It is September again and the Palestinians are back at the UN, this time pleading their case to the General Assembly. It is all a bit like a scene out of Groundhog Day –” events get repeated and repeated until the protagonist finally learns his valuable life lessons, when lo and behold, a breakthrough occurs.
Ironically, the only cue that a breakthrough may actually occur is from Israel. Its reaction to the bid accompanied by its acquiescing stance towards the PA tells us a lot. The UN bid is not a bad idea in and of itself but it cannot make any difference if the Palestinians’ status quo remains the same. To put it bluntly, the Palestinian Authority in its current miserable state, will never lead us to liberation, UN bid or not.
Take Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech in front of the General Assembly. Apparently, the peace process with the Palestinians is not even on his radar. A cartoon-like sketch of an Iranian nuclear bomb and Israel’s “red line” was the only point Netanyahu really wanted to make. It was almost insulting. Out of the entire address, Netanyahu devoted a measly few lines to the decades’ long Palestinian-Israeli conflict, lines that brought nothing new:
“…We won’t solve our conflict with unilateral declarations of statehood…We have to sit together, negotiate together, and reach a mutual compromise, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the one and only Jewish State.”
The rest was some blabbering, fumbling gibberish about the Iranian threat and Israel’s great strides in technology. But the point is that the Palestinians –” the Israelis’ supposed arch enemy and the bane of their existence –” are no longer a real threat. It sounds terrible to be put into words, but that is the truth: we are not moving towards liberation if Israel does not lose any sleep over us.
On the contrary, Israel wants to help the PA. Red flags must have gone up in almost every Palestinian mind when the Israeli government said it would bail out the PA by making an early transfer of its tax moneys. If Israel is so hell-bent on not allowing the PA to collapse, perhaps we should ask ourselves why.
An Arabic-language article written last week in the Gulf-based Al Sharq Al Awsat likened the Palestinians at the UN to Finland –” mundane, practically issueless and most dangerously, neutral. The writer, Sameeh Atallah, compared late President Yasser Arafat’s address to the UN in 1974 to President Abbas’ today. “Then, we were talking about the loss of Palestine; now we must talk about the loss of the Palestinian cause,” he said. “Today Palestine is at the United Nations in a position similar to Finland –” everyone knows it exists but no one really thinks about its presence.”
That should tell us something. If Israel wants the PA to remain intact, it is not because it thinks it will be the catalyst for the Palestinians’ liberation, but because it will do the exact opposite –” as long as the PA remains in place as the operational but neutered arm of the PLO, it can sleep tight knowing that the Palestinians’ fight for freedom is being put off just a little longer.
It is only for the Palestinians to realize this now. The PA has been in place for so long now (well past its legal mandate) that the cracks are showing more each day. There are allegations of corruption, scandals involving self-indulging ministers, charges of inappropriate conduct, etc. etc. It is a system originally designed for a transitional period that turned into a permanent but severely lacking mode of governance.
And this is where the UN bid comes in. The Israelis and the Americans are opposing it for a reason, and it has nothing to do with the PA. They know this is a fair attempt to get back on track, for the Palestinians to remember what their purpose is and not lose sight of it. Gaining membership would mean the Palestinians have a state –” at least in the eyes of the United Nations. Israel and the US hate that idea because that means the PA would cease to exist in the capacity that both have grown so comfortable with. We will be addressed and considered a people and state under Israel’s occupation, a detail that has been muddled and distorted for far too long.
So it is time. Time to reshuffle the cards, let go of illusions of power and trivial desires. If the PA is to remain after Palestine scores membership, it must change form and become a tool for liberation rather than for maintaining this stagnant and dangerous status quo. Because the moment Israel waves us aside with a nonchalant flick of the wrist is the moment we must realize we have lost sight of Palestine and the UN bid will be relegated to the archives of lost causes.