Last Updated: Sun Jun 24, 2012 11:01 am (KSA) 08:01 am (GMT)

‘Freezing’ Palestine – not the settlements

Walid Choucair

Eighteen months into the Arab Spring, as expected, the Palestinian situation is being neglected in the Arab world and by the international community. All of the countries concerned with Palestine have been busy tending to their domestic situations, or the regional repercussions of Arab uprisings on other countries, which has allowed Israel to act unilaterally against the Palestinians.

Israel has gone to extremes in its policy of settlements, aerial bombardment and intelligence offensives against the Gaza Strip, and continued to assassinate Palestinian activists, as well as eliminate its partner in the supposed peace process, with no noticeable outcry as a result.

This policy indicates that the Israeli mind is unable to draw lessons from the Arab uprisings, namely that they represent a rebellion against rulers who have long been subservient to a policy of seeing the Jewish state humiliate Arabs nationalist feelings. It could, under this policy, then head off the rise in hostility by new Arab regimes by accepting a “peaceful solution” to the Palestinian issue. However, influential Arab states also appear unable to draw the proper lessons.

These governments could leave behind the policy of appeasement and compliance with America’s biased policy toward Israel, which has been a chief reason – at times openly, at times covertly – for the Arab uprisings, in addition to other reasons, connected to rising up against repression and dictatorship.

However, it appears that the leaders of these countries are mired in their surrender to the current American and Israeli policies of benefiting from the Arab attention focused on the birth pangs of the Arab political transformations instead of Israel’s continued crimes, such as the Judaization of Jerusalem, expanding settlements, and continuing its military operations, and perhaps heading toward a new war against Gaza, hidden under the rhetoric of a war against Iran, one that Washington obviously does not want.

In fact, some of these Arab countries went so far as to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, on behalf of the administration of President Barack Obama, to abandon plans to put forward, at the General Assembly last summer, a resolution on recognizing the state of Palestine as an observer member in the United Nations.

If the notion that the rise of democratic Arab regimes in place of authoritarian and dictatorial ones will help adjust the balance of power, in favor of the Palestinian issue and Palestine’s national rights is correct – and this will proven as time goes on – then this neglect by Arab regimes that have seen changes in their political structure, and those that are confronting popular unrest, will certainly be a reason for growing mass pressure on these regimes in the coming phase.

Thus, the leaders of new regimes, and of those that have for now managed to survive, must become convinced that the millstone in the rise of a new regional order, as a result of the transformations in the Arab world, involves a move toward fundamentally changing the method of dealing with the international lenience vis-à-vis Israeli policy, if these regimes wish to be members in this new regional order.

Is it logical for Arab states, whether they represent old or new regimes, to adopt a neutral stance on the demands of the Obama administration, which has insultingly slinked away from all of its earlier promises, to the degree that it insists that the PA suspend any hope of halting Israeli settlements as a condition to resuming peace negotiations with the government of Benjamin Netanyahu? Is it logical for them to freeze any movement for Palestinian rights until the end of the presidential elections in the United States, decline any attempt to move the request for observer status for Palestine in the U.N., and halt their urging of the Arab League to take action in this direction?

Is it logical that the new Arab system will accept the warnings of the Obama administration to the PA, that it should abandon steps toward a Palestinian reconciliation and the formation of a national unity government with Hamas? Is it logical for the PA to delay holding new legislative elections because the result will anger Israel, as they will certainly lead to a unity government that will push toward renewing peace negotiations?

All of this involves Obama making no efforts with the Israelis to suspend or freeze settlements in return, or stop the assassinations and the attacks on Gaza.

In short, the Obama administration is asking the Palestinians to forget that they are Palestinians. After the U.S. presidential elections, the Palestinians will be asked to forget their cause, until the next congressional elections are over…

The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in Dar Al Hayat on June. 22, 2012

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