We just witnessed the Palestinians’ greatest achievement

Mahmoud Abbas’ application to join the fourth Geneva convention is the Palestinians’ greatest achievement

Jamal Khashoggi

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Last week, we found out - or perhaps we remembered - that Palestinians, after voluntarily losing their right to resistance, have not only lost their land but also their right to sue their rivals.

We found this out during Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ display of power as he signed the applications to join international organizations and treaties. The most important of these treaties are the four Geneva conventions: they are the Palestinians’ major concern since they address human rights during war, captivity and occupation.

The Palestinians are certainly at war with Israel, even if this war is one-sided (that would be the Israeli side of course). Israel wages war whenever it wants without being held accountable by anyone. Israeli prisons are full of Palestinian prisoners. The Palestinians are under clear occupation even if they have signed dozens of agreements - linked to the famous Oslo Agreement - which embellish this occupation, call it national authority and distribute Palestinian lands to A, B and C zones.

The irony

The irony is that being deprived of the protection of these agreements - even just theoretically - is due to a request by the U.S. which wants to be the only mediator between the Palestinians and the Israeli enemy. The U.S. has made the deprivation of this protection a condition to resume its role as mediator. It’s thus both the rival and the judge. This explains U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s anger and his Tuesday cancellation of a scheduled meeting with Abbas after the latter signed the aforementioned applications.

These negotiating circumstances are totally unjust as they don’t hide the U.S.’s complete bias towards Israel. At the same time, the U.S. deprives the Palestinians of their right to resort to international community institutions. Note that Abu Mazen, who defied the Americans by signing these applications, has not yet dared that the “supposed state of Palestine” applies to join the international court of justice at The Hague. It’s as if he’s saving this weapon for another battle. Yes, there are weapons left for the Palestinians. Do you remember Yasser Arafat’s famous speech in front of the U.N. in 1974? “Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.” He repeated that sentence three times. But afterwards, a lot more than the olive branch fell, the gun fell as well.

‘Stall, stall and stall’

Last Tuesday, we heard Abu Mazen angrily speak out on how the Americans and the Israelis do nothing “but stall, stall and stall.” His anger and protest were not due to stalling regarding the borders, Jerusalem or sovereignty or all the previous issues. He was referring to stalling the implementation of a promise which Israel made, upon American guarantees. The promise stipulates the release of a fourth batch of prisoners.

The peace process collapses as the elements of a possible Palestinian state collapse due to an organized Israeli scheme

Jamal Kashoggi

How can Arabs help the Palestinians as Arab foreign affairs ministers convene under the Arab League umbrella in Cairo to discuss this tenth or twentieth collapse of peace talks which Kerry got excited over during difficult Arab circumstances?

Perhaps we would know after we answer this question: can a just peace agreement be reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis at a time when the gap is very wide between what Israeli prime minister - who’s elected by the people - wants and the what the Palestinians can accept? I said Palestinians and not the Palestinian leadership because despite all the Arab support for Abbas, he cannot sign a fair agreement with the Israelis without real popular authorization. Abbas lacks this authorization amidst Palestinian divisions. Divisions here are not only between Hamas and Fatah or between Gaza and the West Bank. There are real divisions, even within Fatah itself. So how will it be when it comes to signing an unfair agreement? Everything that Netanyahu and Kerry suggest is unfair.

So, there are Arab divisions and Palestinian divisions and both parties are weak, so why hold negotiations now? And why this American insistence for “peace now?” Something’s wrong!

The maximum which Arabs can provide is more promises to support “the Palestinian people’s right to establish their independent free state with sovereignty on all 1967’s occupied lands with Jerusalem as the capital.” But no one’s willing to do more than making this promise. No one is willing to threaten his direct interests with the U.S. by pressuring it or confronting it as the U.S. is needed in other issues that are more important to some actors.

Collapsing peace process

The peace process collapses as the elements of a possible Palestinian state collapse due to an organized Israeli scheme and due to Israel’s lack of respect of any international agreements or bilateral agreements signed with the Palestinians.

I have reached this gloomy conclusion after a department affiliated with the Palestinian Liberation Organization published a report for the 20th anniversary since signing the Oslo Agreement. The entire report talked about Israeli violations of the agreement. Everything indicates there’s a reality that the Palestinians cannot accept even if Abu Mazen signs dozens of agreements to satisfy Kerry.

Even if Arabs accept this peace, or rather do not bother to accept or reject it due to the chaos they’re going through, will the Palestinians accept it? Or rather, can the Palestinians reject the agreement? Perhaps, they prefer to enjoy s the “fourth Geneva convention” as it will grant them more rights than a peace agreement imposed on them amidst this general state of Arab and Palestinian weakness.

Therefore, Abbas’ application to join this convention is the Palestinians’ greatest achievement.

This article was first published in al-Hayat on April 5, 2014.


Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.

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