Yes, there is an alternative
The post-Oslo balance of power must be tilted in favour of the Palestinian people, writes Mustafa Barghouthi
Most observers familiar with the situation in Palestine agree that Israeli settlement expansion has put paid to any prospects for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. In other words, it has effectively buried the two-state solution.
Simultaneously, few would deny that there is a deep sense that the negotiating process has failed and that the Oslo accords have been disastrous for the Palestinian national struggle. These accords were essentially understood as an interim agreement and a pathway to a lasting solution. Instead, that pathway led to a dead-end for Palestinians who dreamed of an independent state.
The Oslo process perfectly suited Israeli ends. Zionist parties have always viewed the Palestinian problem as a demographic one. Their solution was never a sovereign state, but rather a flimsy and dependent autonomous entity charged with shouldering the security burdens of the occupying power and sustaining its apartheid socioeconomic order. The Oslo process provided Israel with the time to expand its settlements, Judaise and annex most of the West Bank. It also offered a means to contain the Palestinian liberation movement and ultimately to drive wedges between Palestinian national forces.
Oslo, an unmitigated failure as far as Palestinian aims are concerned, proved an enormous boon to Israeli aims. It is little wonder that Dov Weinglass lauded it as a stroke of genius.
As the Palestinians have learned to their dismay the sole purpose of the Oslo accords and the attendant negotiating process was to maintain the status quo and preserve a balance of powers that would enable Israel to complete the Zionist Judaisation of Palestine. Using Oslo as a façade it would be able to do in the West Bank what it did in the territories of 1948, though progress would be slowly and new techniques required.
The danger that Palestinians face today is the idea, touted by representatives of various foreign governments acting on behalf of Israel, that since an independent state is now impossible the only realistic alternative is to accept a new transitional phase. This is to be packaged as a state with temporary borders or a new negotiating process without clear horizons.
The Palestinian "realists" who have fallen in with this idea not only lack faith in the Palestinian people's ability to defy tyranny; they are also motivated by narrow personal interests that coincide with such plans. They may represent only a small faction of the people, but it is a faction whose interests lie in the preservation of the status quo.
The chief aim of Israeli policy is to ensure the Palestinians and their supporters remain too weak to halt Israeli settlement expansion, Judaisation and annexation in the hope that these will eventually drive out most Palestinians.
Israel's policy-makers fear only one thing -- the real alternative to an independent Palestinian state or the two-state solution, ie a single democratic state in which all citizens possess equal rights and duties.
Whatever some intellectual dreamers fondly imagine, this alternative cannot come to life or sustain itself in a vacuum. It requires a new strategic vision and a concrete working plan that will reunite Palestinians behind their national goals and end the fragmentation that is growing worse by the day.
Yes, there is an alternative to the hopeless and destructive Oslo process, to the futile negotiations, to preserving an explosive or erosive status quo, to mounting internal rifts and strife, to a ruling authority that has no authority under the occupation. The alternative is a new national Palestinian strategy whose central aim is to alter the existing balance of power in favour of the Palestinian people. This strategy rests on four key elements: nonviolent popular resistance; promoting the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel; establishing a unified Palestinian national leadership; and fostering an economic approach that focuses on supporting the Palestinian people's ability to sustain the struggle and to remain on their land.
This is the type of strategy needed to free the Palestinian national liberation movement from the bonds of a governing authority fettered by the Oslo accord. It is a strategy that will reunite all components of the Palestinian people and enable them to rebuild their relations with solidarity movements throughout the world, including Jewish anti-Zionist movements. It is a strategy whose banner is "freedom": freedom from occupation, freedom from Israeli apartheid, freedom from all forms of repression, suppression and closed horizons.
I have no doubt that this strategy will succeed in altering the balance of powers and force the ruling establishment in Israel to revise its calculations because it will have realised that its plans to build an exclusively Jewish state have run aground.
What is uncertain is whether this will happen soon enough to permit for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. I doubt that it will. I believe that the moment of change will occur after the very last opportunity for the two-state solution has vanished. At that point there will remain only one sane solution, which is the single democratic state for all its citizens, without discrimination on the basis of ethnic or religious affiliation.
We understand that the road to such an end involves an arduous fight against discrimination and apartheid. But is this not a struggle most Palestinians are already engaged in?
Last year the Palestinian cause reasserted itself at the UN General Assembly. This year it retreated amid ominous forebodings of yet another setback.
It is time to shed the illusions of the past and focus on the real alternative: a strategy for freedom for the Palestinian people.
The writer is a member of the Palestinian parliament and secretary-general of the Palestine National Initiative.