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Palestinian Self-defeating Unilateralism

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With the Palestinian – Israeli peace process dormant, deadlocked and declared "dead" and at least two thirds of the Palestinians living in exile hosted and influenced by regional powers, the Palestinian leadership is facing an overdue review of its self-defeating unilateral approach to change course towards a multilateral, or better a collective, Arab approach to resolving the conflict with Israel.

Adapting to an Israeli intransigent insistence on bilateral tracks of negotiations with the Arab League states, whether in armistice or peace talks, the Palestinian leadership followed the Arab example and adopted a unilateral approach to dealing with Israel, in an historical trend that deprived it from valuable negotiating assets and absolved those states from what the Arab masses, the Palestinians inclusive, perceive as Pan-Arab obligations.

The Arab League states, which fought the emerging Jewish state in Palestine in unison, at least theoretically, in 1948 signed the armistice agreements individually and were individually forced into separate peace negotiations after their humiliating military defeat in 1967.

The individual unilateral approach to the conflict with Israel was divisive to the Arab ranks, gave Israel a free hand to target Arabs individually without any hope for any unified Arab back-up, held the Palestinian people hostage to the Israeli colonial occupation, and doomed any regional comprehensive solution to the Arab – Israeli conflict.

However the Palestinian unilateral approach has been the most destructive because it was used as the raison d'tere for the other Arabs to break the ranks in unilateral dealings with Israel.

The Palestinian leadership went unilateral to launch an "armed struggle" against Israel at a time when the Arab states were at their most vulnerable militarily and had done with their pre-1967 "Arab Joint Defense Pact" as well as with any military solution for the "liberation of Palestine."

The move however succeeded in bringing the Palestinian people back to the regional political map, a development that Israel failed to avert after years of negating their existence in the "land without people" as its founding fathers used to claim.

However the Palestinian historical window of opportunity to unilaterally exist and act had narrowed quickly and was short-lived as soon as the Arab states recovered from their defeat, not only to resume their endeavors to liberate their occupied lands militarily (Egypt and Syria in 1973) but also to pursue "peace options" to achieve the same goal.

The Arab and the Palestinian unilateralism was an Israeli strategic goal from the beginning and has always played into the hands of the Israeli strategists who played each and every people of the Arabs against the other to condemn all of them as losers.

The Palestinian unilateral approach was repeatedly self-justified by a declared pledge to defend the "Palestinian independent decision-making" vis-à-vis individual or collective Arab calls for coordination politically and defensively.

It has cost the Palestinian people a lot of bloodshed and a distracting political wrangling with Arab states, amid wide spread criticism that the Palestinian justification is only a pretext to go it alone with the Israelis, an accusation that has come true with the Oslo accords, which infuriated the direct neighbors.

Hence the Jordanian and Egyptian unilateral approaches that led to peace treaties with the Jewish state were in fact blessed by a Palestinian green light and in turn joined Israel in preserving and reinforcing the Palestinian unilateralism. Both treaties have turned the two strategically-decisive Arab allies into mediators in the Palestinian – Israeli conflict, in spite of their denials and assertions to the contrary.

Trapped for too long in a self-inflicted captivity to a counterproductive U.S. strategy to be able to reconsider an alternative strategic option and using as a misleading pretext the self-defeating and self-deceiving motto of the "independent national decision-making," the Palestinian leadership for example has kept its distance from even the least suspicion of being linked in any way to Israel's latest war on Lebanon, lest it is labeled a party to the U.S.-termed "axis of terror."

The Palestinian leadership has been pacified and tamed to be part and parcel of the Arab officialdom, which is very well versed with the U.S. politics and minutes of the American strategies, tactics and demands, but stone-deaf to the daily pulse of their people.

For example on the same day the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were declaring that no links exist between the case of the Israeli soldier captured by Palestinians and the two soldiers captured by Hizbullah, spokesmen for more than 10.000 Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails were appealing to Sayyed Hassan Nassrullah to include their beloved ones in any deal with Israel.

And while Abbas was telling reporters that the Palestinian and Lebanese conflicts with Israel were two separate "paths," the defunct peace process that was declared "dead" by none other than the Arab League chief Amr Mousa led to Palestinian despair that is leading to calls to do away with the Oslo accords and the Israeli-reoccupied autonomous Palestinian Authority.

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
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