Sociable

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Rejectionism

In a cyclical mode, almost as constant as the movement of the heavenly bodies, members of the Israeli left, frustrated with the knowledge that the battle for Israeli-Palestinian peace is a difficult and complex matter, rack their brains for an alternative strategy. This phenomenon The parliamentary defeat of MERETZ in the last elections and the continued weakness of HADASH in the Jewish sector are two recent factors that encourage despair over the possibilities of a settlement. Of course, the dominant factor over the recent period has been the intensive U.S.>in the apparent retreat mthe

The practical possibilities for a solution in the foreseeable future are linked, of course, to the two state solution. No less an expert than Ariel Sharon (in an interview with Yedioth Ahronot, April 5, 2004) pointed out that there are any number of versions of this proposal: The European plan, the Saudi Plan, the Arab League Plan, the Geneva Accords, the National Registration. Sharon revealed that there was even a Yoske Fisher plan in the works. Sharon explained that precisely to prevent a political vacuum that would encourage the prospects of any of these plans, he unveiled his Gaza disengagement plan.

There are many sincere and peace-loving Palestinians who reject, apriori, this kind of compromise. If the Palestinian case were to be considered at the bar of historical justice and equity, the rejectionist tendency would be able to file a most impressive brief. The essence of the brief would stress that the given circumstances are a product of one sided international decisions and, even more important, reflect a basic inequality in the relation of forces between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Even so, the mainstream of the Palestinian movement of national liberation, basing itself on the resurgence of the struggle of the Palestinians under occupation, especially, the first intifada, opted for a historical compromise based on the bare minimum of the historical requirements for the establishment of a Palestinian state. This difficult choice was based on historical realism and deep insight into the limitations on the struggle for Palestinian rights.

Naturally enough, there was opposition. The main theoretical bulwark of the rejectionists as they were called was that given the existence of revolutionary currents in the region and the balance of forces in the world – the Soviet presence in the area and the Soviet veto in international diplomacy, the Palestinian liberation movement could look forward to better days and the ability to negotiate on the basis of a semblance of equality of forces. In order to answer the pressing questions on the rights of the Jews in Palestine, the rejectionists, inspired by the Marxist rhetoric of the Popular and the Democratic front suggested the establishment of a single unitarian and secular state in Palestine. However, the demise of the Soviet Union and the crushing defeat (or the abject degeneration) of the progressive and anti-imperialist Arab regimes negated the chances for a radical change in the relation of forces and any strategy based on it.

For any number of reasons, all of them anchored in cruel international realities, the secular negation of the two state strategy of historical compromise became more and more peripheral in Palestinian politics. Sadly enough, the continued presence of maximalist Palestinian political figures who insisted on muttering slogans about Arafat’s betrayal, was part of the old game of Arab politics. In this game Palestinian dignitaries pushed to the margins of the PLO link up with different Arab countries and use the support of rather conservative Arab regimes (Syria, for example) to mount ultra-militant challenges to the mainstream leadership of the PLO.

In addition to their marginlization, something, even more unpleasant happened to those who wanted to hold high the flag of rejectionism. The rising Islamic political forces inscribed the rejection to any form of compromise in Palestine on their banner and they alone constitute today, the main challenge to Arafat and the Palestinian mainstream.

Israeli Obstructionism

As a matter of fact, the Palestinians extended an olive branch to Israel as early as the meeting of the Palestinian National Council in 1988. And indeed, from then on we witnessed a long series of diplomatic and political steps to convert the Palestinian readiness to compromise into a viable peace agreement with Israel. Over the years Israel insisted on gradualism, on guarantees, on security arrangements, while constantly undermining the chances for peace by one settlement drive after another. The Israeli establishment maneuvered between two goals: the obstruction of an overall agreement by demands for unreasonable concessions on the ground and the active pursuit of territorial gains – lnad grabs and settlement that would restrict the scope of a Palestinian state if Israel were forced to agree to its establishment.

New Strategy or Antiquated Sectarianism for the Left?

On the left, opponents of the two state solution on the left tended to direct their anger at the current frameworks for negotiations: Madrid we learn failed, Oslo was a catastrophe, Camp David a farce, Taba a etc. The real story of all these negotiations is not the fault of the principle on which they were based but the ability of Israel to rely on superior military force and its international connections with the United States to prevent any agreement on the ground.

Blaming the process or exposing the real content.

Motivated by a burning desire to renounce Palestinian readiness for compromise, critics on the left vented all their vehemence on the inadequacies of the framework of the negotiations. Thus Oslo, and its inherent weakness, were to blame for the failure of negotiations. Israel’s refusal to negotiate in good faith and the refusal of international forces to insert serious pressure were either ignored or considered quite natural. It is a fact that more and more sincere people on the left are increasingly alienated from the peace process, which drags on unendingly, and provides a sort of camouflage for settlement drives and creeping transfer. In fact, the dominant source of despair is the political and military role of the United States. which has decided recast.