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Back to the American negotiation quagmire
By: Moatasem Hamadeh
April 20, 2017
 

With little effort, it can be certain that the calls for the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, under the auspices of the United States, as outlined by US administration envoy Jason Greenblatt, are accompanied by a very foggy atmosphere that does not serve the Palestinian national interest. As well as the fact that the negotiations themselves, will not be restored by the old formulas, because they have become useless, and no longer constitute a solution to the Palestinian national cause.

The Palestinian internal situation is passing through a very complicated period on all levels. The street in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is in protest against the financial policies, that the government of Hamdallah began to take under the direction of President Abbas, so that the livelihood of the Palestinian citizens, who have nothing but their low salaries, which at the same time constituted a major element of moving the market in the occupied territories, under the economic dependence of the PA with the Israeli occupation.

The PA influence has fallen sharply, even (Fatah's) followers in Gaza were supported the popular movement against the policies of Ramallah government. And instead of making decisions to save the situation, the Fatah Central Committee pointed to the depth of the crisis and its bias to the government's policy.

At the same time, the Palestinian government is experiencing a severe financial crisis, with its deficit reaching about 30% of its total budget (over1 billion$). This is a huge number for a government which is living on taxes, donations and loans from local banks. The crisis has reached its peak, so there is no possibility for imposing more taxes (it was compensated by the theft of salaries) and no possibility for more local loans, or repaying these loans, which not only causes the inability to pay salaries (which moves the market in the occupied territories) but also to expose the local banking sector to several risks.

We do not believe that the crisis will be related to the financial affair only. When donors leave the PA in such financial crisis of this magnitude, that is a clear political message, which is preceding the president Abbas's visit to Washington, and preceding the «agreement» on mechanisms of the regional conference about the resumption of negotiating process. We are all aware of the risk when the PA president makes a discussion with the US administration and behind him there is an empty treasury, a street full of protesters and a fragile economic situation. This leads us to say that President Abbas is visiting Washington at his most complex and difficult times.

We also do not believe that the hand of salvation, American, European, or even Arab, is ready to be offered for free, without political conditions that the Palestinian Authority is supposed to respond to. We shouldn't forget Trumps' statements, who runs politics as he runs his business, when he told his closest allies in Europe that the United States would no longer offer its services for free. Everything has its price. As well the situation with the president of the Palestinian Authority.

This is side of the scene. The other side is the Arab (Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi) visits to the United States on the eve and after the Arab summit on the shores of the Dead Sea.

The political departments in the US and Hebrew press, confirmed by Arabic resources, revealed that the discussion in Washington dealt with an alternative formula for the negotiating process, which would lead to a form of Arab-Israeli normalization before reaching a political solution to the Palestinian issue. As there is a talk about a regional conference to be attended by the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. Doha is also likely to attend. Beside Turkey and a number of European countries. This conference may be similar to the Annapolis conference, which president G. W. Bush called to it, in the fall of 2007, but in its mechanisms, will be different, as it will be interested in opening channels between Israel and the participating Arab capitals to discuss a "peace deal."

The talks about peace here abolish the "two-state solution", not because it does not serve the Palestinian national rights and interests, but because it does not win the Israeli approval. The research will take place within the regional framework, so that Jordan and Egypt will be partners in the solution in one form or another, in a way to enable Israel to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian State, and which makes it easier for Israel at the same time to retain areas in the West Bank, that it sees as strategic in security and settlement, and at the same time to allow Israel to shape its relations with the Arab region through the regional solution with it.

Those who follow Greenblatt's regional tours and contacts, will notice that the man, claiming that he has no ready ideas to solve, (in the footsteps of president Trump who said the same thing) is adopting the Israeli proposals, starting from the same old American principles, which say that any solution must ensure Israeli interests without paying attention to the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and without respect for the resolutions of international legitimacy. Perhaps the most that US administrations offer to the Palestinians, is their talk about their right to live in safety and dignity.

To live in safety and dignity, not to reach an independent and sovereign state as stipulated by international law, is the focus of Greenblatt's discussions with the Israeli government. The Hebrew press revealed that all these discussions focused on one side, which is the economic aspect of the relationship with the Palestinians. What brought Netanyahu's project of economic solution back to life, which claims that the problem of the Palestinians is not in the occupation of Israel to their land, but their problem lies in the provision of resources that raise their level of life and provide them with elements of calm and stability.

It is worthy to note that this discussion took place within the framework of a "regional solution" rather than a bilateral solution, as the two sides discussed projects to extend railway lines and expressways with the neighboring Arab countries to the Arab depth, so that Israel will be linked to the Arab region through a network of different means of transportation, which will enhance the economic relations and encourage tourism, trade exchange and mutual investment.

It was noted that the Israeli side presented a series of projects for Gaza Strip, to the American envoy, related to: the environmental situation, providing drinking water, improving the standard of living for the citizens, building an island near the Palestinian coast to be a port and a place for fuel reservoirs to meet the needs of the Strip and to generate electricity. The Egyptian-Israeli joint mechanisms were also discussed to ease the siege of Gaza Strip, and to regulate the movement from the Strip and to it, for individuals, and for the economic movement.

All this shows that the regional atmosphere carries clear signals leading to the following conclusions:

• The US administration did not delay the opening of the Palestinian-Israeli issue and the possibility of launching a new negotiating process.

• The negotiating process, as considered by the United States, differs from previous processes, as it has moved from direct bilateral negotiations to the regional Arab-Israeli negotiations.

• The path of new American solution is moving in two parallel directions. Steps toward the normalization of Arab-Israeli relations, accompanied by steps to reach a "solution" to the Palestinian cause.

• The Palestinian "solution", in its essence is economic, and serves as a bridge towards the economic normalization of Arab-Israeli relations.

• All this, is in the absence of any talk of Palestinian national rights, replaced by a talk about a mysterious Palestinian entity, which is less than a state, and broader than a limited administrative autonomy. Which brings us back to Netanyahu's economic and political projects.

This is the atmosphere which is accompanying president Abbas's visit to Washington, and this is the atmosphere that is paving the way for an American initiative to resume negotiations.

Any Palestinian interest in all this? And how long will be the bet on the US-sponsored negotiations as the only political choice?

 
Notes:
Moatasem Hamadeh is a member of the Political bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Translated by Rawan Albash
Revised by Ibrahim Motlaq
 

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