Is this the boogey-man strategy? Or is it an interesting new effort to mobilize a people that had been nearly paralzyed into lethargic and despairing submission? There’s still a lot of the same old rhetoric — is that really necessary?.
It is clear, however, that all the efforts (some more and some less successful) undertaken during the Second Intifida to reassure the Israelis, to soothe their anxieties and understand their psychological mind-set and their (directly and indirectly-expressed) security concerns has not changed one damn thing. The situation has only gotten worse and worse.
Sam Bahour, American-Palestinian businessman and activist living in Ramallah, sent this information in a message today with attached document by e-mail today. Here are some excerpts:
“Palestinians have been historically outmaneuvered, politically neutralized, and made totally dependent on international handouts. Or have they? A newly released Palestinian strategy document which outlines strategic political options gives witness to a renewed breath of fresh air in the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom and independence…[M]any of the world’s power brokers are convinced that the Palestinians are successfully being forced into submission and acceptance of the colossal injustices that have been carried out against them [after 60 years of dispossession and 40 years of a brutal Israeli military occupation].
“Leading the choir is the U.S. and its Israeli ally, along with several undemocratic Arab regimes. On the political front, they continue to take great pride in a never-ending ‘peace process’ that has created a peace industry in Palestine, all underwritten by taxpayers from around the world. This peace process has no intention of realizing peace with justice, but rather looks to fragment Palestinians’ national aspirations into bite-sized pieces with state-like trappings — the antithesis of a state with real sovereignty, let alone self-determination.
“On the security front, they claim that the Palestinian Authority (referring to the unelected government of Salaam Fayyad in Ramallah) is excelling by installing a heavy-handed security regime, frighteningly reminiscent of the undemocratic, police-state Arab regimes such as Egypt, Jordan and the entire batch of oil-rich Gulf states, which the U.S. has propped up for decades. Driven by US General Keith Dayton and sanctioned by the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership, this security-heavy thrust of activity appears to many observers to be nothing more than another outsourcing option for an Israeli version of its own “security” needs.
On the economic front, they point to grand plans to establish a handful of industrial mega- zones, the majority being located on the unilaterally-defined (illegal) Israeli border between the West Bank and Israel. These industrial zones are meant to absorb the over 150,000 Palestinian laborers that Israel has prohibited from working in Israel. Moreover, as I was recently told by an Israeli promoting these industrial zones, for every job created in such a zone, three will be created for Palestinians outside the industrial zones — thus, in essence, creating an entire artificial economy built around Palestinian and foreign-owned, but Israeli- controlled economic bubbles.
“The 1.5 million Palestinians trapped by Israel in the world’s largest open air prison, Gaza, are not even a part of the discussion.
“In short, the approach of the international community is one of creating a dynamic whereby Palestinians co-exist, not with their Israeli neighbors, but rather with the system of Israeli military occupation, or put simply, sugar coating the status quo which benefits Israel.
“What the international community fails to mention is that the dynamic on the ground is explosive.
“Over the past several months, I participated together with a group of 45 Palestinians from all walks of life — men and women, on the political right and left, secular and religious, politicians, academics, civil society and business actors, from occupied Palestine, inside Israel, and in the Diaspora. We were a group that is a microcosm that reflects the dynamics of the Palestinian society. We could not all meet in one room anywhere in the world because the reality (of travel restrictions) that Israel has created does not permit it, nevertheless we continue to plan and to act. Our mission is to open a discussion on where we go from here: What are the Palestinians’ strategic options to end the Israeli occupation, if any?
“After several workshops in Palestine and abroad and a continuous online debate we have produced the first iteration of “Regaining The Initiative: Palestinian Strategic Options To End Israeli Occupation.” The document is posted at www.palestinestrategygroup.ps and reflects an alternative to an official but impotent Palestinian discourse that will very shortly, in the judgment of most Palestinians, run head-on into a brick (cement) wall.
“Palestinian society is a dynamic, thinking society which has been so battered and demeaned by Israel and its supporters that many folk, including many Palestinians themselves, will be surprised that the Palestinians have any options whatsoever. One thing is for sure: No matter how long the illegal Israeli occupation continues, do not expect the Palestinians to wake up one morning and accept that they are somehow less human than any other free person in this world. The Palestinian people have given everyone – including their own traditional leadership – plenty of time to end this humiliating and brutal occupation. When all else fails, Palestinians will reclaim the initiative, and will continue to do so over and over, until this occupation is consigned to the trash bin of history, along with all the war criminals who allowed it to persist for so many years”.
Sam Bahour lives in occupied Palestine and is co-editor of “Homeland: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians.” He may be reached at email@example.com.
EXCERPTS FROM THE STRATEGY DOCUMENT:
“The central proposal in this Report is that Israel’s strategic calculations are wrong. Israeli strategic planners overestimate their own strength and underestimate the strategic opportunities open to Palestinians. There are four main perceived alternatives to a negotiated agreement that are attractive to Israel and therefore prevent Israel from reaching a final settlement on the terms offered.
First, the default option of prolonging negotiations indefinitely by pretending that ‘progress has been made’ and that suspensions are temporary as during the past twenty years, with ongoing encroachments and military incursions, few burdens, and considerable financial and other benefits from continuing occupation.
Second, a pseudo provisional ‘two state agreement’ with a strengthened but severely constrained PA masquerading as a Palestinian government while Israel disaggregates and picks off the ‘historic issues’ and retains permanent control.
Third, a unilateral separation dictated by Israel.
Fourth, a control of the occupied territories by Egypt and Jordan.
But these four alternatives are unacceptable to Palestinians. They do not take Palestinian national aspirations seriously. Indeed, they aim to undermine Palestinians’ national identity and rights altogether. So, if Israel refuses to negotiate seriously for a genuine two-state outcome, Palestinians can and will block all four of them by switching to an alternative strategy made up of a combination of four linked
reorientations to be undertaken singly or together.
First, the definitive closing down of the 1988 negotiation option so long abused by Israel. This blocks the first two preferred Israeli alternatives to a genuine negotiated agreement.
Second, the reconstitution of the Palestinian Authority so that it will not serve future Israeli interests by legitimising indefinite occupation and protecting Israel from bearing its full burden of the costs of occupation (it may become a Palestinian Resistance Authority). This also blocks the first two preferred Israeli alternatives, and also helps to block the third.
Third, the elevation of ‘smart’ resistance over negotiation as the main means of implementation for Palestinians, together with a reassertion of national unity through reform of the PLO, the empowerment of Palestinians, and the orchestrated eliciting of regional and international third party support. The central aim will be to maximise the cost of continuing occupation for Israel, and to make the whole prospect of unilateral separation unworkable.
Fourth, the shift from a two state outcome to a (bi-national or unitary democratic) single state outcome as Palestinians’ preferred strategic goal. This reopens a challenge to the existence of the State of Israel in its present form, but in an entirely new and more effective way than was the case before 1988.
Is this what Israel wants? Israel cannot prevent Palestinians from a strategic reorientation along these lines. Does Israel really want to force Palestinians to take these steps?
The result of a reorientation of Palestinian strategy will clearly be much worse for Israel than the negotiation of a genuine two state outcome on the basis of the existing 1988 offer. Although many Palestinians may still prefer a genuine negotiated two state solution, a failure of the present Annapolis initiative will greatly strengthen those who argue against this. Most Palestinians are then likely to be convinced that a negotiated agreement is no longer possible. What is undoubtedly the case is that a reversal of the 1988 offer and the adoption of an alternative strategy is much preferable for Palestinians to any of the four preferred Israeli alternatives to a negotiated agreement. So, if current negotiations fail, Palestinians will be driven to replace the 1988 offer by a new strategy, not just rhetorically but in reality. The negotiated two state outcome will then be definitively cancelled. Palestinians will ensure that Israel is seen to be responsible for the closure of their 20 year offer. Israel will have lost an historic and non-recurrent opportunity to end the conflict and to secure its own future survival on the best terms available for Israel.
The first strategic task is the detailed working out of a fundamental reorientation of Palestinian strategy along the lines outlined above, including the new preferred strategic path, and the full range of means of implementation. All of this is commented upon in the main body of the Report. This task must be undertaken in all seriousness and on the assumption that present negotiations will fail. Even if only used as a strategic threat in order to force Israel to negotiate seriously, the intention must still be to implement the new strategy should negotiations fail. An empty threat is strategically no threat. A mere bluff does not work. So it is now an urgent priority for Palestinians to agree and work out in detail their alternative to a negotiated agreement and to communicate this as soon as possible and as forcefully as possible to Israel. This must be the immediate focus of unified national strategic planning that includes all Palestinians, from different backgrounds, generations, genders, and political affiliations, both those living in the occupied territories and those living elsewhere.
The second strategic task is to make sure that Israel understands the terms on which the 1988 offer is still held open by Palestinians and is clear about what Palestinians can and will do should these terms not be met. Has a national movement ever made a concession on a similar scale to that made by Palestinians in 1988? In negotiations Israelis repeatedly say ‘we do all the giving and the Palestinians do all the taking’. This is the opposite of the truth. Palestinians continue to demand no more than 22% of their historic land. It is Israel that has done all the taking through continuous government-backed settler encroachment on this remaining 22%. The second strategic task for Palestinians, therefore, is to spell out the minimum terms acceptable for negotiating a fully independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders, and to explain clearly why this is by far the best offer that Israel will ever get, including guarantees for Israel’s future security from neighbouring Arab states. Palestinians will set out a clear timetable for judging whether this has been attained or is attainable. It is Palestinians who will judge ‘success’, and it is Palestinians who will decide how long to persist in negotiations and when the moment has come to change strategy entirely.
The third strategic task is to ensure that it is the Palestinian discourse that frames international discussion of the Palestinian future. This is elucidated in the Report. The aim is to make clear to regional and international third parties that in all this it is not Palestinians who are lacking in commitment to a negotiated outcome, but Israel. Palestinians have persisted for twenty years with their historic offer of 1988. Israel has refused to honour it. That is why Israeli protestations are no longer credible to Palestinians. Israel has given Palestinians no option but to look elsewhere for fulfilment of their national aspirations. Israel bears full responsibility should negotiations fail.
In conclusion, it needs to be understood clearly that we Palestinians will never allow Israel to continue its encroachments and domination under the pretence of insincere negotiations, nor to go on imagining falsely that there are better alternatives available to Israel. Israel will have to decide whether to accept the time-limited negotiation offer that is evidently in its own best interest, or not. And we Palestinians will then act accordingly at a time and in a way of our own choosing.
It is now up to us as Palestinians to regain the strategic initiative and to take control of our own national destiny. Israel, regional partners, and international actors, must understand definitively that Palestinians will not be divided in their strategic objectives, and that the Palestinian people, steadfast and determined, will never give up their national struggle…”
This document can be read in full here.
MEANWHILE, WHAT ARE THEY THINKING ABOUT IN ISRAEL TODAY?
Here is the daily SUMMARY OF EDITORIALS FROM THE HEBREW PRESS, compiled and sent by email from the Government Press Office … the gap between this and the Palestinian document appears very great:
“Yediot Ahronot accuses Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of behaving irresponsibly in the negotiations with the Palestinians given that his is a lame-duck administration. [n.b. – this seems to suggest Olmert must not make any concessions…]
Ma’ariv suggests that the, ‘peace activists,’ like those who recently sailed into the Gaza Strip, ‘bubble over with hatred, preach boycotts and miss no opportunity to justify our most murderous enemies.’ The editors add that, ‘Those whom our objective media has coronated with the crown of peace are aggressive, war-mongering enemies, people who have nothing to do with peace and tranquility.'”
Yisrael Hayom surveys the history of the peace process and asserts that, ‘The fact is that the withdrawals have not succeeded, not because this or that detail has not been honored but because of the discovery raised by the Palestinians’ conduct since the Oslo accords – they do not want peace.’ The editors believe that too many Israelis hold to the concepts that, ‘We need only to find a partner and there will be peace or that in order to assure the continuity of the Jewish state, we must sign peace agreements as quickly as possible.’ The paper warns that, ‘Re-entering the Jewish ghetto inside the 1967 borders will crumble Israeli society, deepen hatred and – mainly – invite further terrorism and unnecessary wars.’
[Gilad Sharon, Eiland, Nadav Haetzni and Dror Edar wrote today’s articles in Yediot Ahronot, Ma’ariv and Yisrael Hayom, respectively.]”