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1 August 2019

Can an illegal occupation be managed?

By: Daoud Kuttab
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The big question that is floating today is whether the decision announced by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to suspend all agreements with Israel will or can be implemented?

The complicated relationship built by force over half a century cannot be simply wished away by a public statement or a decision of a president. To illustrate this point, one Palestinian posted on his Facebook account the inside page of his own Palestinian-issued passport, stating that the travel document is issued “pursuant to the Oslo agreement”. The Oslo Accords intrusion is not limited to passports in the possession of five million Palestinians, but falls into every aspect of Palestinian life.

So, short of an end to occupation and Palestinian independence, what can be done? Some have argued that the Palestinian president should simply let Israel run life for Palestinians as they did prior to the 1993 Declaration of Principles, also called the Oslo Accords. In other words, dissolve the Palestinian Authority and force the Israelis to return to the major cities and take over responsibilities of running schools, hospitals and public affairs.

This idea is easier said than done. On the one hand, the partial self-rule that Palestinians have won largely as the result of the first Intifada is seen by many as an accomplishment that was supposed to be the basis for a free and independent state. At the same time, such an idea will have extremely grim results to the Palestinian people. Sure, it will put Israel in a difficult position, but this assumes that Israel cares. Decades of Israeli occupation have shown that they do not care, and the world will hardly make a move to force Israel to deal more equitably with Palestinians if Israel suddenly finds itself directly running every aspect of life in the occupied territories.

The long-time expectation that relief will come from the outside world has fallen on deaf ears. In US President Donald Trump’s world, Israel can do no wrong, and, in fact, is doing no wrong as US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt publicly stated.

So, freedom from occupation is not on the cards for at least until after the US elections if one is to follow in the thinking of those expecting a solution from across the seas. In the meanwhile, is it possible to manage life under occupation? Can Palestinians improve their economy and unify and build up their position for such a day?

While the decision of Abbas is not implementable in the near future, some argue that it puts a marker and a reference point for the current, and, most likely, for future Palestinian governments. In the short term, Palestinians can do a lot to erase some of the negative aspects that the now clearly infamous Oslo Accords have brought. Palestinian officials, NGOs, political parties and non-violent activists can carry out actions on the ground to reverse, for example, the demarcations of A, B and C in the Palestinian territories. Palestinian police, for example, can move a few steps from Al Bireh to Kufr Aqab to illustrate that these fabricated lines within Palestinian lands are no longer valid.

A more ambitious project can be to organise a major Palestinian activity to reclaim area C, in which Israel controls over 60 per cent of West Bank lands. Imagine if the Palestinian Land Authority gave deeds to lands in area C to young Palestinian couples or youth on condition that they live and work the land, or move prefabricated houses to such lands.

The Israeli military and the office of coordinator of government activities have had it easy for a long time. Israel issues travel permits based on political and intelligence rationale while forcing the Palestinian police to carry out the repression on Palestinian non-violent resistance. What would happen if Abbas’s security forces stopped acting on behalf of Israel and allowed protestors to publicly reject the occupation?

The decision of Palestinian president Abbas will be relegated to a committee for discussion on implementation. What is needed is not a governmental committee, but a unifying national strategy that will focus on a single goal of ways to work towards ending the Israeli occupation.

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



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