Dissolve the Palestinian Authority
By Rami G. Khouri
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
The Annapolis process is moving in slow gear, and on the ground Israelis and Palestinians are back to the routine of daily clashes, the firing of rockets, assassinations and threats of more to come. Few people seem to have any idea about how to break out of this stalemate and move toward a permanent, comprehensive, fair resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
One man who offers some intriguing fresh thinking, though, is Adnan Abu Odeh, a Jordanian-Palestinian who has remained loyal to both sides of his Palestinian and Jordanian identity. Abu Odeh, a former minister, ambassador and chief of the royal court in Jordan, is among the smartest and most insightful analysts in the Arab world. I always make it a point to sound him out when I am in Amman, as I did a few days ago.
Abu Odeh suggests that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should seriously consider unilaterally dissolving the Palestinian Authority, because it no longer serves a useful function for Palestinians, and instead assists Israel in its long-term designs to control Palestinians land.
His analysis is compelling, and should be considered by the Arab League summit in Damascus next month. It starts from the principle that Israel's "occupation" of Palestinian land 40 years after the 1967 war is actually a process of colonization or annexation - both aimed at cementing Israeli control of the land and uprooting the indigenous people. He says that "Israel has consistently implemented this strategy since 1967, which by definition requires time, and Israel's strategy is to buy time."
One of the best tools to buy time for Israel, Abu Odeh argues, is the Palestinian Authority, which the Palestinians and the world at large saw as a prelude to an independent Palestinian state. After 15 years of Oslo, statehood is a mirage, marred by more Israeli expansion and land-grabbing through the building of settlements and the separation wall.
Israel's occupation and aggression in Palestine are not being stopped by the body globally mandated to restore security - the United Nations Security Council. Abu Odeh says the UN has become only one - and the weakest - of the four members of the Quartet (along with the United States, the European Union and Russia) that is supposed to shepherd Arab-Israeli peacemaking. Two other potential external sources of pressure on Israel to relinquish the occupied lands and agree on a negotiated peace have also failed to materialize, he says. The US has become more of a structural ally of Israel and less of a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, while Arab governments have effectively stopped thinking about the issue and apply no pressure whatsoever.
So we have to look for a source of pressure against Israel from within the conflict, and one important source for this comes from the Zionist idea itself, which is based on land and demography. Zionism's demographic strategy is two-pronged, Abu Odeh notes: to squeeze out and expel as many Palestinians as possible, and to bring in as many Israelis as possible. Since 1967, he says, Israel has secured the land, and now it is working on the demography issue, to make sure that its state is as purely Jewish as possible, with the least number of Palestinians.
"Demography is our only available indigenous pressure source," Abu Odeh explains. "We should tell Israel to take all the Palestinians along with the land, because the two cannot be separated. 'Take me with the land' should be our message to Israel, which would naturally lead to a single bi-national state of Jews and Palestinians. Israel does not want this, but we have to force it to choose between a two-state solution and a single bi-national state."
How to do this? Abu Odeh says that to be serious about this, "You have to eliminate the tool that Israel has been using to buy time, squeeze out Palestinians, annex more territory and cement its control of occupied lands. You have to remove the PA instrument that has played the role of sustaining the illusion of a Palestinian state, which is clearly not emerging. President Abbas and the Palestinian leadership should think seriously of unilaterally dismantling the PA."
They should do this while collecting all weapons in the hands of the Palestinian police and telling the Israelis to come and take the weapons from designated collection points. This would end the fiction of the PA as a step leading to a sovereign state, force the Israelis to resume their obligations as an occupying power, and drive home the point that a bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state is a real option.
The point Abu Odeh makes is that, "we have options, we are not without power and options."
Rami G. Khouri is published twice-weekly by THE DAILY STAR.