phase II of the Road Map of an interim solution and a State with provisional borders will be the new Palestinian approach and challenge. In doing so, it seems that the Palestinian leadership has finally realized that there are no chances for a political agreement with Sharon.
With the clear demise of the Road Map, another possible Palestinian strategy might be to rule out the notion of a two state solution and shift to the idea of one state. As part of the Palestinian search for a new strategy or platform the Fatah Central Committee decided to revive the PLO institutions and authorities. It looks that the coming days will show us an extreme stand by the Palestinian leadership as a result of a failed pragmatic policy. A unified PLO and unified leadership will probably lead the Palestinians backwards as well bringing us once again to point zero.
The current chaotic situation in Palestine is due to the absence of a unified national strategy. In the absence of a clear Palestinian strategy, the opposition movements reserve their rights to engage in “resistance”. The last weeks have shown how fragile the lack of a clear Palestinian strategy was and how the Palestinian Authority was crippled by it.
It is now the time for the Palestinian leadership to identify new a strategy based on the experience of the failures of having no strategy. We have witness how the Palestinian strategy shifted from the armed struggle (as the only strategy) to negotiations (towards a clear political vision based on unrealistic strategy). It is now the time for defining a short term and long term strategy that will embody the Palestinian’s aspirations, ethos, and rights taking into account Palestinian capabilities. This must be done recognizing the asymmetric Israeli-Palestinian relations. To reach that goal it has to be a strategy that can be implemented, realistic, flexible, and tangible. It must leave room for unexpected or unpredicted developments. More to the point, there must be complete transparency to all Palestinians as to whether this policy will require them to make future concessions.
The new Palestinian strategy must also take into consideration changes in regional and global interests. The Palestinian leadership has to carefully choose their regional and global allies in order to fulfill this strategy. It has to be noted that the Palestinians will not achieve anything without international support, therefore, a new policy has to be convincing on a global stage. A unified Palestinian vision of the future is absolutely essential at this stage in order to crystallize a strategy that can address the political stalemate..
Currently it seems that all that is taking place in the internal Palestinian arena are backward movements. This includes the clashes between the different factions and the Palestinian Authority. These will not end without a new strategy which is granted legitimacy and empowered by public support. To reach that, there is a need now, more than ever, for a political party law, and for the PA to define the boundaries of legitimate resistance against Israel and the occupation. It must ensure that legitimate resistance will be not taken up as an open threat to its own Authority in the name of the resistance.
The latest clashes between Hamas and the PA security forces are a warning to the Palestinian Authority that its authority does not come without costs. The actions that were taken against the PA aimed to threaten and damage the authority. The President of the PA was elected democratically by the people and he and his positions represent the popular voice. Opposition movements should not be imposing its positions by force; this is only another move backwards.
Even the recent calls for a unified Authority should only be advanced through the ballot boxes, and not by any other means, regardless of the excuses presented by the opposition. Even if it arises from the need to challenge current policies and circumstances- it must be done through legitimate elections, otherwise it is total move backwards.