The Palestinian Authority needs to move before the American opportunity is lost

The Arab and Palestinian citizen is wondering what took place and what is taking place now since the presidential elections, which were held in January.

A wave of optimism swept through Palestine and the region, the effect of which was increased by the pledges President Bush made regarding the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and pledges to aid the Palestinian Authority in achieving the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

What happened after the elections, however, has caused the citizen to be baffled and worried. The wave of optimism began to recede only to be replaced with the feeling that the Israeli government has set a trap for the Palestinian Authority under the banner of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in order to drag it to discussions over minor details through subcommittees, while the Israeli government seizes the lands in the West Bank, especially in the Jerusalem area (or what the Israeli government calls “Greater Jerusalem”).

What increased the bewilderment and anxiety of the Palestinian and Arab citizen is that the Palestinian Authority did not at all harness the new US affection and did not use it to set matters straight with regards to stopping the land confiscations and annexation, the acceleration in building the separation wall, the non-release of prisoners and the non-withdrawal of Israeli troops back to the positions they held in September 2000.

In addition to all this the citizen is further shocked and worried by the lack of movement by the Palestinian Authority politically and diplomatically to tie the handling of security issues with political issues -” as if the Israeli-Palestinian struggle is a security struggle and not a political one between the Israeli occupation forces and a people who are fighting to regain their freedom and independence.

Time goes by and as it does the Palestinian Authority’s ability to utilize the US position fades as long as the Authority stands still and is a prisoner of the formalities imposed by the Israeli government for exchanges of opinions with the Authority (the Israeli government can prolong the discussion on the criteria for releasing prisoners for many months, and the same when defining the “withdrawal from cities”, “crossing points”, etc.).

As long as the Palestinian Authority accepts the frameworks and formalities defined by Israel it will remain a prisoner to the mechanisms and timings of these formalities. What is more serious is that the Palestinian Authority, due to it’s being dragged along by these patterns of discussions (which eat away at time), is not using very powerful weapons which it has now and could lose tomorrow.

The most important weapon of these is the international (including the US) desire in finding a political solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the current year, 2005.

The US administration needs to achieve a victory in the Middle East. US public opinion sees the invasion of Iraq, and what is taking place in Iraq following the elections, as a failure that could lead to more involvement that was not accounted for.

Resentment arising from the actions of the Israeli government and the occupation forces has increased with US public opinion. This exerts pressure on the US administration to put an end to supporting Israel and its continued aggression against the Palestinian people.

The US administration’s desire to repair its relations with countries of the European Union cannot be achieved without reaching an understanding on:

– Working to achieve a political solution for the Middle East, one that has the establishment of an independent Palestinian state at its core.

– Coming to an understanding on a work plan to save Iraq from what it has been going through since the US invasion.

– Coming to an understanding on ways for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.

As the problems of Iraq and Iran are distant goals then the close and attainable goal is the Palestinian issue.

President Bush has given Sharon all that he has asked for throughout the four years of Bush’s first term as president. During this time Bush alienated his European allies, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, and the UN.

Now, after the negative effects of the US foreign policy in the Middle East have appeared, the American administration and President Bush wish to improve the image of the US in the Middle East. The only option President Bush has is to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian struggle through the implementation of the road map.

Therefore, the Palestinian Authority possesses a strong hand which it can use well and invest.

The death of the great leader Yasser Arafat provided President Bush with a rare opportunity to implement the change that he wanted to make to his Middle East policy.

Bush had previously followed Sharon’s policy completely, a policy that aimed at disabling the peace process by using the Arafat excuse and calling Arafat a terrorist who was unfit to be a partner in the peace process.

The death of Arafat destroyed at one go all that Sharon had built around this lie. Bush was freed from following Sharon’s position.

Abu Mazen’s victory came to give President Bush an additional opportunity to implement the change in Middle East policy. Abu Mazen was considered a suitable partner for peace even before Arafat passed away, and a moderate man capable of reaching an understanding. (Sharon had accused the late President Arafat of undermining Abu Mazen’s efforts when he was given the task of forming the government).

President Bush has all these opportunities, and many opportunities are available for the new President of the Palestinian Authority Abu Mazen, but the Palestinian Authority has not yet made use of any of these opportunities, which has made Washington’s desire for change and swift action slow down to a rate slower than Washington wanted, and slower than the Palestinian people want.

Therefore, there must be an awakening in the ranks of the Palestinian Authority, an awakening that will put the priorities right before our eyes again. The priority is for the legitimate demands of the Palestinian people and working to achieve them though intensive and daily contacts with the American administration (it should be forbidden here for the Palestinian Authority to learn from the way the Israeli government works with the US). Not a day passes when you do not hear of Israeli delegations discussing Israel’s demands in Washington -” military, security, political and economic delegations.

The Palestinian Authority has an endless list of issues that need to be discussed with the American administration. Some of these issues were proposed by the US administration itself without the Palestinian Authority activating any mechanisms to follow up on the promises and pledges of the American administration regarding them. (Examples of these pledges are a pledge to fully fund the rehabilitation and re-equipping of the Palestinian security services, economic aid, rebuilding, and activating and aiding the judicial institution so that it may become independent and qualified.)

What is important here is insistence and daily work so that the American administration translates its positions into actions, especially with regards to not building any part of the separation wall on Palestinian lands, not transferring the Gaza settlers to the West Bank, having Jerusalem as one of the issues that will be discussed in final status talks, the removal of all roadblocks, and the withdrawal back to the positions held on September 28th 2000, etc.

The needed awakening will undoubtedly require mobilizing institutions and qualified figures so that the causes of the Palestinians will become a main item for Washington. With this the Palestinian Authority would have begun an attempt to take advantage of the opportunity available to it, an opportunity which time is eating away at an accelerated rate that could finish it before it is ripe, if the Palestinian Authority does not act well.