Realities on the Ground
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 national interests.
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.