Obama's Betrayal of Palestine

By Abdel Bari Atwan.

When will Palestine be free?


Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has cast the die and set off to the United Nations [UN] to submit the application for recognizing a Palestinian state at the 1967 borders, thus defying all American and Israeli pressures and threats demanding from him to back down on this step and return anew to the negotiating table.

President Abbas's step is an adventure fraught with personal and national dangers. Going to the UN Security Council [UNSC] might mean not getting the nine supportive votes required by the procedures that are followed for referring the application to the UN General Assembly [UNGA]. Even if he gets these votes, the US "veto" is ready. There are fears expressed by Palestine Envoy to the UN Riyad Mansur that the United States might resort to prevarication and procrastination and to freezing the application at the UNSC for several months using examination and consultation as an excuse.

Recognition of an observer member, or a full one if obtained, will be a "moral" victory that will not change anything on the ground despite all attempts to "beautify" it by the media machine accompanying the president. But in the age of defeats and official Palestinian "no-action", small victories are blown out of proportion.

President Abbas went to the UN to obtain recognition of an imaginary state without territories, borders, or sovereignty from a position of despair and not a position of strength and after he became strongly convinced after 20 years of humiliating and ignominious negotiations of the impossibility of an independent Palestinian state that was supposed to crown the Oslo agreement or be its outcome. He, President Abbas, therefore decided that history will remember him, even in one line, as the one who achieved this state at least on paper after which he would retire from the PNA assured of having made some achievement.

This step took the Palestinian people by surprise as other steps like the Oslo agreement had surprised them. The PNA chairman did not consult anyone and did not hold a national or legislative meeting, not even a conference as a formality for a group of qualified Palestinian activists representing the various trends, views, and expertise and not even with the parties to the Palestinian reconciliation he signed in Cairo. The president decided and the people have to obey and support. This is an extremely dangerous situation that few have stopped to ponder it.

Those close to the president argue that going to the UN embarrassed the Israelis and put the US President and his administration in an embarrassing position but it also embarrassed the Palestinian people and some of their intellectuals so much that whether they supported or opposed this step became irrelevant.

Supporting the decision means forgoing several legitimate risks, such as the possibilities of sacrificing the right to return, ending the PLO's representation at the homeland and in the diaspora, and confining the legitimate Palestinian demands to less than 20 per cent of the historic land of Palestine. The new UN resolutions invalidate the previous ones, that is, the new resolution cancels the old one. This is a known legal rule. Recognition of a state at the 1967 borders might cancel the partitioning Resolution 181 and render resolution 194 devoid of the right to return. The Israelis will argue, and how skilled they are in argument, that this right is now confined to the Palestinian state within its borders as determined by the UNGA resolution. They might even go further and impose the right to return on the Arab citizens in Palestine occupied in 1948.

As to opposing this step, it might be thought that the oppositionist opposes the so-called Palestinian national plan which the PNA's men and interlocutors are reiterating a lot these days, stands in the Israeli trench, and does not want to cause the US administration the embarrassment of using the veto. These are shameful accusations in addition to being unacceptable and reflect a mentality of purely blackmailing a nd elimination nature.

We deceive ourselves if we accept the logic with which the adopters of this step are arming themselves, such as saying recognition of Palestine as a UN member or observer country will make the Israeli occupation or aggression an occupation by one country of another one that is a UN member and will enable the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court (Israel did not sign its charter) and therefore pursue the Israeli war criminals. This view might be correct theoretically but has no value on the ground of reality. The United States occupied Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel committed aggression against Lebanon, the member state, and occupied its territories as it occupied Syrian and Egyptian territories and yesterday killed six Egyptian soldiers.

We have Goldstone's UN report which confirmed the Israeli army's commitment of war crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip. We have the International Court of Justice's decision that considered the racist wall in the West Bank illegal. What has the UN done for us? And what has this international indictment benefited us?

President Mahmud Abbas is trying hard, fighting a political and diplomatic war, defying the Americans and Israelis, and mobilizing the international community against them. That is nice and an unblemished effort. But it is avoiding facing the truth, that is, the one in the Palestinian interior. President Abbas's battle should be with the Israeli occupation, settlements, and looting of Palestinian lands and resources.

The rebelling Arab peoples gave and are giving us eloquent lessons, not in changing the status quo but in changing dictatorships that are deeply-rooted in corruption and repression and which overturned all the power and equations balances. Begging solutions and recognition does not change anything and if it does it will be for the worse. The catastrophic results of the Oslo agreements are still evident in the form of settlements, humiliation, and the judaization of Jerusalem.

The Palestinian spring should not bloom only at the UN but also in the Palestinian territory. It is disgraceful that this people who are the detonator of revolutions and the model of challenging injustice should be the last one to catch the train of Arab revolutions with their land still occupied, an arrogant enemy, and a weak and paralysed leadership that is even isolated from its people and Arab reality.

We will definitely stand in the trench of any confrontation with the Israelis and Americans at the UN but, at the same time, we will not abandon our reservations, fears, and insistence on the Palestinian constants as we will continue to consider any victory at the UN incomplete as long as it is not followed by a popular intifadah that exhausts the Israeli occupation and makes it costly politically and militarily.

We want to see 100,000 demonstrators every Friday at Al-Manarah Square in Ramallah or at the Qalandiya roadblocks that is depriving generations from seeing Jerusalem and praying at Al-Aqsa Mosque. We want to see the PNA serving the people's crucial issues and not anesthetizing this people with small initiatives to obtain an imaginary state.

Israel is raising the ceiling of its demands and presents every day a new impossible demand such as recognizing it as a Jewish state so as to expel the Arabs from it while we or our leadership are lowering the ceiling of our demands. The ideal response to Israel and its right-wing leadership is not to demand recognition of a state at the 1967 borders but of a democratic civilian state over all the Palestinian soil where religions and races coexist on equal footing, the failure of the two-state solution, and revival of the PLO and its institutions on scientific reformist bases that absorb the Palestinian generations and struggle change, uproot its dead flesh, and pump new young blood.

Israel is internationally isolated, not due to the struggle of the Palestinians only but also due, firstly, to its fatal mistakes, an d, secondly, to the arrogance of its power and the Arab revolutions that toppled and will topple all its allies or regimes that yielded to its terror. The Palestinians and Arabs are supposed to deepen this isolation through an intensive internal pressure on the occupation and its settlers. Yet this has not happened.

Who would have believed that Turkey, Israel's biggest ally in the region and Islamic world, would turn against it, expel its ambassador, and freeze all commercial and military relations with it. Who would have dreamt that Egyptian revolutionaries would storm the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, scatter its contents, burn its flag, and see its diplomats escaping from the back door like rats seeking safety disguised in the Palestinian koufiyahs [head dress] they had hated and fought for long as the symbol of dignity and resistance.

Finally, we tell President Abbas not to rely too much on diplomatic victories, despite their importance, and must return to the first resistance principles and crown his career with a real victory on the ground and not with a new UN resolution. He must liberate the Palestinian people from the slavery of salaries and give priority to the national interest over the living conditions that lead to the sluggishness that we are seeing today.

We wish that President Abbas will add to his UN speech a sentence that tells President Obama you are interfering with airplanes, missiles, and NATO in Libya Iraq, and Afghanistan to support peoples and their battle for liberation while you intervene to use the veto against the Palestinian people to deny them basic rights which you were the first to recognize. You are asking this people to reach their state through negotiations with their enemies and that is something you did not say to the Libyans, Iraqis, and others. Enough hypocrisy. But it is not Obama, Sarkozy, Blair, Cameron, Merkel, and the other hypocrites who should be ashamed but us the Arabs.


October 2011