The Palestine Papers show that Palestinian negotiators ran out of cards a long time ago, writes this despairing Palestinian commentator
By Shadi P.
Around 1,600 documents about the Palestinian- Israeli secret negotiations have leaked so far. Unfortunately, we do not have any photos of the meetings. Some Palestinians were anxious to see photos because they thought that the Palestinian Authority team could not have been seated at a round table during the negotiations, but rather they were bending over all the time and had sticks pressed hard in their backs by the Israeli team. That’s why they made concessions – to be allowed to sit, and to have a break.
If you follow the chronology of negotiations, you will find that the PA has given everything it could offer to the Israelis. Their ONLY strong card was played by Arafat. It was the recognition of the State of Israel on the land occupied in 1948. Now, nothing is left for Palestinians to give. Ask yourself, what is it that Palestinians can give that Israel can’t take by force? Nothing.
Israelis cross a Palestinian red line every day. Then, our negotiators come up with new red lines for Israelis to cross again and so on. For the PA, there are no red lines left. All the lines have become transparent to be crossed unseen. Maybe the PA misunderstood our call for transparency!
For the whole oppressed Palestinians, “red lines” are not about clutching to something on the basis of fanaticism or ideology. Their red lines are all about human rights, dignity and international law. The Israeli red lines, on the contrary, are mostly based on ideology, fanaticism and “political greed.” This is the main or only difference between our red lines and theirs, which is a logical outcome of our being victims and their being an occupying power.
If you pay good attention to the nature of Palestinians and their struggle through the history, you will conclude that the term “red line” for Palestinians has become synonyms with “ending the conflict” and “coexistence”. The independent state and the refugees’ return are considered red lines which, if achieved, will eventually end the conflict. Nothing else can. Therefore, these red lines should also be considered by the Israelis, if they really want an end for this conflict!
I never heard of any Israeli red line before the Oslo Circus in 1993 except the recognition of Israel, which has already happened. Now, they want more water resources, more land to grab within the 1967 borders, more settlements to be annexed to Israel, more Palestinians to expel from Israel and so on. They go too far with their demands only because the Palestinian negotiators have been adopting the “kneeling policy” or the “bending over strategy.”
Nelson Mandela says “Only free men can negotiate.” Does this apply to the Palestinian negotiators who have become spokesmen for the Palestinian people by coincidence and conspiracies? I do believe, like the majority of Palestinians, that the PA negotiators don’t care about the interest of their people. Their main concern is to deposit more money in their bank accounts in Switzerland, and to keep their diplomatic passports. Thus, they can’t be trusted to negotiate on our behalf. They are not free men.
What Israelis should understand is that the Palestinian people cannot be forced by their “accidental leadership” to accept such shameless concessions. Israel will have to negotiate with all the Palestinian people in future. Saeb Erekat and Ahmad Qurei’ don’t have the right to compromise over the right of return for millions of refugees who were uprooted from their homes when Israel was created in 1948. Moreover, the right of return is an individual right, which means, according to the international law, that only the individual can cede this right.
I will teach my kids who haven’t been born yet that they have their own individual right of return. I will teach them to refuse to live in a refugee camp and to keep struggling for their rights. The place which should have been theirs, is now the property of yet-to-be-born kids from Ethiopia, Russia, Argentina etc. etc. Well, our kids were not created by a less sophisticated God or a stupid one.
Bottom line: No end for the conflict even if the PA and Israel declare its end. Only the people will say when it ends. The PA and Israel should both get this point clear.
Shadi P is a Palestinian who lives and works in Ramallah.