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November 27, 2017 2:02 pm

Palestinian Double-Dealing Won’t Work Forever

avatar by Jose V. Ciprut

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: World Economic Forum via Wikimedia Commons.

“The General Delegation of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) to the US” — to use its formal name — is located at 1732 Wisconsin Avenue NW, in Washington D.C. In the good old days of the Obama administration, the delegation was granted permission to display a flag at that address, a courtesy that it used to declare the building an “embassy.”

This appears to be yet another case of “fake hat, no cattle.” It is a mystery why no one bothers to refute this illegal pretense, phony self-arrogation, abusive self-aggrandizement and deliberately misleading grandiloquence.

On November 22, 1974, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3236 recognized “the right” — not “of Arabs of, or in, Palestine,” not even “of Palestinian Arabs” — but “of the Palestinian people” to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty “in Palestine” (a “people,” on “its own exclusive land,” as this callously monopolized generic name seeks to suggest). Recognizing the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, Resolution 3236 conferred upon it “observer status” at the UN.

Though it still flies the flag of a non-state, and despite the fact that its “peoplehood” remains a project in the making, the PLO has managed to ratchet up its status at the UN and institutions such as UNESCO and the International Criminal Court. It’s little wonder, then, that the organization is in no hurry to settle directly with Israel the parameters of the statehood it covets.

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This phenomenon does a disservice to genuine peoples, like Catalans and Kurds, who are by far more amply qualified to govern themselves.

The designation “Palestine” that is touted by the PLO and UN was adopted by the UN — as recently as 1988 — in acknowledgment of the PLO’s unilateral declaration of “Palestinian independence,” even though the proclaimed Palestinian state has no formal status in the established international system. Yet non-statehood did not disqualify the “State of Palestine” from being “recognized” by developing countries in Africa and Asia (the 21 member countries of the Arab League, the 56 states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and many formerly communist and “non-aligned” G-77 states among them) as soon as the PLO declared its “independence” — without a referendum.

Beyond tailored lies designed to promote “Palestine” as an entity that it is not, what the PLO seems to need right now is self-sufficiency and well-governed societal stability. That combination would be conducive to modern democratic rule that can integrate rival factions, disarm rival militias and steer a viable economy with a capacity to generate — and to redistribute — income fairly to its geographically, culturally and traditionally disparate tribal subjects.

Despite the fact that a “State of Palestine” does not exist, it was by September 14, 2015 already “recognized” by 136 (70.5%) of the 193 member states of the UN and two non-member states. The label does not guarantee Palestine’s viability as a functional entity until and unless it can also reach a “mutually just and durable peace” agreement with the democratic Jewish state of Israel, with which it must sincerely want to coexist.

The sad realities on the ground indicate that the conditions for such mutual concordance and fraternal coexistence are not only nonexistent right now, but unattainable for the foreseeable future — owing to the persistent absence of a shared ethical foundation.

The PLO can no longer credibly pretend to be amenable to negotiating peaceful coexistence with Israel at the same time that it refuses direct contact with the Jewish state;  while it waits for “an acceptable final deal” to be served up by a third party; and while it instructs yet another third party to prosecute its future peace partner for “serious war crimes” — in utter disregard of binding agreements to the contrary, long known to all the stakeholders.

The Palestinians cannot pretend to be ready in good faith to engage in peace negotiations with a putative future partner it formally asks the ICC to pursue and condemn for matters that should be resolved through direct negotiation.

They must also not expect to continue duping all of the parties all of the time by simultaneously undertaking actions and contradictory counteractions. The Palestinians should not abuse the generous tolerance shown for too long by an honest broker whose patience is not endless. And the Palestinians most certainly should not get on their high horse by suggesting that the foreseeable (and lawful) closure of PLO headquarters in the US capital — as a result of the PLO’s defiance of US law — would result in the organization’s irreversible discontinuation of all peace talks to be held via US mediation. Times have changed. The PLO’s duplicity, at long last, just might blow up in its face.

The Middle East is transforming. Yet Lebanon’s double-speak about the need to keep its “South” aligned with a UN resolution’s exigencies (“no militias”) while also asking its troops not to provoke a conflict with Hezbollah or a war with Israel; Saudi Arabia’s labeling of Hezbollah as a terror group; the Arab League’s recognition of Iran as a warmonger, exporter of terror and meddler in regional countries’ internal affairs; Qatar’s role in the Gulf’s disquiet; Iran’s opportunistic pursuits and direct threats to Israel’s longevity; and Assad’s gratitude to Moscow for “saving [whatever little is left of] Syria” are not good omens for stable peace or sustainable prosperity in this fragile, volatile and divided region.

For the moment, the PLO’s US office will not be closed. If it knows what’s good for it, the PLO would be well advised henceforth to behave honestly.

Jose V. Ciprut is a conflict analyst, social systems scientist and international political economist. 

BESA Center Perspectives Papers, such as this one, are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family.

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