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14 March 2019

Should Palestinians wait five minutes before saying no?

By: Daoud Kuttab
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The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has dragged on for decades without any solution or any glimmer of hope for a solution. Israel’s military occupation continues undeterred as does the illegal exclusively Jewish settlement activities in Palestinian lands occupied by Israeli forces, including East Jerusalem.

Palestinian philosopher Sari Nusseibeh has often said that the solution to the conflict can be found in one of two ways. Either both sides share the land, or share the power. Israeli Jews and Zionists around the world, including Christian Zionists, insist that they are totally opposed to the sharing of the power method. Zionism was based on the need for a state as Jewish as France is French and England is British.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made this position quite clear this week, when he bluntly said that Israel is not a state for its citizens. So if Palestinians, constituting 1.8 million and living in Israel, will be considered second-class citizens according to Netanyahu’s idea, then Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza would be third or even fourth-class citizens.

So this leaves the sharing of the land as the only other legitimate option left. This means that what the world community, and a slight majority among Israelis and Palestinians, are likely to accept is the two-state solution on the basis of an independent contiguous state in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, with some border exchanges equal in size and importance, alongside a secure Israel.

The US “ultimate plan” that Washington is said to be ready to unveil after the Israeli April 9 elections is unlikely to meet the minimum Palestinian demands and will be, as some have said, dead upon arrival.

Some of the friends of Palestine have been advising the Ramallah leadership to wait five minutes after the announcement is made before saying no to it. The idea behind this advice is that by waiting just a little bit, Israel will be forced to take a stand on the plan. If it says no, the world will see that even a plan by the most pro-Israeli administration is not acceptable by Israel, which rejects both sharing the power and sharing the land. On the other hand, if Israel does not reject the plan, which might include certain areas of the occupied territories to be part of a future state (say the northern part of the West Bank), then it would be very hard over time for Israel to settle in these areas and, thus, it will protect parts of the Palestinian territories from further loss to illegal settlements.

A short delay by the Palestinians can allow the international community and Arab states to do the bidding of Palestinians and reject the plan for being unjust, unfair and impractical. Again, the idea would be that this way, Palestinians will not be blamed for being peace rejectionists.

The problem with this scenario or tactic is that it could have a major blowback against the leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Already there are so many critiques, especially from rival parties and individuals, who are falsely claiming that Abbas is secretly cooperating with the Americans and that at the proper time he will join the American-led plan and, thus, “sell out” the Palestinian cause. While there is no truth to such outlandish accusations, they do weigh in a lot in terms of the current Hamas-Fateh conflict, especially in Gaza.

The recent appointment of a politically-backed Fateh leader will give the seat of the Palestinian government some badly needed power that is close, but at the same time independent, of the Muqata and Mahmoud Abbas. If Mohammad Shtayyeh will be able to forge a slightly independent track in terms of how to deal with various peace proposals, then it is possible that a more nuanced response could be possible as a tactic to show the world that it is Israel and its government that are the real enemies of peace. The chances of this idea happening is very limited, but if politics is the art of the possible, then it would make sense that such ideas from a well-respected Arab leader will be at least given a chance.

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net

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