28 years after Algiers: Palestinian statehood, the grand illusion
In his last speech before the United Nations, US President Barack Obama dedicated a single sentence to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - a sentence that truly reflected his failure to positively affect the outcomes of the Middle East most protracted, destabilising conflict.
Both sides would "be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognise the legitimacy of Israel, but Israel recognises that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land," he said. Nothing more.
While his previous speeches dedicated much rhetoric to the conflict in Palestine and Israel, the last UN speech - and that sentence alone - was a more honest indication of eight years that lacked vision, or even a sincere attempt at finding one.
During that eight-year period, during which thousands of innocent people, the vast majority of whom were Palestinians, were killed, Obama purportedly labored to achieve the proverbial, although misleading 'middle ground'.
The outcomes of his policies were quite devastating, whereas he sold Palestinians false hope, he granted Israel the most generous aid package in its history, a whopping $38 billion in military aid. During the last Israeli war on Gaza in 2014, which killed and wounded thousands, Obama ensured that the Israeli army's storage of ammunitions and military hardware remained at full capacity.
On the political front, he ensured that Palestinian efforts aimed at obtaining recognition for their future state were soundly defeated. He went as far as denying the UN cultural organisation, UNESCO, from nearly quarter of its funding simply for admitting 'Palestine' as a new member.
As if all of that is not enough to demonstrate his loyalty to Israel, the political transition team of president-elect Donald Trump - which is projected to be a hardliner on many issues, especially on its support of Israel over the Palestinians - is warning Obama to refrain from making any last move at the UN that maybe seen by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "interference" in Israeli affairs.
|The misfortunes of the Palestinians are unlikely to be reversed overnight, or anytime soon|
"Obama and his aides shouldn't go seeking new adventures or pushing through policies that clearly don't match Trump's positions" on Israel, a Trump national security advisor told Politico.
In fact, a media war has already been waged against Obama, as if the latter has offered Palestinians anything during his two terms in office but reprimand, ignored their plight and labored at every Israeli lobby (AIPAC) conference to demonstrate his allegiance to Israel.
The last two excruciating performances at AIPAC's by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were merely the echoes of Obama's past groveling.
Yet, some are still fearing (or hoping) that Obama will seek recognition for the State of Palestine at the UN Security Council in his remaining weeks in the oval office. The US President had reportedly instructed the State Department to develop an "option menu" regarding his vision for a resolution to the conflict.
While Palestinians and their supporters are hopeful that Obama will redeem himself - even if symbolically - and support the Palestinian push for statehood, Obama might not go this far, especially as Trump is adamant, at least for now, to defeat such initiatives once he moves into the White House.
As of September of last year, 139 of the UN's member states (and two non-member states) have recognised Palestine. But those recognitions will remain largely symbolic as long as the US is unyielding in its rejection of Palestinian aspirations. An unwavering supporter of Israel, the US is not only blocking full Palestinian membership at the UN, but is doing its utmost to prevent "Palestine" from gaining access to international institutions.
|The current state of the Palestinians is one of disarray, political disunity and lack of any liberation strategy|
Regardless of what position is to be recommended by the State Department to Obama in his final days in the White House, the misfortunes of the Palestinians are unlikely to be reversed overnight, or anytime soon.
Judging from Trump's friendly overtures to Israel - for example, inviting Netanyahu and his wife to visit Washington shortly after winning the elections - the immediate future doesn't look promising.
Of course, one cannot disparage the value of international recognitions and the mammoth struggle over the years to achieve international support despite Israeli and American divisive efforts to achieve the exact opposite. But one is justified in questioning a strategy aimed at recognising Palestine within the context of a "two-state solution" which is no longer viable.
Hundreds of illegal Jewish settlements have made a demographic separation between two peoples simply impossible. Indeed, Israel's current options are to either allow for coexistence between Arabs and Jews within a single state apparatus, or further invest in a system of Apartheid, predicated on sheer military dominance and racial classification of those who inhabit the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The latter option will continue to spell doom.
Considering this, one must ask what is Mahmoud Abbas' endgame, anyway?
The aging leader is now locked in a fierce power struggle, which has pitted his supporters in the Fatah Party against those of his rival Mohammed Dahlan.
Abbas, whose mandate as President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) expired in 2009, lacks vision or even a consistent political program. He threatened to quit several times, and used the UN as a platform to score cheap points and sold symbolic "victories" against Israel, hoping to improve his ever-dwindling popularity among Palestinians.
As a result, there is good reason to fear that the issue of the recognition of "Palestine" and the 2012 elevating of its status from a mere "entity" to "non-member observer state" status, is mainly a device for winning time.
|Regardless of what position Obama, or even Trump may or may not take, it will have little bearing on the outcome if Palestinians remain divided|
If that is indeed the Palestinian strategy for freedom and liberation, it is certainly an odd one, especially if we consider the destructive legacy that Abbas, his Fatah Party and his rivals have achieved on the ground.
The current state of the Palestinians is one of disarray, political disunity and lack of any liberation strategy aimed at mobilising oppressed, occupied and despairing Palestinians. Worse, security coordination between the PA and the Israeli occupation army has turned the Palestinian police into a tool of keeping rebelling Palestinians in line.
Focusing on obtaining recognition for occupied Palestine, while failing to back those efforts up with a single, unified Palestinian strategy is fact wasting precious time and resources.
It has been 28 years since the Palestine Declaration of Independence in Algiers, a step that resonated among ordinary Palestinians everywhere as a new beginning, where Palestinians in Diaspora and occupied Palestinians rallied around a clear set of objectives.
But since then, the Palestinian leadership has done too much damage for that declaration to carry much weight anymore. Instead of investing in its own people's unity, the PA is now chasing mirages in New York and elsewhere.
What the Palestinian leadership is failing to understand is that regardless of what position Obama, or even Trump may or may not take, it will have little bearing on the outcome if Palestinians remain divided.
Till then, Palestine will remain an illusion - a 'symbolic victory' at best.
Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include "Searching Jenin", "The Second Palestinian Intifada" and his latest "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story". His website is www.ramzybaroud.net
Follow him on Twitter: @RamzyBaroud
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.