Πέμπτη, 27 Ιανουαρίου 2011

Mahmoud Abbas the PLO,.. along with Mubarak .. the best supporters of Israel ..

Mahmoud Abbas & PA stonewalled the Goldstone vote



 >>the Palestine Papers<<  

PA, with US encouragement, delayed a UN vote on the Goldstone Report into war crimes committed during Israel's Gaza war !!

[...Abu Mazen agreed to postpone the vote because the Israelis threatened to release the “tapes” showing him coordinating the attack on Gaza with Israel ....>>]
[..The Palestinian Authority (PA) has shown operational willingness to co-operate with Israel to kill its own people..]
Chapter 1
On October 2, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council was widely expected to pass a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009. The Council instead agreed to delay a vote on the report until March 2010, following major reservations expressed by the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Israel. A UNHRC endorsement of the report would have brought Israeli officials one step closer to prosecution before a war crimes tribunal, an event many Palestinians were anxious to see. But, as The Palestine Papers reveal, the Palestinian Authority apparently sacrificed a potential victory for Palestinian victims in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the United States and, they hoped, from Israel. 
Quid pro quo ...The Goldstone Report, formally known as the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, was released in mid-September 2009 amid calls for a review of Israel’s wartime practices. The probe was led by Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge; it identified war crimes committed overwhelmingly by Israeli forces, but also by Hamas, during Israel’s war on Gaza. Both the United States and Israel were outspoken in their criticism of the report, claiming that any UN endorsement would endanger the peace process and future Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. 
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has already admitted that the PA asked for the postponement;!!  he said at the time it was to secure more international support before the vote.   "Since we felt we would not be able to gather enough support we asked for the postponement," Abbas said in October 2009. "We wanted to reach mechanisms that would ensure the implementation of the decision and punish the perpetrators of crimes against our people.”  

What The Palestine Papers demonstrate is that, in the weeks preceding the vote, the United States apparently urged the PA to stall the report as a means of restarting negotiations with Israel.  
At a September 24, 2009 meeting between Saeb Erekat (PLO), George Mitchell and David Hale, the latter informed Erekat that “Our intention is to move quickly to relaunch negotiations. We are wrapping up an agreement on a package with Israel, and including other parties.” . 

Erekat resisted, saying “I simply cannot afford to go into a process that is bound to fail. I am trying to defend my existence and way of life.” Mitchell informs Erekat that President Barack Obama’s “attitude was consistent: we need to proceed to negotiations; delay will not be beneficial to anyone.”

During the same meeting, the U.S. also stressed to the PA that it was actively engaged in supporting the PA through other means. Mitchell informs Erekat, “I’ve devoted half my time over the last several months to things like getting you support (for example with Kuwait), not just financial. We will stay the course on this.”  
At end of the meeting, Mitchell invites Erekat to Washington, D.C., on the day before the UNHRC was due to vote on the Goldstone report. “Regarding coming to DC next week…you should come next Friday,” Mitchell said. Erekat resisted, countering, “That does not give us enough time to go back and consult…”
The Palestine Papers further divulge that during the exact time of the crucial UNHRC vote, Erekat was in Washington, D.C. seeking more guarantees from the United States. 
During a meeting at the U.S. State Department with Mitchell and Hale, on October 1, 2009, Mitchell reiterated to Erekat not only the U.S.’s commitment to a new round of talks, but also U.S. willingness to take a more active role on behalf of the Palestinians.
Mitchell said the U.S. would “explicitly repeat its position on Jerusalem (non-recognition of Israeli annexation and related actions; demolitions, evictions etc.) In such a situation, with negotiations going on, if [Israel] make a provocative announcement, the US has the leverage to state that this undermines the process, and that Israel is acting in bad faith in the negotiations.”  
Erekat further bared not only the PA’s reliance on the United States, but the PA’s desperation to get back to the negotiation table. Erekat informs Mitchell that “peace through negotiations is a strategic choice... Our whole future depends on it, and we are counting on the US to help us... Another failure will be devastating.”
The following day, on October 2, 2009- while President Abbas was in New York pushing to postpone the vote on Goldstone - Erekat again met with Senator Mitchell. This time, Erekat appeared to use the expected international backlash to the vote deferral as a bargaining chip in proving their commitment to peace talks.  
“I did not come here to complain, but to try to help move forward,” Erekat told Mitchell. “Many people strongly objected to [Abu Mazen] going to NYC and me coming to Washington.”
Mitchell continued building a case to Erekat and the PA on why all parties should move quickly to negotiations. “For 60 years, the choices open to the Palestinian people have become less and less attractive,” Mitchell said. “The circumstance under which they live worse and worse…..Believe me it is the best time.”
Erekat, meanwhile, only seemed to further push Palestinian priorities behind those of even Israel. “We find ourselves in the eye of the storm,” Erekat lamented to Mitchell. “We pray every day that Israel will come to the point where they realize that a Palestinian state on the [1967] border is in their interest...That’s why we are frustrated. We want to help the Israelis.” 
At the very same meeting, Senator Mitchell presented Erekat with a document containing language that, if agreed to, would nullify one of the PA’s few weapons – the chance to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes in Gaza at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The U.S. language stated:  
“The PA will help to promote a positive atmosphere conducive to negotiations; in particular during negotiations it will refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative directly or indirectly in international legal forums that would undermine that atmosphere.”
Erekat, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority accepted the language and simultaneously agreed to call for a deferral of the UNHRC vote. Unsurprisingly, this decision was met by outrage, as Palestinians and Arab nations condemned the PA leadership for kowtowing yet again to American and Israeli pressure.  
Israel leaked the PA’s support for the resolution deferral on the day before the UNHRC vote was to take place. Erekat, undoubtedly caught off-guard, was outspoken in his complaints weeks later to the U.S. on what he perceived as unfair Israeli tactics. In a meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones on October 21, 2009, Erekat revealed:
Then came Goldstone and all hell broke loose. You know the first public response to the Goldstone thing came from Lieberman, who said Abu Mazen agreed to postpone the vote because the Israelis threatened to release the “tapes” showing him coordinating the attack on Gaza with Israel. Then there was the report that he did it for Wataniya, which they said is owned by his two sons.”   
Jones, however, was quick to assure Erekat that the PA’s efforts would not go unnoticed. “And thank you for what you did a couple weeks ago,” Jones told Erekat. “It was very courageous.”
That same day, Erekat also met with Mitchell, and wasted no time in asking for the U.S. to deliver on its previous promises. 

Erekat: When can you give me something, a document or a package, so I can take it to [Abu Mazen], so we can study it in good faith?
Mitchell: Much of what I read is not controversial...
For the United States, and unfortunately for the PA, it was simply business as usual. ]

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Chapter2

The al-Madhoun assassination
Documents include handwritten notes of 2005 exchange between PA and Israel on plan to kill Palestinian fighter in Gaza.  

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has shown operational willingness to co-operate with Israel to kill its own people, The Palestine Papers indicate.

Among the documents are notes, handwfritten in Arabic, revealing an exchange in 2005 between the PA and Israel on a plan to kill a Palestinian fighter named Hassan al-Madhoun, who lived in the Gaza strip. 

Al-Madhoun (born 1973) was a leading figure within the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, a movement aligned to Fatah, which at that stage still held power in Gaza. Al-Madhoun had been accused by Israel of planning deadly bombings at Israel’s Ashdod port and the Qarni crossing between Gaza and Israel.  

In a joint committee meeting on fugitives in mid-2005 in Tel Aviv between Shaul Mofaz, the then-Israeli defence minister, and Nasser Youssef, the PA minister of interior, the PA was asked to kill al-Madhoun.

Mofaz: "[…] Hassan Madhoun, we know his address and Rasheed Abu Shabak [chief of the Preventative Security Organisation in Gaza] knows that. Why don't you kill him? Hamas fired [Qassam rockets] because of the elections and this is a challenge to you and a warning to Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president]."
Youssef: "We gave instructions to Rasheed [Abu Shabak] and will see."
Mofaz: "Since we spoke, he has been planning an operation, and that's four weeks ago, and we know that he wants to strike Qarni or Erez [another border crossing between Gaza and Israel]. He is not Hamas and you can kill him."
Youssef: "We work, the country is not easy, our capabilities are limited, and you haven't offered anything."
Mofaz: "I understand that nothing has been accomplished in the [Gaza] Strip."
Some four months after this meeting, on November 1, 2005, al-Madhoun was killed in his car by a missile fired from an Israeli Apache helicopter over the skies of Gaza. The attack also killed a wanted Hamas activist and wounded three other people.  

The very next day, Mofaz, who by that time was in Washington, pledged to ease the lives of Palestinians and to pursue peacemaking with President Abbas.  

"We want to deal with President Abbas," Mofaz said after meeting with Condoleezza Rice, the then-US Secretary of State, before going to the White House to confer with Stephen Hadley, the then-national security adviser. W

e are waiting to see how the Palestinian Authority will deal with terrorist groups," the Israeli minister said.


'Red line'
Youssef denounced the release of The Palestine Papers in an interview with Al Jazeera on Wednesday.
"Al Jazeera depended on unofficial documents, while I have the official one," Yousef said.
"Mofaz's request to have al-Madhoun killed has been taken out of context. Israel did not ask to kill him but only to arrest him. The killing of a Palestinian is a red line for us. Israel depends on itself when it comes to security, not on us," Youssef added.
The Palestine Papers appear to reveal two primary motives for the Palestinian Authority’s collaboration with Israel and their crackdown on dissent.
Firstly, it serves to maintain the movement's political supremacy at a time when it is being questioned. Secondly, it seems an attempt to signal to the US that it wants to remain a trusted partner in peace talks, regardless the costs.
Saeb Erekat, the PA's chief negotiator acknowledged the cost of gaining US approval and Israeli trust, in a meeting on September 17, 2009 with David Hale, the deputy US Middle East envoy.

Erekat: We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law. We continue to perform our obligations. We have invested time and effort and killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law.
In reaction to Erekat's remarks to Hale, Youssef again said that Al Jazeera had taken quotes out of context.
"Saeb Erekat did not say we killed Palestinians but he said we arrested Palestinians. Israel did not ask to kill or arrest Palestinians. […] We tried to establish a good security measures to serve the interest of the Palestinian state as it needs institutions," Youssef said.
It is not clear as to which killings Erekat is referring to but the discussion about the plan to kill al-Madhoun is just one example of how, since the death of Yasser Arafat, Fatah’s policy of resistance to Israel has become one of collaboration.
The Palestine Papers show how the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, once the spearhead of action against the Israeli occupation, has been transformed into a body that helps maintaining it.
During the Annapolis talks in 2008, Ahmed Qurei, the former Palestinian prime minister also known as Abu Ala, and his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, discussed collaboration between the brigade and the Israeli security forces.
"Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade is part of the Fatah movement and they agreed to be part of the current security apparatus, even though this was not my position when I was a prime minister. I wanted the Brigade to remain as it was to confront Hamas," Qurei told Livni.
With the common goal of destroying Hamas, the Palestine Papers reveal the extent to which the PA, the US and Israel were willing to work together, and the extent to which the PA linked the fate of Hamas with its own political survival.
"[…] reaching an agreement is a matter of survival for us. It's the way to defeat Hamas," Erekat told Marc Otte, the EU negotiator, in June 2008.
Earlier that year, on January 22, Qurei told Livni; "We'll defeat Hamas if we reach an agreement, and this will be our response to their claim that gaining back our land can be achieved through resistance only."
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Chapter 3

Erekat: "I can't stand Hamas"
For Fatah, the Annapolis process seems to have been as much about crushing Hamas as about ending Israel's occupation. 
The Annapolis process was meant to be a round of peace talks aimed at reaching an agreement to solve the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But instead of focusing on resolving the core issues at hand, why did Palestinian negotiators spend so much time during the meetings denigrating their political rivals, Hamas?


The Palestine Papers reveal that Fatah was obsessed with maintaining political supremacy over Hamas, with Israel’s cooperation, especially following the 2006 electoral victory of the Islamist movement. Documents obtained by Al Jazeera also show the extent to which the Palestinian Authority cracked down on Hamas institutions to weaken the group and strengthen its own relationship with Israel.  
At the height of negotiations, on April 7, 2008, Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni was unequivocal in summing up Israel’s policy: “Our strategic view is to strengthen you and weaken Hamas.”

Working with Israel to weaken Hamas also appeared to be in the Palestinian Authority’s interest. During a May 6, 2008 security meeting between Yoav Mordechai, the head of the Israeli army civil administration in the West Bank, and Hazem Atallah, the head of the Palestinian Civil Police, Hamas was a prominent subject of discussion.
Yoav Mordechai: How is your fight against “civilian” Hamas: the officers, people in municipalities, etc. This is a serious threat.
Hazem Atallah: I don’t work at the political level, but I agree we need to deal with this.
Yoav Mordechai: Hamas needs to be declared illegal by your President. So far it is only the militants that are illegal.
Atallah: There is also the request for tear gas canisters. You previously gave us these back in 96.”
Yoav Mordechai: We gave some to you for Balata 2 weeks ago. What do you need them for?
Atallah: Riot control. We want to avoid a situation where the security agencies may be forced to fire on unarmed civilians.
Never mind that tear gas canisters have proven that they can be just as deadly as live bullet rounds, the exchange also foreshadows a crackdown on Hamas’ social institutions in the West Bank.
PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat made his contempt for his rivals known in 2007, when he told the Belgian foreign minister Karel de Gucht, “I can’t stand Hamas or their social programs.”

"The way to defeat Hamas"

By September 17, 2009, Erekat was bragging to U.S. officials that the PA had complete control over “zakat” committees, or Muslim charities, in the West Bank, as well as the weekly Friday sermons.


“We have invested time and effort and even killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law,” Erekat said. “The Prime Minister is doing everything possible to build the institutions. We are not a country yet but we are the only ones in the Arab world who control the Zakat and the sermons in the mosques. We are getting our act together.”
In 2007, Reuters reported that Fatah was “increasing pressure on ‘zakat’ charity committees that support the network of Islamic schools and health clinics which helped fuel Hamas's rise to power.” On one occasion, the news service reported, 20 gunmen stormed a dairy funded by such a zakat committee but were ultimately persuaded to leave.
At the time, Akram al-Rajoub, who headed the Preventive Security service in Nablus said, “There is absolutely no cooperation with Israel in our activities" but that claim is belied by the conversations documented in The Palestine Papers.  
On February 11, 2008, Atallah presented the Israelis with a laundry list of actions the PA took against Hamas, and complained that Israeli actions in the West Bank city of Nablus the previous month were harmful. He was likelyreferring to the three-day incursion by the Israeli military, in which 40 Palestinians were injured and 20 detained. 70,000 residents of the city were placed under curfew.




“We made arrests, confiscated arms, and sacked security individuals affiliated with Hamas,” Atallah said, “but you keep on deterring our efforts, and this is what’s happening in Nablus.”  
While security cooperation against Hamas and its institutions dominated some meetings, often Palestinian negotiators merely wanted to vent to their Israeli counterparts about their deep-seated desire to defeat their political opponents.

Hamas must not feel that it is achieving daily victories, sometimes with Israel and sometimes with Egypt, and Al Jazeera Channel praises these victories,” Ahmed Qurei, a senior Palestinian negotiator, told Livni on February 4, 2008.


“I hope Hamas will be defeated, not military I mean because we didn’t try this; we didn’t engage in a civil war. President Abu Mazen was wise enough not to give orders to Fateh members to use arms, otherwise, we’d have had many casualties.”
According to the Palestine Papers, for Fatah, the Annapolis process seems to have been as much about crushing Hamas as it was about ending Israel’s occupation and establishing an independent, Palestinian state.
“We continue with a genuine process,” Saeb Erekat confided to European Union Special Representative Marc Otte on June 18, 2008, “reaching an agreement is a matter of survival for us. It’s the way to defeat Hamas.”
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PA selling short the refugees
Palestinian Authority proposed that only a handful of the nearly six million Palestinian refugees be allowed to return.  At the Bourj el Barajneh refugee camp in southern Beirut, a centre for the elderly serves as an oasis from the overcrowded, filthy conditions outside its metal doors.




On a recent Thursday morning, a group of men and women in their 60s and 70s gathered around a table to colour and draw pictures, while others solved crossword puzzles. One woman sitting in the corner focused intently as she embroidered a traditional Palestinian dress. The Active Ageing House in the refugee camp is a place where they can pass time, socialise and share meals.
They are known as the "Children of the Nakba" - a generation of Palestinians that witnessed, and survived, the forced expulsion and violence in 1948 committed by Zionist paramilitaries on behalf of the nascent state of Israel.
They each have a story about how they or their parents managed to escape their homeland over 60 years ago - and their wounds are still raw.
Some six million Palestinian refugees are scattered around the world, including more than 400,000 in Lebanon. Here, they are deprived of basic rights, not permitted to buy or sell property, and are banned from more than 70 job categories. Mired in abject poverty, they are dependent on an increasingly incapable United Nations agency for aid.

A "symbolic number" of returnees

The Palestine Papers show that Palestinian Authority (PA) negotiators were prepared to make major concessions on the refugees’ right of return: on the numbers potentially allowed to return to their homes in what is now Israel; on whether refugees would be able to vote on any peace agreement; and on how many would be able to settle in a future Palestinian state.  
In an email Ziyad Clot, a legal adviser to Palestinian negotiators on the refugee file, writes, "President [Mahmoud] Abbas offered an extremely low proposal for the number of returnees to Israel a few weeks only after the start of the process."




The papers also reveal that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed that 1,000 Palestinian refugees be allowed to return annually to Israel over a period of five years - totalling just 5,000, a tiny fraction of those displaced after Israel’s creation.
On January 15, 2010, Erekat told US diplomat David Hale that the Palestinians offered Israel the return of "a symbolic number" of refugees.
According to the documents, not only did Palestinian officials offer a low figure of returnees, the chief negotiator of the PLO, Saeb Erekat, said that refugees would not have voting rights on a possible peace deal with Israel.
Notes of a meeting on March 23, 2007, between Erekat and then-Belgian foreign minister Karel De Gucht, reveal that Erekat said, "I never said the Diaspora will vote. It's not going to happen. The referendum will be for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Can't do it in Lebanon. Can't do it in Jordan."
While Erekat conceded the rights of Palestinian refugees to determine their own fate, during such meetings Israeli negotiators made clear their vision for the refugees.
In a negotiation meeting on January 27, 2008, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, told her Palestinian counterparts, "Your state will be the answer to all Palestinians including refugees. Putting an end to claims means fulfilling national rights for all."


Erekat seemed to buy into this idea. In a meeting with US diplomats, including Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, on October 21, 2009, Erekat said, "Palestinians will need to know that five million refugees will not go back. The number will be agreed as one of the options. Also the number returning to their own state will depend on annual absorption capacity".
So even a future Palestinian state could not accommodate the millions of displaced who would want to settle there.
Al Jazeera spoke with three dozen refugees in the Burj al-Barajneh camp, from ages 16 to 88, and they all expressed the same sentiment: They want to return to their native homeland, and to have a say in any final settlement between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel.
Shafiqa Shalan, 60, who was born in Burj al-Barjnah, said she would not agree to being settled in Palestine. "What’s the difference?” she said. "We’re refugees in Lebanon and we would be refugees in the West Bank. So we might as well stay here. I would not consider it my home. My homeland is the village where my parents were expelled."
That sentiment was echoed among younger residents of the camp. Ruwaida Al-Daher, 47, who was also born in Bourj el Barajneh, said, "We ask for the right of return because he who has no country has no dignity. We live like dogs here. But I would still oppose going to the West Bank or Gaza. Why would I go back to any place but my hometown?"
Al-Daher said she would not want to become a Lebanese citizen if that were offered to her under any peace deal – and that Palestinian negotiators had no mandate to make concessions on her behalf.

The right of return is a personal right. It's sacred," she said. "No one can cancel it or take it away."

"We're going to die here"

Hussam Assairy, a 22-year-old who works as a mechanic in the camp, said he would move to his grandparents’ hometown of Haifa if given the chance.

A sign in the camp proclaims Abbas as "firm on principles."
|I would rather live in the camp," he said, "than to become a Lebanese citizen and give up my Palestinian nationality". As for voting on any future deal, he said, "Every Palestinian should be able to vote. Palestine is not just for those living there. It's ours too".
"It’s ours more than there's," Sara Ghannoum, 20, interjected. "They’re able to live there, while we’re deprived of that."
For the refugees at Bourj el Barajneh, returning to their hometowns is the only conceivable option.
"I am willing to walk to Palestine, to my country," says 76-year-old Kamel Shraydeh. “I think about this day and night, because as the saying goes, ‘The one who walks in a strange land gets lost.’" All these decades later, Lebanon remains a foreign place he cannot call home.
Despite these dreams, many have resigned themselves to a life spent in the camps. Over breakfast at the elderly center, a group of women reflected on their decades in Bourj el Barajneh.
"We were born here and we grew old here," said Asiya al-Ali, 65. "And we’re going to die here," Sha’alan added with resignation.
Even so, throughout the camp, refugees cling to hope that someday their situation will change - and there are signs that they place that hope in their leadership, which has shown that it's willing to compromise the right of return.
Filling them with hope are posters on the crumbling walls bearing the image of a smiling PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and the words: "Firm on Principles"
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Also  here ..>> 
Erekat's solution for the Haram
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The slow collapse of Palestinian collective leadership institutions in recent years has reached a crisis amid the ongoing Arab revolutions, the revelations in the Palestine Papers, and the absence of any credible peace process.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction has attempted to respond to this crisis by calling elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the PA presidency.
Abbas hopes that elections could restore legitimacy to his leadership. Hamas has rejected such elections in the absence of a reconciliation agreement ending the division that resulted from Fatah's refusal (along with Israel and the PA's western sponsors, especially the United States) to accept the result of the last election in 2006, which Hamas decisively won.

But even if such an election were held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it does not resolve the crisis of collective leadership faced by the entire Palestinian people, some ten million distributed between those living in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank, inside Israel, and the worldwide diaspora.
A house divided
There are numerous reasons to oppose new PA elections, even if Hamas and Fatah were to sort out their differences. The experience since 2006 demonstrates that democracy, governance and normal politics are impossible under Israel's brutal military occupation.
The Palestinian body politic was divided not into two broad political streams offering competing visions, as in other electoral democracies, but one stream that is aligned with, supported by and dependent on the occupation and its foreign sponsors, and another that remains committed, at least nominally, to resistance. These are contradictions that cannot be resolved through elections.
The Ramallah PA under Abbas today functions as an arm of the Israeli occupation, while Hamas, its cadres jailed, tortured and repressed in the West Bank by Israel and Abbas' forces, is besieged in Gaza where it tries to govern. Meanwhile, Hamas has offered no coherent political vision to get Palestinians out of their impasse and its rule in Gaza has increasingly begun to resemble that of its Fatah counterparts in the West Bank.

The PA was created by agreement between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel under the Oslo Accords. The September 13, 1993 "Declaration of Principles" signed by the parties states that:
"The aim of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations within the current Middle East peace process is, among other things, to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, the elected Council (the "Council"), for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for a transitional period not exceeding five years, leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338."

Under the agreement, PA elections would "constitute a significant interim preparatory step toward the realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and their just requirements".
Small mandate
Thus, the PA was only ever intended to be temporary, transitional, and its mandate limited to a mere fraction of the Palestinian people, those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Oslo Accords specifically limited the PA's powers to functions delegated to it by Israel under the agreement.

Therefore, elections for the PLC will not resolve the issue of representation, for the Palestinian people as a whole. Most would not have a vote. As in previous elections, Israel would likely intervene, particularly in East Jerusalem to attempt to prevent even some Palestinians under occupation from voting.
Given all these conditions, a newly elected PLC would only serve to further entrench divisions among Palestinians while also creating the illusion that Palestinian self-governance exists -- and can thrive -- under Israeli occupation.

A decade and a half after its creation, the Palestinian Authority has proved not to be a step toward the "legitimate rights of the Palestinian people," but rather a significant obstacle in the way of achieving them.
The PA offers no genuine self-government or protection for Palestinians under occupation, who continue to be victimized, killed, maimed and besieged by Israel with impunity while Israel confiscates and colonizes their land.

The PA never was and cannot be a stand-in for real collective leadership for the Palestinian people as a whole, and PA elections are not a substitute for self-determination.
Dissolving the PA
With the complete collapse of the "peace process" -- the final push given by the Palestine Papers -- it is time for the PA to have its Mubarak moment. When the Egyptian tyrant finally left office on February 11, he handed power over to the armed forces.
The PA should dissolve itself in a similar manner by announcing that the responsibilities delegated to it by Israel are being handed back to the occupying power, which must fulfill its duties under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.

This would not be a surrender. Rather, it would be a recognition of reality and an act of resistance on the part of Palestinians who would collectively refuse to continue to assist the occupier in occupying them. By removing the fig leaf of "self-governance" masking and protecting from scrutiny Israel's colonial and military tyranny, the end of the PA would expose Israeli apartheid for all the world to see.

The same message would also go to the European Union and the United States who have been directly subsidizing Israel's occupation and colonization through the ruse of "aid" to the Palestinians and training for security forces that act as Israeli proxies. If the European Union wishes to continue funding Israel's occupation, it ought to have the integrity to do it openly and not use Palestinians or the peace process as a front.

Dissolving the PA may cause some hardship and uncertainty for the tens of thousands of Palestinians and their dependents, who rely on salaries paid by the European Union via the PA. But the Palestinian people as a whole -- the millions who have been victimised and marginalised by Oslo -- would stand to benefit much more.

Handing the PA's delegated powers back to the occupier would free Palestinians to focus on reconstituting their collective body politic and implementing strategies to really liberate themselves from Israeli colonial rule.
New leadership
What can a real collective Palestinian leadership look like? Undoubtedly this is a tough challenge. Many older Palestinians recall fondly the heyday of the PLO. The PLO still exists, of course, but its organs have long since lost any legitimacy or representative function. They are now mere rubber stamps in the hands of Abbas and his narrow circle.

Could the PLO be reconstituted as a truly representative body by, say, electing a new Palestine National Council (PNC) -- the PLO's "parliament in exile"? Although the PNC was supposed to be elected by the Palestinian people, in reality that has never happened -- in part due to the practical difficulty of actually holding elections across the Palestinian diaspora. Members were always appointed through negotiations among the various political factions and the PNC included seats for independents and representatives from student, women's and other organizations affiliated with the PLO.

One of the key points of disagreement between Fatah and Hamas has been reform of the PLO in which Hamas would become a member and receive a proportional number of seats on the organization's various governing bodies. But even if this happened, it would not be the same as having Palestinians choose their representatives directly.

Yet if Arab countries which host large Palestinian refugee populations undergo democratic transformations, new possibilities for Palestinian politics will open up.
In recent years, "out of country voting" facilities were provided for large Iraqi and Afghan refugee and exile populations for elections sponsored by the powers occupying those countries. In theory, it would be possible to hold elections for all Palestinians, perhaps under UN auspices -- including the huge Palestinian diaspora in the Americas and Europe.

The trouble is that any such elections would probably need to rely on the goodwill and cooperation of an "international community" (the US and its allies), which has been implacably opposed to allowing Palestinians to choose their own leaders.
Would the energy and expense of running a transnational Palestinian bureaucracy be worth it? Would these new bodies be vulnerable to the sorts of subversion, cooptation, and corruption that turned the original PLO from a national liberation movement into its current sad status where it has been hijacked by a collaborationist clique?

I do not have definitive answers to these questions, but they strike me as the ones Palestinians ought now to be debating.
Inspirational boycott
In light of the Arab revolutions that were leaderless, another intriguing possibility is that at this stage Palestinians should not worry about creating representative bodies.
Instead, they should focus on powerful, decentralized resistance, particularly boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) internationally, and the popular struggle within historic Palestine.

The BDS movement does have a collective leadership in the form of the Boycott National Committee (BNC). However, this is not a leadership that issues orders and instructions Palestinians or solidarity organisations around the world. Rather, it sets an agenda reflecting a broad Palestinian consensus, and campaigns for others to work according to this agenda, largely through moral suasion.

The agenda encompasses the needs and rights of all Palestinians: ending the occupation and colonisation of all Arab territories occupied in 1967; ending all forms of discrimination against Palestinian citizens in Israel; and respecting, promoting and implementing the rights of Palestinian refugees.

The BDS campaign is powerful and growing because it is decentralized and those around the world working for the boycott of Israel -- following the precedent of apartheid South Africa -- are doing so independently. There is no central body for Israel and its allies to sabotage and attack.

This might be the model to follow: let us continue to build up our strength through campaigning, civil resistance and activism. Two months ago, few could have imagined that the decades old regimes of Tunisia's Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak would fall -- but fall they did under the weight of massive, broad-based popular protests. Indeed, such movements hold much greater promise to end Israel's apartheid regime and produce a genuine, representative and democratic Palestinian leadership than the kinds of cumbersome institutions created by the Oslo Accords. The end of the peace process is only the beginning.
Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, a policy advisor with the Palestinian Policy Network, and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

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