'Long Live The (Dead) Peace Process': Abbas Prioritizes US Ties Over Palestinian National Unity

No one seemed as excited about the
election
of Joe Biden being the next President of the
United States as Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud
Abbas. When all hope seemed lost, where Abbas found himself
desperate for political validation and funds, Biden arrived
like a conquering knight on a white horse and swept the
Palestinian leader away to safety.

Abbas was one of
the first world leaders to congratulate the Democratic
President-elect on his victory. While Israeli Prime
Minister, ,
delayed
his congratulatory statement in the hope that
would eventually be able to reverse the
results, Abbas suffered no such illusions. Considering the
humiliation that the Palestinian Authority experienced at
the hands of the Trump Administration, Abbas had nothing to
lose. For him, Biden, despite his long love affair with
Israel, still represented a ray of hope.

But can the
wheel of history be turned back? Despite the fact that the
Biden Administration has
made
it clear that it will not be reversing any of the
pro-Israel steps taken by the departing Trump
Administration, Abbas remains confident that, at least, the
‘peace process’ can be restored.

This may seem to
be an impossible dichotomy, for how can a ‘peace
process’ deliver peace if all the components of a just
peace have already been eradicated?

It is obvious that
there can be no real peace if the US government insists on
recognizing
all of Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘eternal’
capital. There can be no peace if the US continues to fund
illegal Jewish settlements, bankroll Israeli apartheid, deny
the rights of Palestinian refugees, turn a blind eye to de
facto annexation under way in Occupied Palestine and
recognize the illegally-occupied Syrian Golan Heights as
part of Israel, all of which is likely to remain the same,
even under the Biden Administration.

The ‘peace
process’ is unlikely to deliver any kind of a just,
sustainable peace in the future, when it has already failed
to do so in the past 30 years.

Yet, despite the ample
lessons of the past, Abbas has decided, again, to gamble
with the fate of his people and jeopardize their struggle
for freedom and a just peace. Not only is Abbas building a
campaign involving Arab countries, namely Jordan and Egypt,
to revive the ‘peace process’, he is also walking back
on all his promises and decisions to
cancel
the Oslo Accords, and
end
‘security coordination’ with Israel. By doing
so, Abbas has betrayed national unity talks between his
party, Fatah, and Hamas.

Unity talks between rival
Palestinian groups seemed to take a serious turn last July,
when Palestine’s main political parties
issued
a joint statement declaring their intent to
defeat Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’. The language
used in that statement was reminiscent of the revolutionary
discourse used by these groups during the First and Second
Intifadas (uprisings), itself a message that Fatah was
finally re-orienting itself around national priorities and
away from the ‘moderate’ political discourse wrought by
the US-sponsored ‘peace process’.

Even those who
grew tired and cynical about the shenanigans of Abbas and
Palestinian groups wondered if this time would be different;
that Palestinians would finally agree on a set of principles
through which they could express and channel their struggle
for freedom.

Oddly, Trump’s four-year term in the
White House was the best thing that happened to the
Palestinian national struggle. His administration was a
jarring and indisputable reminder that the US is not – and
has never been – ‘an honest peace broker’ and that
Palestinians cannot steer their political agenda to satisfy
US-Israeli demands in order for them to obtain political
validation and financial support.

By
cutting off
US funding of the Palestinian Authority in
August 2018, followed by the
shutting down
of the Palestinian mission in Washington
DC, Trump has liberated Palestinians from the throes of an
impossible political equation. Without the proverbial
American carrot, the Palestinian leadership has had the rare
opportunity to rearrange the Palestinian home for the
benefit of the Palestinian people.

Alas, those efforts
were short-lived. After multiple meetings and video
conferences between Fatah, Hamas and other delegations
representing Palestinian groups, Abbas
declared
, on November 17, the resumption of ‘security
coordination’ between his Authority and Israel. This was
followed by the Israeli announcement on December 2 to
release
over a billion dollars of Palestinian funds that
were unlawfully held by Israel as a form of political
pressure.

This takes Palestinian unity back to square
one. At this point, Abbas finds unity talks with his
Palestinian rivals quite useless. Since Fatah dominates the
Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization
(PLO) and the Palestine National Council (PNC), conceding
any ground or sharing leadership with other Palestinian
factions seems self-defeating. Now that Abbas is reassured
that the Biden Administration will bequeath him, once again,
with the title of ‘peace partner’, a US ally and a
moderate, the Palestinian leader no longer finds it
necessary to seek approval from the Palestinians. Since
there can be no middle ground between catering to a
US-Israeli agenda and elevating a Palestinian national
agenda, the Palestinian leader opted for the former and,
without hesitation, ditched the latter.

While it is
true that Biden will neither satisfy any of the Palestinian
people’s demands or reverse any of his predecessor’s
missteps, Abbas can still benefit from what he sees as a
seismic shift in US foreign policy – not in favor of the
Palestinian cause but of Abbas personally, an unelected
leader whose biggest accomplishment has been sustaining the
US-imposed status quo and keeping the Palestinian people
pacified for as long as possible.

Although the
‘peace process’ has been
declared
‘dead’ on multiple occasions, Abbas is now
desperately trying to revive it, not because he – or any
rational Palestinian – believes that peace is at hand, but
because of the existential relationship between the PA and
this US-sponsored political scheme. While most Palestinians
gained nothing from all of this, a few Palestinians
accumulated massive wealth, power and prestige. For this
clique, that alone is a cause worth fighting for.


Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine
Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is
These
Chains Will Be Broken
: Palestinian Stories of
Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press).
Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the
Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the
Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is

www.ramzybaroud.net

 

Learn more
about my work at:
www.RamzyBaroud.net

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