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Realities on the ground are
ever-changing in Palestine, Israel, the occupied territories. It is hard for
Palestinians to hold a great deal of confidence in the words of any politician.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his address on July 16th, claimed that
the Palestinian people are the source of authority and the source of legitimacy
of Palestine, and that the government serves its people and protects their
Yet the ‘realities on the
ground’ show that Qalandia, a checkpoint between east Jerusalem and the West
Bank is quickly transforming from a checkpoint into a land border crossing
(complete with car park). The 1949 armistice line which Bush magnanimously
suggested should be the starting point for negotiations with Israel now lies 20
meters eastward of a wall measuring 8 meters high and is slowly being pieced
together, while elsewhere on Palestinian land a ‘unilateral disengagement’ of
Gaza is pursued. Not to mention the new settlements and outposts launched just
this year, and the triumph of Israeli settlement policy, the Ma’ale Adumim
settlement, east of Jericho, that boasts 30,000 inhabitants. The reality on the
ground is that Israel will hold onto its reality and that it will cut the West
Bank into halves and quarters, without any opposition. Bush says he will pursue
an 'agreement from both parties starting with the 1949 armistice line'. Funny,
there was no agreement sought for Israel’s Zionist projects of late, that serve
only in threatening the peace process not to further it. Nor was the Palestinian
‘government’ able do anything to prevent Israel from doing it, to 'protect the
national interest’ of its people or it would have. Bush certainly did not do
anything, although he said a few nice words.
Words have never created
realities in Palestine, actions have, unilateral, internationally ignored or
endorsed, actions. This is the character of communication that Palestinians have
grown accustomed to since 1948. Therefore, when the International community
claims to support the Palestinian people, the people, sagely, wait to see to
what measure that translates to in reality. While it has measured into the
billions of US dollars for the Israelis, it typically amounts to only millions
in indirect pre-conditioned support for Palestinians.
The plight of those in a
compromised position is that they must submit themselves to the measured
generosity of those not compromised and not invested in what long term
repercussions may exist.
Recently 3 billion was promised
to the Palestinians by the G-8, with no time horizon, perhaps the 3 billion will
be disbursed over one year, or ten years, details have been left ambiguous, as
have the borders with Israel as a result of UN resolution 242, Palestinians use
of their own natural resources, the future of the hundreds of settlements (that
hold hostage land and retain strategic access to water resources), and the end
to occupation that must occur for Palestinians to have a future on the land that
remains ‘yet to be agreed upon’ with Israel.
What are the words doing? Have
Abbas’ words translated into a tightening up of the PNA? Has pressure been
applied to Fateh to hold internal elections and decide on new leadership,
weaving together all the elements that are presently creating so much internal
chaos? How effective has the move against corruption within the PNA been? Is
there an effort to revitalize and enable the Palestinian Security Forces to
maintain law and order?
Imagine that in 1996, Abu Salah,
who ran the training programs for new recruits, when asked to describe the
profile of the average member of the PSS said, “They did not go to school, they
are illiterate, they smoke, many of them forget about helping their parents,
they spend money on immoral things and they have no sense of responsibility.
That is the raw material that Israel left us with here.” Today, not much seems
to have improved as occupation continues its effects on another generation.
According to U.S. Lt. Gen.
William E. Ward, who four months ago was assigned to assist the Palestinians
with their security services said that, “the badly fractured Palestinian
security forces (PSF) are still struggling to consolidate into a body capable of
maintaining control,” and described, “a difficult and at times frustrating
experience of trying to reorganize a ‘dysfunctional’ system of individual
fiefdoms and an almost nonexistent chain of command.”
Sadly, it is common knowledge
among Palestinians that 20,000 of the 58,000 Palestinians with security jobs
actually show up for work and that the security services are effectively a
"social welfare net," with payments being made to people even if they did not
contribute to the day-to-day security on the streets. The ‘sacred duty’ of which
Abbas spoke that ‘every person holding a position of responsibility’ holds is in
practice complicated by the insufficient compensation given to these
individuals. But this in no way absolves behaviors at all levels that betray the
use of power or position bestowed by the people.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch,
President Bush is suggesting an "agreement between the parties [Israel and
Palestine] to changes in the 1949 armistice line,” while Abbas is trying to
create a cohesive government and security forces on a $1.9 billion dollar yearly
budget of which he gets $900 million financed by the international community and
earmarked for only certain uses. Bush absurdly offers the Green line as a
negotiation starting point without suggesting the means to procure it. The Green
Line lies in the shadow of a very tangible 8 meter high concrete barricade (the
Annexation Wall) and eastward of a few hundred settlements. Bush apparently has
not given thought to the absolute futility in that statement to the hearers of
his words, given that he has no intention of enforcing them or helping the
Palestinians to realize them.
After a meeting with Abbas at
the White House it became more evident that Bush expects the impossible, wanting
Palestinians to transform the economic disaster and political chaos in Gaza into
a model of democracy, good government and prosperity before he will expend any
political capital on Israel to stop stealing Palestinian lands for its
settlements and to start permanent status talks. So, while the rhetoric sounds
good, save the rhetoric.
Do you tell a peasant to eat
well, and not give them any food?
As long as there is a
sanctimonious, self-important notion abroad that this disagreement is for the
Palestinians to resolve without any external responsibility to manage some of
the mess that has been entirely of external international fabrication, the
expectations of the world will be fulfilled by the chaos that will result in the
attempt of Palestinians alone to control a situation and an adversary that quite
evidently is beyond their control.