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Palestinians looking for direction but needy of unity

Daoud Kuttab photo
Daoud KuttabLillehammer, Norway
Palestinians looking for direction but needy of unity
Divided Palestinians need to be united if the current protests are to have direction.

The escalating violence in Palestine is producing a multitude of commentary and reactions, but few are able to answer simple questions like what is the direction of the tension, what is the end game and what do people expect?

There is no doubt that the absence of a national agreed-to Palestinian strategy is at the heart of the problem.

Without unity between the PLO and Hamas, unity of Fateh members or of Palestinians in Palestine and abroad, there is no chance of cobbling together a coherent national liberation strategy.

Major levers of power in Palestine are tied up. Well-known factions and movements are unable to move and are under close scrutiny by both Israel and the Palestinian security.

Years of Israeli repression have had their toll on the ability of leaders to chart an independent strategy.

In the absence of organised Palestinian institutions, parties and factions, what we are seeing today is an ad hoc Intifada by individuals, which has no clear plan, direction and strategy.

Without clarity and sustainability, such individual actions, while a source of excitement by an angry Palestinian public, will not go far in reversing a trend that has been etched in reinforced concrete.

The Israeli wall, as well as the outsourcing of most security operations to the Palestinian security, has resulted in a win-win situation for Israel. The occupiers can  sit and watch as Palestinian security carries out all its dirty work. Palestinians relieve Israelis of patrolling the Nablus casbah and the allies of highly populated refugee camps

But at the same time it is becoming clear now that there is a limit even to Mahmoud Abbas’ patience.

While the Palestinian president continues to believe wholeheartedly in the negotiating/political track as the only viable path ahead, he is becoming frustrated with the Israelis, and even more, with the apathetic Americans who seem to have lost interest in the Palestine issue.

Unconfirmed reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry asked Abbas recently  to give Washington six months before the US returns to an active role in Palestine seem to have a ring of truth to them. It seems that the US, having resolved the Iranian nuclear problem through multinational diplomacy, wants to use that international goodwill to deal with Palestine, but only after resolving the Syrian crisis.

When Abbas announced from the UN rostrum that Palestinians are no longer be obliged to adhere to the Oslo Accords, his words ended much more than the 1993 Memorandum of Understanding between the PLO and Israel in Washington.

Abbas’ statement blocked any remaining ray of hope for a better future for the Palestinians

The majority of the Palestinian population today is young. The Palestinian Census Bureau says that out of the 4.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, 70 per cent are under the age of 29.

This might be what triggered the violent reaction we are seeing today in Palestine. But without a concerted strategy, there is real worry that this wave of opposition to occupation will fizzle out.

In Jerusalem, Palestinians feel the entire burden of the Islamic world on them as they try single-handedly to defend Islam’s third holiest mosque.

Except for empty rhetoric, the Arab and Islamic worlds are watching silently as  Jerusalemites as well as some Palestinians Muslim citizens of Israel try to fight the powerful Israeli security machine intent on changing the decades of status quo on the premises of Al Haram Al Sharif.

It should be no surprise for anyone that Palestinian youth react violently when faced with a future that has nothing pleasant to offer them.

They see the impotence of their own leadership, which has washed its hands of the Oslo Accords, and that even a sovereign state like Jordan, which is a strong ally to the US and has diplomatic relations with Israel, unable to do anything to stop the daily Israeli aggression on Al Aqsa Mosque and the restriction of the right to worship, enshrined in all international covenants and guaranteed in the Israel-Jordan peace treaty in which the Kingdom is given special standing in regard to Al Aqsa Mosque and other religious places in Jerusalem.

Perhaps the one place with the biggest cause for hopelessness is Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian population feels totally abandoned by the world.

Even Gaza’s southern Arab neighbour, Egypt, has been denying the right of movement to Palestinians in the strip, under the excuse that it fighting violent extremists in the Sinai Peninsula.

The flooding of the borders with water after the destruction of some 3,500 houses on the Egyptian side of Rafah has further frustrated Gazans who are left entirely at the mercy of the Israeli occupiers.

Hopeless and without a clear national strategy, Palestinians will continue to move in various directions without any major breakthrough, unless the international community gets seriously involved.

The escalation of violence will most probably shake up things in major Western capitals, but due to the Obama-Netanyahu tension over Iran, there are few expectations that the Americans can have any political credit to dispense here.

The pressure on Palestinians to come together is always much greater when blood is split.

If the current violence and the accompanying Israeli repression will not succeed in getting Palestinian leaders to put aside their grievances and work together for the common good, it is not clear what will.

Palestine is hurting and the people are yearning for answers that require novel ideas.

But the most important Palestinian need today is a classic one. Unity and a clear, doable, strategy are the best answer to the questions everyone is asking today.

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