Not Talking is Not Enough

Abbas needs to abandon the policies that have brought the Palestinian cause to such a low ebb

By Abdel Bari Atwan

Many Palestinians, including politicians, writers, and former officials, have been urging us, directly or indirectly, to support President Mahmoud Abbas and his bolster his position of refusing to engage in any dialogue with the US and its over the ‘deal of the century’ after Washington recognized occupied Jerusalem as the Jewish capital and move its embassy to the city.

We not dispute in the least that Abbas’ stance and his steadfastness in the face of enormous regional and American pressures merits such support. But the main problem, however, is that the Palestinian president has sufficed with barricading himself behind this position without taking any practical steps to bolster it and rally the Palestinian body-politic behind him by broadening participation in the Palestinian decision-making process circles and abandoning most of the policies that have brought the Palestinian cause to such a low ebb. These policies have caused a large proportion of the Arab and international community to wash their hands of the cause, and encouraged the new US administration to come up with a ‘deal of the century’ aimed at liquidating it and consolidating the current inter-Palestinian split in collusion with the official Arab order.

Abbas had a golden opportunity to convene a unifying session of the Palestinian National Council (PNC) based on a clear and serious plan of action. This should have entailed renouncing all measures and policies stemming from the Oslo Accords, withdrawing Palestinian recognition of the Israeli state, ending the shameful security coordination with Israel, and adhering to basic Palestinian national rights: above all the full right of return and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

But he squandered that chance. He convened a PNC that was confined to his supporters and protégés and members of his own movement, which spawned a PLO Central Committee and Executive Committee tailored to his specifications. That amounted to excluding the Palestinian people and their active political forces, and diminishing the status and role of the PLO and its institutions as that people’s representative.

It has been reported in the Hebrew press that Abbas turned down an invitation from President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — the true architect of the ‘deal of the century’ and faithful follower of Binyamin Netanyahu — to take part in a ‘peace summit’ along with a number of Arab states, as well as Israel, of course). This is commendable. Such a summit would serve as a forum for legitimising and recognising the ‘deal of the century’ and its main provisions –including scrapping the right of return, ceding Jerusalem, and establishing an amorphous entity without borders or sovereignty in the West Bank with Abu-Dis as its capital while keeping the Israeli settlements in place –- as a final resolution to the Palestinian cause.

Many Palestinians, both inside Palestine and in the diaspora, are wondering why Abbas is keeping silent and not being frank with the Palestinian people about the serious information in his possession, especially about the pressure he was brought under in Riyadh by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and other officials, and thus rally the Palestinian people behind him in opposing this ‘deal.’

The current situation does not require the formation of a national unity government headed by former Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister Salam Fayyad, as is being suggested in the PA’s corridors in Ramallah. What it calls for is the establishment of a National Resistance Front to confront the ‘deal of the century’ and the Arabs states colluding in it without any obfuscation. That includes dissolving the PA if necessary, and returning to square one of resistance to the occupation.

When Abbas pursues this path and abandons the policies that brought the Palestinian cause to this catastrophic condition, when he recognizes the existence of a Palestinian people, active forces, and other opinions, and when he acknowledges the failure of all the bets placed on Oslo and the futile negotiations that stemmed from it – only then will he find us here in Raialyoum, along withthe majority of the Palestinian people, on his side.

It is painful to see that we have no indication so far to suggest that he will do any such thing.