Popular revolt has transformed Tunisia. A budding revolution takes hold
in Egypt. Civil war is raging in Libya. Social unrest intensifies in
Yemen, and sectarian strife heightens in Bahrain.
What this all mean for the Palestinians?
During the past several weeks they have held their breath with high
anxiety, watching as events have unfolded around them. The tension in
the Palestinian territories is so thick now that one can feel it
rubbing against their faces. They are witnessing a massive popular
`Intifada` that threatens to leave them behind in a state of
Sure sounds pretty gloomy.
To make it more confusing, self-proclaimed specialists, commentators,
analysts, pundits, and countless others really think that they know what
is best for the Palestinians.
Who are they fooling here?
Let`s step back a bit and examine the real landscape that lies
before the Palestinian people at this juncture.
First and foremost, Israel`s occupation remains intact. Settlements
are ever so expanding, new construction continues unabated, and
Israel`s arrogance of power persists.
All of this Israel flaunts into the face of its main ally – the
United States. Israel`s intimidation prompted the U.S. to veto the
recent United Nation`s Security Council resolution condemning
Israeli settlements, and underscored the hypocrisy of U.S. Middle East
Furthermore, in light of such depressing circumstances, the
Palestinians really need to ask themselves – can they really trust
the Americans. As they observe the fall of dominoes around them, the
Palestinian Authority and the PLO leadership must now take stock and
reassess all of its policies relative to the peace process, its
political and social stances, and it international support; and in
particular its relationship with the U.S.
After seeing the Obama administration backing away from further
pressure on Prime Minister Netanyahu to desist from further settlement
construction, it is no wonder that the Palestinians have become greatly
disenchanted with the Americans. The recent veto at the U.N. has only
proved to them that the U.S. is unable and even unwilling to facilitate
a fair policy that could have had a tinge of balance within it.
The tension only heightens.
So what are the Palestinians to do?
In the midst of losing hope and sensing that they are going nowhere in
their struggle to end Israel`s occupation and to attain a sovereign
state of their own, Palestinian attitudes only harden. It would appear
that the time is now ripe to openly pose a real challenge to Israel and
its U.S. ally. As Palestinian official Nabil Shaath stated recently,
`you can become more adversarial.` What this really implies is
that the Palestinian leadership must become more assertive in its
political strategy. While new or revised strategies may be risky, one
must take risks to initiate bold strategic moves when your choices are
It`s now or never for the Palestinians.
As the strained relations between the PA and Israel further deteriorate
in the coming weeks, the PA may be politically correct in moving to
bolster its legitimacy. At the forefront of its new strategy is the move
toward a unilateral declaration of statehood at the United National
General Assembly next September.
What are the alternatives? For starters, there`s the possible
dissolution of the PA and its leadership being swept away by a wave of
mass popular protest, leading to chaos, and possible civil strife.
Let`s not fool ourselves – this is a very likely scenario.
So to whom do the Palestinians have to thank for this probability?
Well, none other than the United States, and the special benefits that
Israel has accrued under its special relationship with America. Going
down the list, these range from the billions American taxpayers have
given Israel since 1979; the direct and special access to ultra-modern
weapons technology and research; unique intelligence sharing
arrangements; and most of all, the overwhelming support that Israel
enjoys inside the legislative branch of the U.S. government. These are
only the icing on the cake. Dig a little deeper and one really finds
just how special the U.S.-Israeli relationship truly is Just look at
the rewards Israel receives for its arrogant policies: direct U.S.
subsidies for Israeli activities in the occupied territories, like the
tax deductible status for American organizations that fund illegal
settlements; U.S. government purchases of Israeli products manufactured
in the settlements; American tolerance of AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation
League, and other rightist groups intervening and meddling in U.S.
politics, pressuring members of Congress and past Presidencies with
their capacity to raise money and swing elections.
To compound all of the above, there`s Israel`s ability to
harness the support from Evangelical Christians who have raised
millions for Israeli organizations to support the settlements. Then
there are the dual-national Jewish-American `philanthropists`
who have set up numerous funds solely for the purpose of supporting
residents in Israeli settlements as well as sponsoring `housing
fairs` in the U.S. on behalf of Israeli settler organizations.
These establishments raise millions at the expense of the U.S.
government who has lost enormous tax revenue by allowing these groups
to operate as non - profit entities.
Furthermore, Israel`s flaunting its `audacity of arrogance`
where it has allowed its intelligence services to openly conduct active
espionage against U.S. corporations and the Department of Defense,
pursuing civilian and dual-use civilian technology. Israeli operatives
have knowingly penetrated and extended its reach within the
telecommunications industry in the U.S. whereby it has formed alliances
with Israeli owned companies in the U.S. such as Verint to utilize and
assist in the surveillance, interception, and eavesdropping of voice
and data communications within the U.S. Recently, Israeli agents have
been perpetrating `false flag` operations whereby they pose as
U.S. Federal agents in order to infiltrate American Muslim communities,
in effect targeting them for the sole purpose of collecting information
and recruiting informants with full knowledge of the U.S. Department of
Additionally, the U.S. continually puts up with the ruthless veracity
of a well-organized, well financed pro-Israeli lobby that has not
hesitated to exercise tactics tantamount to extortion, bribery,
blackmail, and treason; a power which grows only more veracious, and is
obtaining vast proportions to this very day. Yet, Americas intimacy
with Israel grows, and Israel`s arrogance of power and its
flaunting of international law becomes more daring – so daring in
fact that its prime minister openly displays disdain towards negotiating
with the Palestinians and making any concessions what-so-ever.
Netanyahu cares in facilitating policies that serve only to underscore
the fact that the expansion of Israel`s settlements takes primacy
over its national interests – code for maintaining the status quo
and the deeper encroachment into Palestinian lands, destroying any
prospects for a two state solution. Israel`s Prime Minister has
indeed shown his greed.
Does the Palestinian leadership understand and comprehend that the U.S.
has willingly allowed all of the aforementioned circumstances to evolve
to its extant state? Is all of this enough to force the PA to finally
become introspective and alter its course of direction? Their leaders
must address these questions, for they must know by now that Israel
lacks a true desire to reach a final settlement that will not allow it
to retain its presence in the Palestinian territories. What makes this
all the more hideous is that the U.S. has been complicit in this
attitude through its continuing efforts to block any Palestinian
initiative that challenges the directives of established American
diplomatic policy. All the above factors have resulted in the literal
end of negotiations between Israel and the PA.
This brings the Palestinians to a unique juncture in the struggle for
an independent state – and possibly a grand opportunity for the
Palestinians to act in their own best interests. There is no better way
to communicate this to the Americans than making it clear that any
further talk of half measures and interim agreements is no longer viable
nor realistic. The political immobility that Israel and the U.S. has
produced must be answered by the Palestinian leadership in a manner that
makes it clear to both parties that there will be a high economic and
political cost in Israel`s continued occupation and its refusal to
negotiate in good faith.
The evolving moves of the PA to implement a new political strategy
– one in conjunction with its organized worldwide efforts to gain
international legitimacy for a U.N. resolution recognizing an
independent Palestinian state with membership in the U.N. body –
appears to be the beginning of a new Palestinian challenge. Moves
toward internationalization may be risky indeed and could alienate its
relationship with the U.S. Indeed, this global effort is already
showing positive response from the international community. If the PA
can properly utilize this international momentum and yet turn it into an
effective effort that challenges the extant status quo, then neither
Israel nor the U.S. can ignore or dismiss it - particularly since
Palestinian-Israeli peace talks have collapsed with little likelihood of
The Palestinians are losing hope – nothing is moving forward for
them. The drastic changes now underway in the Middle East have finally
awakened Palestinian senses to the stark realities within their
territories of the public dissatisfaction with the Palestinian
leadership, thus the resignation of its entire cabinet. It remains to be
seen if this was a purely tactical move. However, one thing is clear,
the tension in Ramallah heightens daily, and the PA is facing popular
discontent that could spill over into its streets.
Scheduling elections in the fall is a gamble – certainly without a
platform of political and territorial unity. This would require the PA
and Hamas to reconcile for the sake of political unity and normalcy.
Otherwise the call for elections in September and the PA`s strategy
of internationalization will serve to sharpen the political divide
among the Palestinian public and negate the national value of the PA
and hence the PLO. To prevent this, and ensure its political survival,
the PA leadership must empower itself with electoral legitimacy well
before any elections can be facilitated.
Furthermore, the PA must take a hard look at itself and directly
confront the acute challenges that are now extant. They truly have to
realize that the U.S. administration cannot deliver Israel – and
are unable to. The Palestinian leadership must urgently act to reassess
its relationship with the U.S. International activism is a step in the
right direction, and the PA must be prepared to counter any retaliation
on the part of Israel and the U.S. to stunt its new strategy and ensure
that any adverse actions, especially those by Israel, would be
Any so-called adversarial posture taken by the Palestinian leadership
now would better serve to further expose U.S. intentions to drag out
negotiations with Israel and enshrine its role as Israel`s tool.
The Palestinian leadership has to understand that if it wants to
respond to the wishes of its constituency then it must elevate its
hostility to the U.S. and its Israeli paramour. To effect this the
Palestinians need to address the acute imbalance of power with Israel;
the effectiveness of divestment, and boycott against Israel has
underscored this. Above all, the PA leadership has to act decisively to
pressure the Americans to openly call for the end to Israel`s
occupation and alter U.S. policy, regardless of the consequences to its
ties with the Jewish state. For this to occur, the PA must act to
change the dynamics toward a genuine peace.
Israel`s isolation deepens; it is becoming increasingly a liability
to the U.S. Israel`s behavior also contributes to wider American
international stigma. The scales are tipping in favor of the
Palestinians. Their leaders have to seize the moment and lay bare the
taboo within the U.S./Israeli nexus and the farce that the U.S. is an
honest broker in the conflict. Any Palestinian strategy of
internationalization must condemn America`s cynical and shameful
conduct and publicly call for the U.S. to return to a path of justice,
decency, and political expediency. The Palestinian leadership cannot
continue to play the game by American rules of engagement. It must
adopt its own playbook and force Israel and the U.S. to change theirs.
Palestinian actions toward enhanced international legitimacy are the
primary measure in the Palestinians` acting for their own best
interests. The ongoing changes in the Middle East landscape can only
serve as the catalyst for new direction and political introspection
aimed at throwing off the yoke of Israel`s oppressive and inhumane
occupation once and for all. Palestinians must realize that they have
pinned way too much hope on the U.S. If their leadership clings to the
notion that the Americans are going to be their savior – they are
wrong. This belief has only worked to constrain Palestinian political
The PA now has to realize that the U.S. has little or no influence when
it comes to Israel. Therefore its main course of action should be to
double its efforts to further delegitimize Israel, for this may be the
only way to force the Israelis to budge. Such action requires skill and
finesse within the strategy of Palestinian internationalization for any
results to bear fruit. The Jewish state is no doubt vulnerable. Israel
knows that the Americans cannot protect them forever and that Israel is
in dire need of new direction. The Palestinian leadership must leverage
itself and punctuate its actions by telling the Israelis that their
friendship with the U.S. may become unreliable if Israel persists in its
arrogance of power. PA strategy must include measures to turn Israeli /
U.S. tensions into political gains for themselves. U.S. behavior in the
peace process only shields Israel and deceives the Palestinian people.
It is draining Palestinian political energy, and blinds the Palestinians
from addressing the acute realities that confront its leadership today.
They must not be afraid to implore upon the Americans and their Israeli
friends that they as a people, are owed justice, freedom - and a
After enduring the near elimination of their national identity,
barbarous assaults upon their national movement and the trampling of
their civil and human rights – the Palestinian people have suffered
too much in their struggle for national sovereignty. Enough is enough.
U.S. complicity in Israel`s occupation further increases the cost
for the Palestinians. Thus Palestinian hope lies with the international
community and that it will finally see the stark realities and move to
take the necessary steps to help the Palestinian people attain their
liberty and freedom.
As Thomas Friedman of the New York Times writing from Ramallah recently
stated, `A huge storm is coming.`
A huge storm is indeed on the horizon for both Israelis and
Will the Palestinians truly be prepared? Are they willing to take the
gamble? Can they trust the Americans? These are indeed hard questions
that the Palestinians must ask themselves, sooner, not later.
Will the surging storm throw the Palestinian national movement into the
dustbin of history and even thrust Israel out of the way, or on the
other hand, will the Palestinians ride the crest of the coming wave and
seize the momentum towards a new dawn?
For the sake of the Palestinian people, let`s certainly hope they
will. Otherwise the price they will have to pay may consume them..
- Mikail Jubran is a professor of Middle East History and a consultant
on international law. He was formerly the Director of Communication
with the PLO mission in Washington, DC, from 1988-1992, and divides his
residence between Ramallah, Palestine and Washington, DC. He
contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.