The politics of illusion

What is the alternative to politics as a mechanism to achieve concrete goals and interests of the group, the nation or the state? The natural and logical alternative for what is considered to be the legitimate leadership of a group is to move on two different levels: first, redefining the group’s interests or targets, and second, redesigning the strategies for achieving those goals.

The Palestinian case represents a collapse of politics. Put differently, the PLO leadership insists on maintaining a politics of illusion that totally contradicts the facts on the ground. Worse, the PLO leadership declares that its aim is to achieve a political mission that totally contradicts previous declarations and understandings with the Israeli side. This is correct for the main topics that are related to a permanent solution of the Palestinian problem: refugees, Jerusalem, borders of the future Palestinian state and the whole package of what is considered by this leadership a "just solution for the Palestinian cause".

Here we shall concentrate on the question of the borders of the future Palestinian state. According to the declared objectives of the Arab Peace Initiative, which is endorsed by the PLO leadership, the goal is "Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon", along with the establishment of a "sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital". The Palestinian leadership has launched a public political and diplomatic campaign that aims to convince the international community to accept these goals and to recognize such a state.

These declarations and the effort to obtain international recognition for a Palestinian state are taking place under the shadow of three main facts. First, the current PLO leadership does not have the legitimacy to continue to represent Palestinian goals. Second, these declarations serve as an alternative to the real achievement of a viable Palestinian state due to official Israeli rejection. And third, the PLO leadership has totally failed to convince the Obama administration to put any real pressure on Israel in order to make a minor positive gesture such as freezing settlement-construction even for only three months.

Instead of taking hard decisions based on the conclusion that an independent Palestinian state is not a political option any more, that Oslo and the API are only lip-service to continued Israeli hegemony over the Palestinians, that US decisions concerning the future of the Israeli-Palestinian problem are totally biased, and that no US administration could serve as an honest broker, the PLO leadership chooses to continue with the politics of illusion. It presents a promising future for the Palestinians by totally misleading the Palestinian people–as if the demand for full Israeli withdrawal with East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state is still an achievable goal.

Instead of re-evaluating Palestinian goals and strategies, for example by reopening the 1948 file and seeking a one-state solution, the PLO leadership chooses to launch a campaign of illusions. It is trying to convince the Palestinian people that the current political path is an appropriate way to achieve its goals.

In contradiction to its declared objectives, the current PLO leadership undertook to negotiate with Israel over the establishment of a Palestinian state while agreeing at the same time that the major Jewish settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem continue to be part of Israel in the permanent solution. This means the PLO leadership is willing to accept "facts on the ground" in East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank and agrees to accommodate a position that is considered in Israel to enjoy consensus support by both the Jewish public and the leadership and elites: no return to the 1967 borders.

The PLO leadership is trying to convince the Palestinian people, the Arab world and many others of a false hope. It is agreeing to accept a truncated Palestinian state without Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied in 1967 and without huge parts of East Jerusalem. It is "declarations" that are the politics of the PLO, not real achievements on the ground. The PLO leaders are convinced that publishing declarations and disseminating illusions will serve their goal of staying in power. Meanwhile, Palestinians will continue to suffer without a hope for a just solution to their problem.