الجمعة, 4 آب (اغسطس), 2017
There is no real disagreement between the Palestinians that what happened in the second half of July represented a tangible victory against the occupation," writes Hani al-Masri on the Palestinian www.masarat.ps.
The disagreement was over the scale of the victory, its causes, and who can claim the honor of achieving it. There are those who view it as greater than its true size, and others who think it lesser than what it is. And there are those who give the honor for achieving it to the people of Jerusalem who deserve it, and others who offer this honor to others.
What was achieved is a small victory, but of great significance. It is one battle in a long war. Therefore, the Palestinians should not be intoxicated by their success and prevented from seeing reality in all its dangers and complications, especially in light of Israel's attempts and schemes that seek to hijack the victory. We witnessed all the manifestations of this till the last moment via the attempt to shut down the Bab al-Hatta [Aqsa Mosque] gate and specify the age of those who have the right to enter the Mosque, as well as the attacks on worshippers and those celebrating the victory so as to assert that Israel remains the sovereign power, despite being forced to retreat.
But I will try to focus here on answering the following question: Is it possible to build on this victory? And if so, how?
Let us begin by stressing that the most important lesson to be learnt from the 'Jerusalem intifada' is that the Palestinian cause remains a central cause in the region. This was evident from the extent of political and media interest in what was happening, and the size of the popular protests in the Arab region and the world at large, especially in Jordan where popular tensions and anger reached boiling point before and after the Israeli embassy guard killed two Jordanians. We now have tangible evidence that the Palestinian cause remains alive and a source of regional instability. It may retreat sometimes, and advance at other times; but it always occupies an advanced position on the list of priorities. This will leave its imprint on the schemes being devised after the [May 2017] Riyadh American/Arab/Islamic summit, as well as on the Trump administration's plan to revive the so-called 'peace process,' and the attempt to impose an Israeli solution – with an American accent – on the Palestinian cause.
The above can be confirmed by presenting the reasons for the victory that can best be summarized as follows: The initiative was taken by the people of Jerusalem led by clerics and activists, and backed by the Palestinian people especially from the territories occupied in 1948, without being subject to the [PA/PLO's] political leadership's commitments and calculations. Moreover, this leadership and the other Palestinian forces followed the popular action and provided it with political cover, going so far as to announce an end to all political contact, including security coordination [with Israel]. The result was a rare state of national consensus since the unwelcome [2007 Fatah/Hamas] inter-Palestinian split till today.
In addition, the U.S. and Israel were concerned about the Palestinian cause's return to its former place at the top of the Arab list of priorities. They feared that popular protests would turn into an intifada that crosses borders and continents, thereby undermining Tel Aviv and Washington's plan to Judaize and Israel-ize Jerusalem, the Aqsa, and the rest of the West Bank, and to normalize Arab/Israeli relations under cover of a regional solution for the Palestinian issue. For their aim is to smuggle through the 'deal of the century' for liquidating the Palestinian cause, leaving the possibility of Israeli aggression on Lebanon and Gaza open, on the grounds that Israel cannot fight multiple battles on numerous fronts all at the same time.
Adding to the possibility that uprisings and intifada waves may break out under various banners is the fact that there are many points of friction with the occupation inside and outside Jerusalem and that go beyond the issue of gates and cameras. Israeli PM Netanyahu will try to hijack the victory in various ways, including gradually tightening the security measures, preparing to annex the Jerusalem settlements, removing Palestinian areas from the city, adopting the idea of 'exchanging' Wadi 'Ara area for Israeli settlement blocs, and trying to sow sedition among the Palestinians and between them and the Arabs.
In this regard, we have to admit the difficulty of building on what has been achieved if the abovementioned and other reasons for victory are not preserved and further victories are not accumulated. In this context, the formation of a united leadership in Jerusalem consisting of clerics and the senior figures and forces present there, gains great importance, provided that it maintains relative freedom of movement from the [PA/PLO] Palestinian leadership because the total submission to that leadership and its associated forces will expose it to pressures that that this leadership [PA/PLO] and those forces are likely to comply with in light of their responsibilities, commitments, and interests. This is especially likely after a long history of illusions and wagers on the success of the Oslo track, despite the disastrous situation it has produced, and the possibility of building a state under occupation, whether in the West Bank, which is under direct occupation, or in the Gaza Strip that has been under indirect occupation via the siege that has been imposed on it and the aggression waged on it.
Moreover, it will not be easy to build on what has been achieved unless we recognize the importance of national unity and consensus, and the need to end the inter-Palestinian split. And this is difficult, because the groups that benefit from the split that has deepened both horizontally and vertically, are in agreement with the occupation's interest groups in creating a political, economic, cultural and security structure and a network of relations, laws, associations, and commitments that cannot be dismantled and undermined with one quick blow. And it is worth noting here that the effects of the split on Jerusalem, which is under direct Israeli occupation without or with a tangibly less influence and presence for the two conflicting authorities [in Ramallah and Gaza]. This creates an opportunity to offer a model of [Palestinian] unity in Jerusalem.
Providing such a 'united model in Jerusalem' will help to end the split. But to end it once and for all requires the development of a comprehensive vision that realizes that unity can only be achieved within the context of the struggle to achieve national aims and rights within a gradual cumulative process whose final goal should be clear from the very start– namely, to go radically beyond the Oslo Accords and the restrictions of the status quo that we live in.
Yet despite the difficulties, it remains possible to build on what has been achieved because it responds to the Palestinians' general and urgent need for such a development in order to preserve what Palestinian presence remains on the land of Palestine, and to protect the cause and safeguard the gains and achievements that may be lost if the new track is not paved.
And the possibility of such building becomes stronger if President Mahmoud 'Abbas maintains the position he adopted for various reasons after the [Jerusalem] 'intifada'. Some have to do with the intifada's momentum, and his disappointment with the Riyadh summit, the Trump administration, and the Netanyahu government. Should that happen, 'Abbas' position would not be merely tactical, but the start of a new era and a new policy that can begin with Hamas disbanding the Administrative Committee [Gaza] along with an end to the punitive measures against the Strip, and the launching of a national dialogue aimed at coming up with a comprehensive vision and political and struggle strategy appropriate for confronting the dangers and developments, making use of opportunities, and agreeing on the bases for the necessary partnership
Israel believes that it is in a race with time. It is trying to fulfill its aims before the current historic opportunity is lost – one that stems from what the Palestinian and Arab conditions are suffering from, namely, internal wars, fragmentation, and competition between the various axes.
And what further adds to the difficulty of the situation is that the [PA/PLO] leadership has already announced that its decision to freeze contacts with Israel is temporary and depends on a return to the pre-July 14th status quo– as if that was ideal or any good. In fact, it was very bad and in continuous deterioration. And that cannot be halted if there is no conviction that the strategies pursued – whether those claiming that negotiations are the sole option, or those that deem resistance to be such – have reached a dead-end that cannot be opened without having the courage to radically alter course.
The features of a new phase are becoming increasingly evident. And we must prepare for them and observe them carefully so to ensure that events do not pass us by because the status quo has become deeply entrenched. This entrenchment may occur by consolidating a [Palestinian] self-rule regime in disconnected Bantustans in the West Bank, with continued Israeli control over the land from the River [Jordan] to the [Mediterranean] Sea, and a separate and besieged Gaza Strip entity that lives on the brink of the abyss and falls very short of being a state, and by ensuring, of course, that we have no center of gravity on which to base ourselves to continue the effort to achieve liberation.
The wager remains always on the nation, which despite its trials and tribulations has defended the Palestinian cause ever since the start of the Zionist invasion.
"This has been confirmed by the latest Jerusalem epic, which has reaffirmed that whoever wagers on the nation wins, and whoever wagers on anything else loses," concludes Masri.