Speaking at an emergency summit in Istanbul, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas attempted to recast his role in a defunct 'peace process'.
He declared before the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference on December 13 that his authority will no longer accept US mediation in the Middle East peace process.
He told attendants representing all Muslim-majority countries that Washington is no longer 'fit' for the task, following US President, Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Instead, Abbas wishes to seek the mediation of the United Nations Security Council. But why did Abbas wait this long and what is his latest gambit all about?
What ‘Peace Process’?
The fact of the matter is that there has been no 'peace process' since the failed Camp David Summit in July 2000.
Hosted by former US President, Bill Clinton, the summit was a trap set by the US and then-Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, to pressure PA leader, Yasser Arafat, to concede on Palestinian rights in Jerusalem.
Despite his many political errors, Arafat at least had the sense to reject an unwritten proposal, which denied Palestinians sovereignty in their occupied city. Instead, it granted Palestinians limited autonomous control over disjointed parts of the West Bank.
Soon after Arafat chose to rebel against US-Israel diktats, he was holed in his office in Ramallah and taunted by Israeli soldiers, until he was flown to Paris for treatment where he died, in 2004.
Immediately, Abbas took over the PA, resurrecting the futile 'peace process' discourse for many years to follow, feeding his oppressed people with tired slogans and empty promises, and punishing those who dared disagree.
Having wasted nearly a quarter of a century in empty talks, Abbas is now trying to rally Palestinians into further uncharted territory, all with the aim of keeping himself and a few other Palestinians at the helm.Ramzy Baroud
In fact, both Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, perfected their role in the American charade - Abbas thrived on donors’ money and kept his Palestinian rivals at bay. Netanyahu expanded illegal Jewish settlements and carried out murderous policies against Palestinian civilians, yet continued to pay lip-service to peace. In the meanwhile, the US sustained a political status quo in the Middle East based on its role in a 'peace process' that evidently served no practical purpose.
Even the Europeans must have known at one point that the 'peace process' was prolonged more for the sake of political convenience than as an actual attempt at finding a just peace. Oddly, the EU is now apparently shocked by and dismayed at Trump's decision on Jerusalem which defies international law and torpedo any possibility of a 'two-state solution'.
Having wasted nearly a quarter of a century in empty talks, Abbas is now trying to rally Palestinians into further uncharted territory, all with the aim of keeping himself and a few other Palestinians at the helm.
But enough is enough.
Politics of ‘Rage’
Now that the American mask has completely fallen, Palestinians require an urgent rethink regarding their own political priorities, alliances and national liberation strategy.
The Fatah movement, which has controlled the PA since its inception in 1994 has pre-empted people’s anger over the US move, by declaring a ‘day of rage.’ Several Palestinians were killed and many wounded in clashes throughout the Occupied Territories in what is understandably justified anger over the unwarranted American decision.
But the manipulation of Palestinian emotions by their leadership is contemptable to say the least. The ‘politics of rage’, which has been used by the Palestinian leadership in the past has often worked to deflect popular discontent and criticism.
Without doubt, Israel and the US deserve all the condemnation for their role in sustaining, funding and defending the military occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people. But this does not deflect any condemnation from the Palestinian leadership as well.
Palestinian leaders and an army of officials, politicians, pundits and contractors made billions of dollars from foreign funds to keep the ‘peace process’ charade afloat for over 25 years, while the general population grew poorer and more despondent than ever.
Those who resisted, outside the acceptable political framework as presented by the Palestinian, leadership were harassed, imprisoned and severely punished. This was the case not only in Gaza, but in the West Bank as well. Many journalists, academicians, artists and activists were treated harshly for questioning the PA’s methods throughout the years.
Currently, the PA is calling on those very Palestinians to rage against Trump’s decision.
Hamas is also calling for a new Intifada. Oddly, Palestinian factions never learnt from history. Real, sustainable popular uprisings are never a response to a party’s or a politician’s call. It is a spontaneous, genuine cry for freedom that originates from the masses, not the political elites.
While some Palestinian factions are hoping that the people’s anger directed at the Israeli occupation will create a protective buffer so that they may survive another day, other groups are riding the wave for their own political interests.
But this is not a strategy. Nor will polite appeals to the US to reconsider its decision and pressure Trump to rescind his embassy decision make a difference.
The final statement presented by the Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo on December 9 was an example of the lackluster language that will prove ineffective.
Palestinians need their Arab brethren to articulate a strong, unified position on the issue, without hesitating to explore new political routes and put practical, tangible pressure on the US and Israel to relent.
The Palestinian leadership that has downgraded the Palestinian struggle, and wasted precious years chasing after an American mirage, must be held accountable.
Resurrecting the PLO
If the Palestinian leadership had a minimal degree of accountability and self-respect it would issue a heart-felt apology to the people for all the squandered time, energy and blood expended in the fight for liberation over the decades.
It would immediately issue a total overhaul within its ranks and activate all Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) institutions, bring all factions together under the umbrella of the PLO in order to declare a new strategy regarding the increasingly bleak-looking future.
None of this has happened yet. Angry statements and calls for Palestinian mobilization without a common strategy will only feed the interests of the factions, but will, eventually prove useless to the Palestinian people and their national aspirations.
In truth, ordinary Palestinians need neither Fatah nor Hamas to call for a ‘day of rage’ or a new Intifada. Their hatred for the occupation and love for their city of Jerusalem requires no official communications. It has always been their fight, one which they have engaged in every single day for the last 50 years.
What Trump has done will have terrible consequences on the region for years to come. But one of the early outcomes is that it exposed the ‘peace process’ as a complete charade and the role of the US for what it is - neither honest nor fair. But it should also expose the Palestinian leadership, for all of its failings and corruption.
If Palestinians are to start anew, they have to commence their journey with a new political discourse, with new blood, and a new future outlook that is based on unity, credence and competence. None of this can ever take place with the same old faces, the same tired language and the same dead-end politics.
It is time for a new beginning.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.