A Reuters' commentator recently presented a bleak analysis, charging that the Palestinian leadership lacks a cohesive strategy "to foil Sharon's designs". Almost simultaneously, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei warned that Ariel Sharon's unilateral policies might oblige Palestinians "to come back to the option of a single, binational democratic state."
Reuters' Mark Heinrich was downright precise in his assessment. The Palestinian Authority is in fact at a "standstill" and is "simply frozen". Palestinian leaders "lacked an alternative strategy to the road map and refuse to enter talks with Sharon while he holds the whip hand," Heinrich wrote.
Qorei's concurrent avowal - envisaging a binational state - while it seemed an attempt to break out from the crippling impasse, has regrettably helped reinforce the notion that the PA is utterly out of ideas, or at least out of ideas that the Palestinian leadership is prepared to seriously pursue.
Qorei was clearly investing in the state of fright in which Israelis are engaged, a fear that only underpins the perception that the mere existence of the Palestinian people is problematic and a threat to Israel's existence. Even the natural growth of the Palestinian population between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River is simulated to fit the conflict's all but unfamiliar jargon: It's a "demographic bomb."
The Palestinian prime minister seems to hope that such a warning would upset his Israeli counterpart's unilateral moves, the most famous being the erection of the enormous separation wall, disfiguring the already disfigured and occupied West Bank. Additionally, Sharon recently announced yet a new unilateral step, one that he dubbed the "disengagement plan", where caged in Palestinians are to permanently concede to Israel's future designs on stolen Palestinian land. In further response to Sharon's seemingly calamitous move, the Palestinian leadership retorted with a unilateral, although verbal threat, stressing its right to "move toward declaring the democratic state of Palestine on land occupied by Israel in 1967, including Holy Jerusalem as its capital."
Qorei's hinting at the prospect of a binational state, the PA's insistence on the two-state solution as envisioned by the road map, and its threat to declare a state without the blessing of Sharon's government - assertions that were conveyed all within days of one another- are reflections of the leadership's lack of cohesion. But also, to a lesser extent, a sign of struggle by a leadership under occupation that is laboring to free itself from the utter marginalization imposed on it by a much more powerful occupier.
But of course, Israel is capable of forging substantial political and strategic schemes and conveniently carrying them out, while Palestinians cannot. Both the PA and Israel are fully aware of this.
Thus, aside from Israeli officials' wailing over Qorei's supposed attempt to "put an end to the State of Israel as a Jewish state", Sharon's government knows that the PA lacks the political means to declare and safeguard an independent state or the will to pursue a binational one.
Whereas the head of Israel's parliamentary committee on defense rallied the pubic, in a radio interview, alleging Qorei's statement "proved that Yasser Arafat and others have not given up on their dream of destroying the Jewish state," Sharon's advisor, Zalman Shoval spoke of Qorei's "empty threat."
"He may just as well call for a Palestinian state on the moon," he mockingly responded. The lack of a suitable Palestinian strategy, great enough to defy Sharon's scheme is the culmination of many factors and the expression of a series of failures that can be traced years back, most notably from the Oslo Accords era onward. However, to break out from its political futility, the PA must not give in to inconsistency and self-negation, for such responses are deemed to harbor further lack of trust among Palestinians and play well into the hands of Israeli propaganda.
This is not to discount Israel's belligerent polices and the mutual lack of trust which has compelled Qorei and others to use increasingly visible scare tactics. But using the binational state formula in particular to carry out such threats, undercuts and taints the genuine call for a one state for two peoples, championed by a growing number of intellectuals, Palestinians and Israelis alike. Because of the reluctant nature of Qorei's statement, and his almost immediate reverting to the road map and its call for a provisional Palestinian state, the Palestinian prime minister has allowed Israel a chance to indulge itself with lament over Arafat's wish to see Israel destroyed. Conversely, Qorei's disinclination to genuinely pursue the binational solution left the advocates of such a proposal unwilling to march behind his world-shattering, albeit short-lived, vision.
Heinrich's view of a "simply frozen" Palestinian Authority is appropriate, understandably so. To break out of this deep-freeze, the Palestinian leadership ought to sponsor well-devised, cohesive long-term strategies, options that should not be marred by self-negation, hesitance and inconsistency. Meanwhile, "threats" and "trial balloons" like that of the Palestinian prime minister might prove harmful and demeaning. If Israel wishes to see the mere existence of Palestinians as a weapon, Palestinians themselves should not wave that sword. It plays well into Sharon's hands, and will ultimately disfranchise the advocates of integration (as opposed to apartheid) as a viable solution to the grinding conflict.
Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American journalist and editor-in-chief of The Palestine Chronicle online newspaper. His articles were published and quoted in newspapers around the world, including the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune and the Guardian, among others. He is the editor of the anthology: "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion." Baroud is also a researcher for the Qatar-based al-Jazeera Net English.
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