Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has capitulated to the Israeli demand that direct “peace talks” continue to go on between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu despite the coming resumption of full-scale settlement building in the West Bank when the so-called “settlement freeze” ends. This confirms many observers’ fears about a sham agreement being signed between Israel and the PA. Under intense pressure from the United States and Israel, the PA is going to sign away Palestinian rights guaranteed to them under international law and will deliver a huge setback to the cause of Palestinian self-determination.
This is the central paradox of the current “peace talks.” The “success” of the peace talks, as Palestinian analyst Nadia Hijab points out in a Al Shabaka policy brief released today, is in fact a “worse scenario” than the peace talks collapsing. If Abbas signs an deal with Netanyahu, it will inevitability be a sham agreement that boxes Palestinians into bantustans and ignores Gaza and Palestinian refugees.
The United States appears determined to push for a framework agreement within a year and both Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA), are aiming for that goal. Such an agreement, U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell explained in a September 2 press conference, would be more than a declaration of principles but less than a peace treaty. In it, the two sides would reach the “fundamental compromises” necessary for a peace accord. Like its predecessor, the Obama administration has already indicated that the accord would still have to be fleshed out and then implemented over the course of several years – which virtually ensures that it will be delayed if not derailed as happened to past peace accords.
If the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and PA were unable to secure a sovereign state and rights through U.S.-brokered negotiations with Israel between 1993 and 2000, when they were in a much stronger position, they are highly unlikely to do so today with such a badly skewed Israeli-Palestinian power dynamic. Instead, next year is likely to see a grand ceremony where Palestinian leaders will sign away the right of return and other Palestinian rights in an agreement that would change little on the ground. The plan of the PA’s appointed prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to declare a Palestinian state in 2011 could unwittingly contribute to this outcome by providing the appearance of an “end of conflict” while the reality remains unchanged. If the rest of the world sees that the government of “Palestine” is satisfied with international recognition and a U.N. seat, they will be happy to move on to other problems leaving the Palestinians at Israel’s mercy.
Such a scenario could sound a death-knell for Palestinian human rights. The Palestinian people have shown a remarkable capacity to regenerate resistance and evolve new strategies after suffering harsh setbacks over the past century. But there may be no recovery this time around. A “peace agreement” would end the applicability of international law to the resolution of the conflict; permanently fragment the Palestinian people; and demobilize Arab and international solidarity.