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Reflections on the Israeli occupation, the Palestinian Authority and the future of the national movement

Monday 20 December 2010, by Julien Salingue

On October 3, Mahmoud Abbas. de facto Palestinian President (his term of office was officially completed in January 2009), stated that he would reject all dialogue with Israel if the settlement freeze on the West Bank was not renewed. The same day, outgoing Israeli chief of staff Gaby Ashkenazi was “visiting” Bethlehem, where he met officials of the Palestinian security forces. The coincidence of these two apparently contradictory events illustrates the increasingly flagrant lack of synch between, on the one hand, diplomatic posturing to revive a “peace process” which is long dead and buried and, on the other, the reality on the ground, the continuation of Israeli expansionist policies and the ever stronger integration of the Palestinian Authority in the apparatus of colonial oppression.

I intend here to try to identify the major coordinates of the situation in the Palestinian territories even if I do not aspire to give a complete picture. It amounts however to redefining current events in their context and their historicity, by advancing an analysis of the underlying trends and realities on the ground, then identifying the logic at work on the Palestinian side by focusing on the PA in Ramallah and on the left. The latter, in particular the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), is indeed taking a critical review of the Oslo years, conscious of the tragic course followed by the forces originating from the PLO. Consequently, the PFLP recently announced it was suspending its participation in the meetings of the PLO leadership as a sign of protest against the resumption of direct talks by Abbas. This is not the first time that the PFLP has taken such a decision, but it is still significant.

But it is the meaning of recent and current developments that I wish to emphasize, first reviewing the legacy of 17 years of the “peace process”. I will then attempt to establish the specificities of the policy of Salam Fayyad, the de facto Prime Minister (the list headed by Fayyad won only 2.4% of the votes in the general election of 2006 and the government he has led since June 2007 has never won the necessary vote of confidence of the Palestinian Legislative Council), and then, finally, examine the current dynamics of the rest of the “non-Islamic” Palestinian national movement (this is not to minimize the importance of Hamas but a study of the internal dynamics of the Islamic movement deserves a full article).

I. 17 years of the "peace process”

The fiction of the “peace process”

Since words have a meaning, it is appropriate to question the concept of a “peace process”, which returns as a refrain in Middle Eastern reality. In its most common sense, the “Israeli-Palestinian peace process” opened in the early 1990s, and was embodied in the signing of the Oslo Accords (1993-1994), which promised, in the view of a number of commentators and diplomats, “the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. This “peace process” has been repeatedly “interrupted”, but it still exists, suspended over events, waiting to be “revived”.

The reality is very different, as the Palestinians have reminded us on at least two occasions during the last ten years - in September 2000, when the population of Gaza and West Bank revolt