Is Palestine Still Possible?
All Arab states achieved sovereign independence after World War II – except Palestine, which remains the only one to have undergone gradual Jewish colonization, rather than the process of European decolonization. Is Palestine really still possible? Revolutionary utopians scream yes! Die-hard realists declare: definitely not. And political pragmatists proclaim: perhaps – in a bi-national way. Indeed, the prolonged military subjugation of the Palestinians is crystallizing the one-state security system as created by Israel, fully knowing that the one-state solution will be uglier than the current occupation, nastier than apartheid South Africa. Worse than old South Africa, in that, the foreseeable Jewish Israeli minority will most certainly not share political power with the Palestinians. Jewish Israelis will talk with secular Palestinians such as Mahmoud Abbas, Salam Fayyad and company (it helps that they are Western-backed), but the Palestinian will not achieve the same civil status, as exemplified by Arab Israeli citizens. In this framework of a never-ever win situation for the Palestinians, the bulldozers crushing cars in Jerusalem last summer were but a small prelude of bigger movements. The solution? Unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank? This means moving Jewish settlements and compensating thousands of settlers, as well as dismantling military outposts, removing +600 checkpoints, relinquishing new settler roads and tunnels built to avoid the Palestinians. Even if Israel were to designate enclaves to the Palestinians in the West Bank, the Jewish military apparatus would still remain in control for “security” reasons. As the dirge of the two-state solution rings across the land, the Palestinians barely even pay lip service to U.S. and European overtures about meeting an end of 2008 deadline for the creation of an official, sovereign, national, state called Palestine, as decried a year ago in November 2007 at the Annapolis conference. Israel claims to be considering the Arab Peace Initiative, presented in Beirut 2002 and revived in Riyadh 2007. Hamas would acquiesce; but Fatah won’t accept Hamas’ democratic victory in January 2006 so the Palestinian factions are busy, once again, claiming to be trying to reconcile their differences. The latest initiative came from Egypt – again. Previously, Omar Suleiman, head of Egyptian Intelligence had negotiated the Cairo Declaration in March 2005, which reasserted the Palestinian right to armed resistance, provided a term of tahadiyeh – a calm period of “non-belligerence” – with Israel to allow the newly elected Abbas to gain some ground and to open the possibility of reforming the PLO to include Hamas. Then came the Saudi-brokered Mecca Accord in February 2007, which sought to defuse tensions between Fatah and Hamas. Then there was the Yemeni-inspired Sanaa Agreement in March 2008, which tried to bring the two together after Hamas defeated Fatah in Gaza. In mid-November 2008, Suleiman invited the Palestinian factions again to Cairo to agree upon a power-sharing formula in which elections for the Presidency and the Parliament would be held at the same time and the security forces united. This may sound rather basic and obvious, but Hamas fully controls Gaza and Abbas’ presidency ends in early January 2009. Fatah still refuses to work with (or for) Hamas in managing Gaza’s border crossings with Israel, while Hamas rejects all Fatah activity within the Strip. Abbas is also cracking down on Hamas sympathizers in the West Bank, while Hamas obviously does not really want to extend Abbas’ titular term so it can coincide with parliamentary elections in 2010. Within this pathetic tit-for-tat in their geographically separated territories, the inner Palestinian dead-lock is also exacerbated by external intervention. Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip a week before Hamas, Fatah and some ten other factions met in Cairo again. Previously, the United States had encouraged Fatah strongman, Mohammad Dahlan, to take-over Gaza, a move rapidly pre-empted by Hamas in June 2007. But as the situation becomes more surreal, it also becomes clearer: in the West Bank, the Israeli army continues to makes recurrent incursions, but now – beyond neglecting the Palestinian civil police – also clashes with recently deployed battalions of Palestinian security forces near Jenin and Hebron, which received U.S.-backed training at the Jordanian International Police Training Center (JIPTC) outside of Amman. What does this say when an army clashes with forces working towards the same supposed end? It says everything. It says Israel will kill Islamic Jihad leaders when they have handed over their weapons voluntarily, in Bethlehem, for example. It says Israel will imprison Hamas leaders when they are elected democratically, bombard their constituencies in Gaza and hunt their supporters in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It says Jewish settlers – beyond the separation wall – get away with burning Palestinian land and shooting Palestinian farmers during harvest season. It means Israel still controls the passage of goods and people in and out of Gaza three years after withdrawing in 2005, despite European and Egyptian efforts to open the Strip. Israel’s divide-and-rule policy is in full effect: the different Palestinian pieces (except Gaza) are integral parts of Israel. Palestine is not possible by the end of 2008 as Bush prophesized, nor will it be by the end of 2012, unless Obama engages – unlike his two predecessors – early in his first term as President to resolve the Israeli issue. But this too seems as implausible as Palestine.