By Nicola Nasser*
Several indicators have shown recently how fragile has been the “connection” between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the United States. And because Washington could deliver but won’t and the Palestinian people could not be held forever hostage to waiting for the American Godot, time seems ripe to make or break this futile connection.
To the disappointment of the PLO leaders the “connection” never developed to a full-fledged unconditional mutual recognition by Washington, let alone to normal diplomatic relations between equals.
Of course breaking this futile connection would be good news for the PLO’s protagonist, Israel, which sought its best to prevent this connection while it was still a burgeoning bud, but failed and would for sure be overjoyed to see its U.S. strategic ally push back the PLO to its pre-1987 label of a “terrorist” organization, unless this connection remains reigning in the PLO as a hostage to the waiting for the American Godot.
Ironically however severing this futile connection would also be good news to the majority of the Palestinian people who have lost faith in their leadership’s betting on the “good will” and the “good offices” of the successive U.S. administrations, which an ever growing number of them has come to identify not only as the military, financial, diplomatic and the super power patron of the Israeli occupying power, but as the partner to the Israeli occupation.
Both the Palestinians under the Israeli occupation since 1967, who have been suffering and witnessing their existence and their land slowly but systemically eroded, and those who have braved it out in their miserable and rotten refugee camps in exile since 1948 could no longer trust their leadership’s betting on the U.S. vague, evasive, and un-kept promises.
And it was natural reaction as well as legitimate endeavor for them to begin looking for alternatives, both to their leadership and to the U.S. connection after more than half a century of yelling their injustice to the deaf ears of the U.S.-led western allies of their Israeli tormentor.
The Hamas’ landslide victory in the January 25 legislative elections could only be seen within this context, as a deafening NO to the status quo and an outcry for political change internally and externally. It was the first explicitly outspoken proof and rebellious rejection of the futile PLO-U.S. connection.
The warning came about one and a half year earlier. No less than the veteran peace advocate, chairman of the Palestinian Peace Coalition, co-author of the unofficial Geneva Initiative, which is widely lambasted by Palestinian active factions despite the un-public nod given to it by the former and present leaders of the PLO, late Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, and the member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Yasser Abed Rabbo, wrote on April 18, 2004:
“The change of US policy in the Middle East that took place on April 14th (2004) following the meeting between (U.S.) President Bush and (Israeli) Prime Minister (Ariel) Sharon has the potential to destroy the whole foundation of the Middle East peace process.”
Abed Rabbo, a close confident and adviser to both Arafat and Abbas, was referring to the “letter of guarantees” Bush wrote to Sharon, in which he “adopted fundamental Israeli demands that undermine international law, prejudice permanent status issues and potentially pre-empt a negotiated settlement,” and which gives “a boost to the expansionist policy” of Israel and “deal a mortal blow to the Quartet Roadmap.
Abed Rabbo’s warning, which in fact was representative of the PLO leadership, fell on deaf U.S. ears. The Palestinians condemned Bush’s April 14 letter as the “Second Balfor Declaration,” which has proved ever since to be an Israeli-U.S. strategy and the basis of Israel’s current unilateral approach to dictate by force a solution to the Palestinians.
This approach is dooming the PLO leadership, the PLO-U.S. connection, whatever left of the so-called peace process and the Oslo accords.
The Palestinian civilians under occupation are now paying the price of this approach with their blood, crushed by the overpowering Israeli war machine.
The deafening silence of the Bush Administration on the daily Palestinian loss of life since the Israel’s “Operation Summer Rains” was launched on June 27, except for some shy remarks about the Israeli “disproportionate” use of force, is pressuring the PLO-U.S. connection to the breaking point.
Obstructing an Arab-drafted resolution for the past two weeks because “we don't see at this point any utility in council action at all,” U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton told U.N. Security Council “that a prerequisite for ending this conflict is that the governments of Syria and Iran end their role …”
Bolton's "prerequisite" offers a justification for the Bush Administration to delay indefinitely any resumption of America's once-powerful role in Middle East peacemaking.
This U.S. passive indifference to Palestinian woes has no other explanation than Washington has already written off the PLO, or at least has decided to do off with it unless the PLO subscribes to coordinating with Israel’s unilateralism, which would in fact be its political death certificate.
For too long now the Palestinian leadership has held its decision-making hostage to the “good offices” and “good will” of the U.S., with tragic consequences for the Palestinian people and catastrophic results on the ground.
Symbolic of this hostage-connection is the status of the PLO's office in the U.S., which is renewed by a presidential order on a semi-annual basis and which Bush has recently temporarily downgraded, then reinstated.
In a recent memorandum for US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bush said he was imposing a “downgrade in status of the PLO Office in the United States (for) non-compliance by the PLO and the Palestinian Authority with certain commitments.”
What are those “certain commitments”? They are very well known to the Palestinian public for they have been in place for too long as preconditions dictated to the Palestinian leadership, any leadership.
When this leadership rejected them it was denied any US-connection and recognition and the occupied Palestinian territories were held hostage to the Israeli occupation.
When it complied its decision-making was held hostage to U.S. un-kept promises.
The US still hasn’t delivered. It could, but it won’t.
Moreover it is using involvement or disengagement to protect the Palestinian people from the Israeli atrocities and the ongoing policy of creating more facts on the Palestinian ground as a tool to squeeze the PLO into accepting more Israeli-made but US offered “concessions.”
To build a democratic Palestinian regime under the Israeli occupation as a guarantee for Israel’s security was the latest-invented Israeli-US precondition.
The PLO complied. And the Palestinian people are now being collectively punished for their compliance and denied recognition and connection until the newly-elected leadership in its turn complies.
A full-page advertisement in The New York Times, placed by the Council for the National Interest on July 2, called for a “realignment” of the U.S.-Israel relationship and urged the Bush administration to encourage Israel to return to its pre-1967 boundaries and reconsider U.S. assistance to Israel.
Just on time, not for the administration to be forthcoming because President Bush on April 14, 2004 had opted to move exactly in the opposite direction, but for the PLO to reconsider its leadership’s 20-year old overt connection with the U.S.
The U.S. policy is once more plunging the region into a mess of bloody violence and insecurity and turning it into an incubator-environment for both Israeli state terrorism and a counter individual terror, while in this process cornering the PLO into seeing its leading role eroded by the day, to the joy of the Israeli propagandists who have been promoting the lie that no Palestinian partner exists.
It’s high time for both sides to make or break.
*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Ramallah, West Bank. He is the editor of the English Web site of the Palestine Media Centre (PMC).