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Palestinian chief negotiator's resignation signals futility of PA

My initial reaction to the resignation of chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat was sadness. Erekat has been a staple of negotiations for as long as I can remember and his leaving marks the end of an era. Erekat claims he left because he had to assume responsibility for the fact that the leaked Palestine Papers came out of his offices. His leaving underscores that a resolution has been depressingly unattainable – that he had an impossible job, a truly Kafkaesque experience. As his aides told Al Jazeera, when asked about his successor: “there’s no point. Why would we have a chief negotiator if there are no negotiations?’”

After reading this line, I thought to myself, “Why have a Palestinian Authority at all if there is no chance for negotiations?” Indeed the PA was formed as a political arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization following the Oslo Accords in 1994. If there is no negotiation and no continuation of Oslo, then why have a PA? Maybe this indicates that Israel’s war of attrition has succeeded, that it has rendered a moderate Palestinian leadership seeking a two-state solution futile and meaningless.

Erekat’s resignation is obviously indicative of how bleak the prospect for genuine negotiations has been, but it is also indicative of something far more ominous. It highlights that the PLO has become a shell of itself, a mechanism existing almost solely for the purpose of holding (endless and fruitless) negotiations – and not a national leadership that represents its people with a vision, which it seemed to become in the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, its legitimacy and continued existence rests entirely on its ability to achieve a viable Palestinian state through negotiations with Israel. As such, it is between a rock and a hard place, its fate having been placed entirely in Israel’s hands – and the result is unraveling before our eyes.

In the meantime, Hamas has become a player that cannot be marginalized or ignored. In the last Palestinian elections held in 2006, it won a majority of the votes (74 of the 132 seats ) and as such, holds a significant place in the future of any Palestinian state. It has rejected the call by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to hold elections in July, stating that the PLO alone does not represent the Palestinian people and that there cannot be a continued division between the West Bank and Gaza.  Hamas has called on the PLO to engage in a process of “internal Palestinian reconciliation” before heading to the ballot boxes, while the latter claims that the elections are meant to restore unity.

With all the problems posed by Hamas’s repressive and theocratic rule, at least they remind us that the Palestinians have their own stuff to figure out, irrespective of negotiations with Israel.  Hamas demonstrates how important it is for a national entity to try and determine its existence before its essence, and not allow everything to be determined by the occupier’s generosity.

Erekat’s resignation, on the other hand, highlights the fact that the means of negotiations towards a Palestinian state have turned into the end, making the PA hollow and futile.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. michael

      Doubt whether Mr. Erekat resignation should make you sad. Like all the “negotiators”, throughout the Oslo years and after he enriched himself with millions in American and Israeli cash. His future is safe and bright.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Gahgeer

      “I saw the best my minds of my generation destroyed by madness” is what comes to mind when I remember Erekat.

      The irony is that he was created by the media and also brought down by the media.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Raed Kami

      The fall of the PA is beneficial for another reason. In the case of Egypt, peace with the zionists allowed a corrupt leader to stay in power for 30 years. The world community of justice will not allow that to happen again, so you cannot sign treaties with corrupt Palestinian leaders who dont represent the people. Hamas will come to power because it is the will of the Palestinian people, and from the West Bank, it will liberate the rest of stolen Palestine

      Reply to Comment
    4. Mohammad Jasser

      The PLO and the PA have remarkably managed in a relatively short space of time come to be like the Egypitian National Democratic Party and Tunisia’ Constitutional Party.They are all currupt,never close to the people,not a gram of legitimacy,hoarded by the Americans and all share a strategic alliance with no other than israel.With these cv’s how long you think they can keep their jobs?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben Israel

      Raed Kami makes an interesting point. Israelis lauded Anwar Sadat for making peace. Israeli Leftists, led by Progressive thinkers like Uri Avnery demanded for years that Israel bring Yasser Arafat to Israel and making peace with him. Yet now, Israel (and the US) are being cursed for supporting dictators like Mubarak.
      Thus, if we are to learn the proper lesson, Israel should NOT make peace with Syria or any other country that is not a democracy, nor have any relations with countries like Jordan, since they are not a democracy. Uri Avnery is proven to be a reactionary supporter of corrupt dictators, so was all the MERETZ and HADASH people who supported talks with Arafat. They are all nothing but a bunch of traitors to the true Arab cause.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ilana Sebba

      Yes Raed,
      The only reason Mubarak was in power was because of Israel, and all other arab countries with which Israel does not have a peace treaty are perfect examples of democracy,yeah sure….

      Reply to Comment
    7. Kibbutznik

      ” Uri Avnery is proven to be a reactionary supporter of corrupt dictators, so was all the MERETZ and HADASH people who supported talks with Arafat. They are all nothing but a bunch of traitors to the true Arab cause. ”
      If you say so then it must be true Ben Israel ;)
      Only its never been about the true Arab cause , its been about peace and learning to live together and about ending the illegal occupation of what you call Judea and Samaria.
      For your education :
      http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1297507641/

      Reply to Comment

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