The recent trip to South Africa by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was accorded full red-carpet treatment usually reserved for heads of states.
This came as no surprise since the ANC government of President Thabo Mbeki retains strong ties with the PLO –” going back to the ’70s –” when both liberation movement cadres were literally in the same trenches.
In fact, Abbas alluded to this when he referred to the ANC as the “father of all liberation movements”.
With a 21 gun salute and the honour of addressing South Africa’s lawmakers in Parliament after a tÃªte-Ã -tÃªte with Mbeki, Abbas must have wondered whether he will ever be able to reciprocate in a similar environment back home.
Not in an ethnic Bantustan, but in a single, united state wherein the “one person-one vote” exercise will have leveled the playing field to the extent that even what is known as Israel is subsumed into a greater Palestine.
Whether he pondered about it or not, Abbas’ brief visit ought to have encouraged him to pursue the “South African option” as a meaningful and realistic option for his people. After all, South Africa emerged from a battle between two ethno-nationalisms over the ownership of a country.
His meeting with Nelson Mandela would also have offered him an opportunity to reflect on the world-renowned icon’s most significant achievement: rejection of apartheid-inspired Bantustans!
Mandela rejected the notion that South Africa belonged to Dutch-descended Afrikaners and insisted on claiming the right to be full citizens of an undivided country which should be ruled by the majority.
This is precisely the problem facing Palestine: a struggle over rival claims to the same piece of territory!
So what lessons did he learn from the South African experience? Zero!
Press communiquÃ©s reveal that the main thrust of his visit appeared to be to secure Mbeki’s support for “kick-starting” a failed process, otherwise known as the “Road Map”.
Indeed, he is quoted as saying that he is “unreservedly committed to the road map” in a Haaretz interview a couple of days before traveling to Khartoum en route to Cape Town.
Is it not bizarre that Abbas would repose such trust in a dead, dysfunctional and discredited process?
It is equally odd that he would plead to Mbeki to come on board in the chase of a mirage that is mired in the politics of Israeli unilateralism!
The only possible explanation for pursuing such self-defeating policies lies in the fact that Abbas has been under intense pressure by the US government and Europe not to allow Hamas to succeed.
Not surprising therefore that the Hamas platform which Abbas suggests has been rejected by the PLO Executive, has been embraced by an overwhelming majority of Palestinians. Why?
Because the Hamas platform is a rejection of the politics of dispossession!
Hamas has declared that Ehud Olmert’s unilateralism is a recipe for conflict.
In a recent Guardian op-ed, Ismail Haniyeh, the new Palestinian Prime Minister and Hamas leader argued that it is a plan to impose a permanent situation in which the Palestinians end up with a homeland cut into pieces made inaccessible because of massive Jewish settlements built in contravention of international law on land seized illegally from the Palestinians.
This unequivocal rejection of a Bantustan solution is in marked contradiction to Abbas’ blind faith in a two-state solution.
It would be tragic if the Abbas trip to South Africa does not embolden him to break out of the Israeli paradigm of ethnic homelands.
Indeed, until he is able to challenge this, he will remain embedded in racist, segregationist and apartheid solutions which flow out of the Oslo Accords.
More importantly, co-opting President Thabo Mbeki to “kick-start” a process which does not hold any promise of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state by consolidating Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank into one country ruled by an elected majority, would be as futile as the flawed road map.