Sharing the search for freedom

The wave of protests demanding change in a growing number of countries marks a new era in the recent history of the Arab world. It is not a coincidence that Egypt has taken the lead in its revolution for political and social development. It comes half a century after Egypt took the lead in an Arab liberation movement that succeeded in ending direct colonial control over the region.

Most Palestinians believe that we are in a win-win situation. A democratic, reformed, free and developed Arab world is more useful and more capable of serving Arab causes, including ours. In addition, this movement will ensure that the political behavior of future governments will have to be more responsive to their people on all issues, including the Arab-Israel conflict.

The Palestinian people identified quickly and easily with the upheaval thanks to a shared slogan: freedom. However, a feeling of insecurity within some official circles restricted attempts to express that identification for some time. Support for the Palestinian cause and ending the Israeli occupation is a matter of consensus in Egypt and the rest of the Arab countries.

However, different Palestinians read differently the ongoing developments in the Arab world. Hamas believes that these changes will bring about more support for it and less for Fateh. Hamas also believes that the wave of change might also affect the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, because of its ties to those same Arab governments that have been changed or are facing difficulties. One of the immediate outcomes of this is additional Hamas reluctance to come to reconciliation with Fateh.

Others think that the revolution in Arab countries has been undermining traditional opposition parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood movement that birthed Hamas, as much as it is undermining the regimes. They argue that the new Arab world will continue to support the just Palestinian cause and maintain its relations with the PLO leadership, not necessarily on the basis of its factional composition.

It is no surprise to anybody that the most worried reaction has come from Tel Aviv. Israel has established unbalanced relations with some Arab governments, with little or no approval of their peoples, and should be worried. Future democratic Arab governments, while they might remain committed to signed agreements with Israel, might not be able or willing to maintain the same dependency.

The recent Israeli leak about a possible political initiative has followed close behind the ongoing revolutions in neighboring countries. It might also be motivated by dissatisfaction with the US on the part of its Arab allies after and because of its veto of a draft United Nations resolution criticizing illegal Israeli settlement activities.

Somebody–hopefully US President Barack Obama–needs to explain to the Israeli government and public that it is too late for any initiative that falls short of promising an end to the occupation and allowing for implementation of the two-state solution based on the borders of 1967. In addition, Palestinians have long ago stopped "learning about" Israeli positions by listening to Israeli statements–the gap between what Israelis say and do is too great. Without a halt in settlement expansion, nothing that Israeli leaders say will be taken with much credibility.