Recently, and ironically so, Palestinian media outlets made note of their virtual independence day, which was first marked on November 15, 1988. The Palestinians included three pillars in their “declaration of independence”: The PLO is the Palestinian people’s only legitimate representative, Palestinians have a right for self-determination, and they also have the right to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. What is left of all that?
The PLO is not the Palestinian people’s exclusive representative. When Mahmoud Abbas makes his way to Prime Minister Olmert’s Jerusalem residence, or when he hosts Condoleezza Rice, or when he travels to Washington for diplomatic meetings, he represents at most the non-representative population of the “Ramallah enclave.” He is being mocked in the territories, where people are saying that if Bush invites the leader of the village of Walaga to Annapolis he would enjoy broader backing than Abbas’.
At most, Abbas represents the hedonistic and corrupt wing of the Fatah organization, which has become a joke in the face of the slogan it used for many generations: Firm stand. Fatah’s collapse in Gaza vis-à-vis Hamas is the exact opposite of a firm stand. In this regard, what the US, Europe and Israel are attempting to do is a rerun of the “Village Associations” initiative from the 1980s; that is, an attempt to bring to power, by force, collaborators who are convenient but do not represent their population.
The Palestinians are unable to agree on widely accepted self-determination. The radical Hamas faction’s takeover of the organization’s leadership in the territories should not come as a surprise to those who examined the direction in which Palestinian political leaderships have moved to over the past 40 years in the territories.
The trio of Mahmoud al-Zahar, Ahmad Jabari and Said Siam continue the expected line of radicalization and extremism. Residents of the territories, regardless of the body that was leading them, always aspired for a more radical leadership than the one in power. It’s hard to believe, but those are the facts: From a local leadership of dignitaries comprised of traditional families and religious clerics in the end of the 1960s, and on to communists and leaders with a local agenda in the 70s and 80s, Palestinian society in the territories reached a situation whereby it’s being controlled by radical Muslims who view Fatah and even the traditional Hamas, represented by Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashal, as too moderate.
Inaction and self-pity
The Palestinians are unable to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. Most residents of the territories, as individuals, may want to achieve independence, receive a national ID card and passport, and travel freely just like any other free person in the world. However, as a people and political entity, these residents never took matters into their own hands.
Palestinians have always expected that their independence will be handed over to them on a silver platter. They aspired for a surrogate Arab nation to get pregnant and deal with the difficult moments of birth, while giving birth to Palestine for them.
The Palestinians have always looked to the outside world, global powers, and Arab nations with self-pity. They never rose up against leaders who misled them. They never were wise enough to give rise to a genuine leftist camp, which will attempt to adopt a different path and build a positive civil society. Instead, they became subjugated to radicalization and belligerence.
This is no longer a Netanyahu-style question of “they will get something if they give something”, or a Barak- and Livni-style question of “let them prove it with actions.” In Gaza we are dealing with a junta of religious clerics that swore to forever live on its sword, and that attempts in every way possible to drag us into the Strip for a war of attrition to the last suicide bomber.
In case Rice and Olmert are unable to see it, the West Bank is also controlled by no more than a Fatah oligarchy headed by Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qureia that espouses the principle of “the depth of peace equals the depth of US grant money.” This is a narrow leadership echelon without backing. Even its few supporters believe that the Oslo process was a disaster for Palestinians.
Hence, the “day after” we shall be facing a difficult and complex reality, where we shall have to seek the optimal solution for the State of Israel based on the real parameters.