Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Are the PA's
A Reply By Saeb Erakat
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, March 8, 2011
In his article entitled "Till
September, The PA's Meaningless Deadlines," dated
February 28, Ramzy Baroud fails to present the real picture of the
Palestinian situation today.
Characterizing the Palestinian leadership as a ‘‘self designated
Palestinian leadership in the West Bank’’, Mr. Baroud wittingly ignores some
facts while distorts others. In fact, it was Hamas that has refused until
this day to sign the Egyptian brokered reconciliation agreement.
The so called “Palestine papers” have not revealed a single official
agreement or document that offers concessions. Rather the majority of
the documents were internal draft summaries of meetings taken in shorthand
and intended for personal use only.
Moreover, Baroud’s failure to differentiate between official positions
and explorations or polemical rhetoric during the course of negotiations
shows a lack of knowledge or a deliberate distortion. A responsible
and careful reading of the minutes and official Palestinian positions
reveals that Palestinian negotiators were insistent on the inalienable
rights of the Palestinian people.
The issues discussed were mechanisms by which Palestinian rights would be
realized, rather than forfeited as claimed. For example, the Palestinian
position on territory never deviated from the 1967 borders and illegality of
settlements. However, there was a willingness to discuss Israeli and U.S
proposals for land swaps, only if equal in size and value, as a possible way
to establish the 1967 lines as a base line for borders given the complicated
reality on the ground created by Israel’s illegal colonial policies.
Similarly, with regards to the right of return: The Palestinian position
emphasized Israel’s responsibility for the creation and perpetuation of
Palestinian refugehood and demanded Israeli recognition of responsibility
and the right of return, the latter being an individual right that cannot be
That was the point of departure for the Palestinian position which sought
to negotiate a mechanism for the implementation of the right of return as
well as the empowerment and respect for the decision of each Palestinian
As for my resignation, it was not a cynical attempt to shift attention or
retain credibility as claimed by Baroud. No one in the leadership ever
shied from a serious open discussion on any of the issues. Rather, the
resignation was the natural course of action for any official who holds dear
the values of accountability and personal responsibility.
If I did not resign, Mr. Baroud would vehemently attack the lack of
accountability in the Palestinian system. Lastly, the author wrongly
characterizes the call for elections as a tactical move on the part of the
Palestinian Authority (PA). The call came after numerous failures of
reconciliation attempts as a way to move past the deadlock and overcome the
crippling political divide by returning to the source of authority, the
The PA elections, however, are not a substitute for self-determination or
for the end of the occupation. Currently, the dismantlement of the PA is
under consideration because the PA is not and has never been an end in and
of itself, but rather a milestone on the road to independence.
Dr. Saeb Erakat
Member of PLO Executive Committee
The PA's Meaningless Deadlines
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, February 28, 2011
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his supporters
in the Fatah party want us to believe that dramatic changes are underway in
the occupied Palestinian territories.
This is part of a strategy
intended to offset any public dissatisfaction with the self-designated
Palestinian leadership in the West Bank. The PA hopes the ‘news’ will create
enough distraction to help it survive the current climate of major
public-regime showdowns engulfing the Middle East.
potential popular uprising in the occupied territories - which could result
in a major revamping of the current power, to the disadvantage of Abbas -
the PA is now taking preventive measures.
First, there was the
resignation of the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Ereka on February 12.
Erekat was clearly implicated in negotiating, if not squandering,
Palestinian rights in successive meetings with Israeli and American
officials. This was revealed through nearly 1,600 leaked documents, which
Aljazeera and the Guardian termed the ‘Palestine Papers’.
was hardly representing himself, as he readily gave away much territory,
including most of Jerusalem. He also agreed to a symbolic return of
Palestinian refugees to their land, now part of today’s Israel. By keeping
his post, the entire PA ‘peace process’ apparatus would have remained
ineffective at best, and at worst entirely self-seeking, showing no regard
whatsoever for Palestinian rights.
With Erekat’s exit, the PA hopes
to retain a margin of credibility among Palestinians.
made his entrance to the world of ‘peace process’ at the Madrid peace
conference in 1991, opted out in a way that conceded no guilt. He claimed to
have left merely because the leak happened through his office. The PA
expects us to believe that, unlike other Arab governments, it functions in a
transparent and self-correcting manner. Erekat wants to be seen as an
“example of accountability”, according to the Washington Post (February 16).
He claimed: “I'm making myself pay the price for the mistake I committed, my
negligence. These are the ethics and the standards. Palestinian officials
need to start putting them in their minds.”
The message is neatly
coined, although it belittles the real issue at stake. This has caused much
outrage in Palestinian intellectual, political and public circles.
Negligence is one thing, and relinquishing a people’s rights is another
Two days after Erekat’s departure, the PA cabinet in the
West Bank also suddenly resigned. The cabinet had met earlier that day, and
its Prime Minister Salam Fayyad then submitted his resignation to President
Abbas. The latter, in turn, accepted the resignation and immediately
reappointed Fayyad to form a new government. An exercise in futility? Of
course, but for a good reason.
The resignation was merely tactical.
It aimed at quelling the current popular discontent and preventing it from
spilling over into street protests. But it was also tactless, for it
reintroduced the very man who formed the old government to assemble a new
one. If indeed Fayyad’s political performance was lacking - and thus
deserving of rebuke and mass resignation – then what is the point of putting
the same man in charge of yet another phase of inefficiency and
The dramatic move was meant to show the people
that the PA did not need a popular uprising to initiate reforms and change.
Fayyad was reappointed because he is valuable to the current political
structure of the PA, and he’s also the most trusted Palestinian official as
far as the US is concerned.
Then, on top of all this, the PA
cleverly set September as a deadline for elections in the occupied
territories. This date acquired a compounded value when Western officials
began assigning other great expectations to September as well. One such call
was made by EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who expressed her
hopes – along with those of the ‘international community’ - that a peace
deal between Israel and the Palestinians would be reached by September.
Based on the current political reality – a rejectionist Israeli front,
a Palestinian front that is polarized and largely self-seeking, and a US-led
Western front that is incapable of doing much more than pressing the
Palestinians for more concessions – we know only too well that no peace will
come in September.
Abbas, a pragmatic man by his own admission,
knows this as well. The September deadline is largely aimed at creating
further distraction. If all eyes are focused on that date, there will be no
need to worry about the here and now.
But September is also not too
far off, a reality that calls for some early steps. Hamas expectedly
rejected the call for elections without a platform of political and
territorial unity. Why should Hamas get involved in another election if any
unfavorable outcome will only bring further punishment to the Palestinian
people? A sound concern, of course, but that rejection allowed Abbas, on
February 17, to condition the elections based on Hamas’ participation. In
other words, Hamas is once more positioned as the hurdle that stands between
the Palestinians and unity, political normalcy and democracy. Now Hamas will
be continually derided for delaying the ‘Palestinian national project’,
until September leisurely arrives and disappears, leaving behind no mark of
Abbas and his trusted men already know the
outcome of this endeavor. In their defense, the strategy also has little to
do with September, elections or Hamas’ position. It is aimed at deepening
the divide among Palestinians, and distract from the main problem, which is
the fact that the PA serves no purpose other than managing the
administrative side of the Israeli military occupation. The PA is devoid of
any national value to the Palestinian people, and only serves the interests
of those involved in subjugating them. The Palestinians are now required to
move past this dismal political moment and seek an alternative - an
all-inclusive, representative and truly democratic institution to lead the
next stage in their fight for freedom.
The PA wants to stall until
September. But will Palestinians wait that long?
is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter:
Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, LondonS), available on Amazon.com.