A DIPLOMAT'S VISIT
الخميس, 13 تموز (يوليو), 2017
"Last week, I had an encounter that is worth recounting in detail," writes Hani al-Masri on the Palestinian website www.masarat.ps.
A senior foreign diplomat visited me for the first time and spoke to me frankly and forthrightly after listening to me. He told me in undiplomatic terms: We live in a world that pays no heed to rights and justice, and only believes in power and interests; and those who have neither (or lack one of the two) need not bother themselves or others, but should accept what they are being proposed. In other words, they should accept what is on offer.
The diplomat said this to prove that despite the justice of their cause and the legitimacy of their demands, the Palestinians have no option but to resume negotiations without insisting on an end to colonial settlement or on terms of reference that would ensure their rights, because this is better than maintaining the current situation without negotiations. And he said that wagering on internationalization, on resistance, on boycotting Israel, and on regaining Palestinian unity has proven futile so far, and will remain so for the next fifty years at least.
The diplomat disagrees with my point of view that is based on the assessment that the prevailing conditions do not allow us to reach a solution that achieves the basic minimum of Palestinian rights. There is no Palestinian state that is a stone's throw away. There is no return of refugees around the corner. There is no prospect of equality as citizens of Israel. But there is a need to concentrate on safeguarding the Palestinians' national identity and keeping the cause alive, preserving what remains of our achievements and gains, and reducing the damage and loss. In addition, we need to provide the requirements for the Palestinian people's steadfastness, especially on their land, and to work to foil Israeli schemes.
The above calls for giving priority to the struggle to alter the balance of power. We should not resume negotiations in the shadow of the Palestinians' current weakness, division, and loss of direction. This is because any bilateral negotiations sponsored by Donald Trump's administration – which is more biased in Israel's favor than its predecessors – at this point in time and without any cards in our hands would be more than a mere mistake. It would be a form of political suicide in confronting a racist and aggressive settler colonial onslaught.
This has reached such levels that Washington and Tel Aviv's rulers are now demanding that the PA should adopt the Zionist narrative by way of ending the payment of salaries to the families of martyrs and prisoners, stopping Palestinian incitement in the media and in school curriculums, strengthening security cooperation with Israel, as well as insisting that the PA should adopt harsher measures against resistance to Israel.
Moreover, the Netanyahu government is now publicly and openly demanding – as Israel's deputy foreign minister did – that the UN stop describing the territories that Israel 'liberated' in the June  war as 'occupied territories.' And this is happening amidst feverish Israeli efforts to prepare the grounds to annex most of the West Bank, turning what remains of it into densely-populated disconnected Bantustans under Israeli suzerainty. This is to be via a self-rule authority that may or may not be linked to Jordan, and another self-rule authority in the Gaza Strip that may or may not be linked to Egypt.
My response to the frank and forthright diplomat included a question as to what the Palestinians would gain from joining yet another fake political process. For such a process aims to provide cover for what Israel is doing – creating occupation facts on the ground and blocking the path to the establishment of a genuine Palestinian state. I also asked him about the consequences of the Palestinians' adopting other alternatives, rather than allowing the proposed regional solution to pass as an alternative to an international solution. For this would mean that the priorities would change, turning the Iranian threat into the enemy and Israel into a friend and ally. In fact, this process has advanced so far that normalizing Arab relations with Israel has already begun even before it has recognized Palestinian and Arab rights, and before declaring its readiness to withdraw from the Arab territories occupied in 1967.
The diplomat answered that the results of any political process can neither be known nor guaranteed beforehand, but that this is better than nothing, and better than allowing Israel to be free to do what it wants without being held accountable, even if the party that is supposed to hold accountable is its American ally.
I followed up by saying that any future negotiations process has only three possible outcomes: It will either reach a dead-end like its predecessors because the object is to hold negotiations for negotiations' sake; or it will reach a new transitional formula disguised by talk of some future final status solution; or it will reach a solution that liquidates the Palestinian cause on the pretext of 'salvaging what can be salvaged' and that 'nothing better was possible.'
The first and second possibilities are the more likely because it would be difficult for any Palestinian leadership, no matter how moderate or defeatist, to sign a final status agreement that achieves no Palestinian rights such as establishing a state and achieving independence, refugees' right of return, and personal and national equality for our people in the territories occupied in 1948. And I added that if the expected consequences of joining negotiations are that bad and perhaps even worse, why join them and give legitimacy to liquidating the cause via an Israeli solution?
The best or least bad option is to preserve what we have. This means going back to where we were before a resumption of negotiations. The alternative is that of self-rule authority of the sort we already have without offering us anything new, and to pay a new price that includes recognition of Israel as a 'Jewish' state and its security needs. Such steps could lead us to give up on Jerusalem and refugee rights; moreover, it would not include sovereignty, which is the main element of a state and which imparts meaning to the word 'state'. For there can be no state without sovereignty.
In light of the above, refusing to resume negotiations in the prevailing circumstances appears to be better than resuming them even when assessed from the perspective of gains and loss, not only from the perspective of principles, rights, and justice. And, more importantly, it opens up the horizon to an inevitable future revival.
"I felt that my interlocutor was convinced of my point of view, or was no longer as convinced of his view before our conversation," concludes Masri.