Negotiations are Negotiations, by any Other Name

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We have tried to keep quiet, give them the benefit of the doubt and see the situation from every possible side. We have tried to look for the silver lining to this huge ominous cloud, but alas, plain and simple, there just isn’t one to find.

The recent rounds of talks in Amman under Jordanian and Quartet auspices have –” as expected –” yielding nothing. The Israelis have even admitted to agreeing to the meetings so they could “lock” Palestinians in talk, offer them “candy” and stave off any Quartet pressure on them (unlikely) come the January 25 deadline.

But Israel’s stances are hardly surprising to any of us, including the leadership. The international community calls for a halt to settlements, the UN Secretary General himself calls on Israel to end the occupation and Israel takes that as its cue to step up construction and entrench the occupation of the Palestinians even more.

But this is not about Israel, this is about us. When, a few months back, the Palestinian leadership took a proactive position by pulling out of negotiations and pursuing statehood membership in the UN, we all rallied around them. We said no to negotiations because there can never be progress or peace if illegal settlements continue to spread on Palestinian land and occupy the space meant to be a future Palestinian state.

So, it was shocking and yes, disappointing when a delegation of “negotiators” agreed to sit with an Israeli delegation in Amman. The justification was that the request came from Jordan and President Abbas could not easily turn our “brothers” down. Anyway, our leadership said, these were not negotiations, they were “exploratory talks” in a bid to find some way to return to the negotiating table.

Nonetheless, no one should belittle the collective intelligence of the people. Discussing borders and security, trading “visions” across a table between two of each side’s top negotiators can mean but one thing: negotiations. They can call it whatever they want, but that doesn’t change the fact of the matter. By going to Amman and remaining there for the three rounds of talks means our leadership is falling back into that slippery, sliding, dangerous slope of fruitless negotiations.

Anyway, even during the short period when the three rounds of talks took place in Amman, Israel announced thousands of settlement units to be built in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. It passed a law in the Knesset deeming it impossible for Israeli citizens married to Palestinians to gain family reunification, a law that will affect scores of families in Jerusalem and inside Israel. It doesn’t have to declare its intentions towards a peace deal with the Palestinians. Its actions speak way louder than words.

The Palestinians need to regain that strength they showed last September. We are not naïve as to the tremendous pressures being put on the leadership to return to the negotiating table by the United States, the Quartet, Jordan and so many others. We know the Palestinians often pay the price for taking a stance. But really, what choice do we have?

The only real choice is to maintain a clear and strong stance that we will not waver from no matter the consequences. Being in talks with Israel, especially under Mr. Netanyahu, is like a cat chasing its own tail. It is exhausting but it gets us nowhere and frankly, comes across as quite ridiculous.

So, let’s hold off on the talks, or negotiations, or whatever they are called, for the time being. Let us continue to fight a good fight, one which will allow us to sleep at night knowing we did all we could and should do for Palestine.

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