Reprinted from Palestine Chronicle
Abbas with Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs.
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No matter what Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does, his popularity is declining. In some ways, Abbas' threshold for popularity was really never impressive to begin with, a trend that is unlikely to change in the near future.
But now that a power struggle in his Fatah party is looming, and his two-decade investment in the "peace process" scheme has proven to be fruitless, Abbas is doing what he should have done a long time ago: internationalize the Palestinian struggle, and break away from the confines of American influence and double-standard "diplomacy."
Considering Abbas' grim legacy among Palestinians, his leading role in engineering the peace process, crackdown on dissent, failure to achieve unity among his people, undemocratic rule, and much more, it is doubtful that his internationalization efforts are done with the greater good in mind. But should that matter if the outcome is greater recognition of a Palestinian state?
The Vatican's Move
On May 13, the Vatican officially recognized the state of Palestine. In reality, the Vatican had already welcomed the United Nations General Assembly vote in 2012 to recognize a Palestinian state. Moreover, it had treated Palestine as a state ever since.
But what makes May 13 particularly important is that the subtle recognition was put into practice in the form of a treaty, which is in itself not too important. True, the updated recognition is still symbolic in a sense, but also significant, for it is further validates the Palestinian leadership's new approach aimed at breaking away from the US-sponsored peace process into a more internationalized approach to the conflict.
The Vatican can be seen as a moral authority to many of the 1.2 billion people that consider themselves Roman Catholics. Its recognition of Palestine is consistent with the political attitude of countries that are considered the strongest supporters of Palestinian rights around the world, the majority of whom are located in Latin America and Africa.
There is more than one way to read this latest development within the context of the larger Palestinian strategic shift to break away from the disproportionate dependence on American political hegemony over the Palestinian discourse. But it is not all positive, and the road for the "state of Palestine," which is yet to exist outside the realm of symbolism, is paved with dangers.
Reasons for Optimism
1. Recognitions allow Palestinians to break away from United States hegemony over the political discourse of the "Palestinian-Israeli conflict."
For nearly 25 years, the Palestinian leadership -- first the PLO and then the PA -- fell under the spell of American influence starting at the US-led multilateral negotiations between Israel and Arab countries in Madrid in 1991. The signing of the Oslo Agreement in 1993 and the establishment of the PA the following year gave the US an overriding political influence over Palestinian political discourse. While the PA accumulated considerable wealth and a degree of political validation as a result of that exchange, Palestinians as a whole lost a great deal.
2. International recognitions downgrade the "peace process," which has been futile at best, but also destructive as far as Palestinian national aspirations are concerned.
Since the US-sponsored "peace process" was launched in 1993, Palestinians gained little and lost so much more. That loss can be highlighted mostly in the following: massive expansion in Israel's illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, doubling the number of the illegal settlers as well; the failure of the so-called peace process to deliver any of its declared goals, largely Palestinian political sovereignty and an independent state; and the fragmentation of the Palestinian national cause among competing factions.
The last nail in the "peace process" coffin was put in place when US Secretary of State, John Kerry, failed to meet his deadline of April 2014 that aimed at achieving a "framework agreement" between the PA and the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
The collapse in the process was largely an outcome of a deep-seated ailment where the talks, no matter how "positive" and "encouraging" they were, were never truly designed to give Palestinians what they aspired to achieve: a state of their own. Netanyahu and his government (the recent one being arguably the "most hawkish" in Israel's history) made their intentions repeatedly clear.
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