Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Confronting the Obvious Truth: Erikat's
Palestinian Authority Vs. the People
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, November 2, 2015
Saeb Erekat is an enigmatic character. Despite minimal popularity
among Palestinians, he is omnipresent, appears regularly on television and
speaks with the moral authority of an accomplished leader whose legacy is
rife with accolades and an astute, unwavering vision.
Palestinians were polled by the Jerusalem Media and Communications
Center (JMCC) in August, just prior to the current Intifada, only 3
percent approved of his leadership - compared with the still meagre
approval rating of 16 percent of his boss, Palestinian Authority
President, Mahmoud Abbas. Even those who are often cast as alternative
leaders - Fatah leader, Marwan Barghouti, and former Gaza-based Hamas
Government Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh - were nowhere near popular,
achieving 10.5 and 9.8 percent of the vote respectively.
as if Palestinians were telling us and their traditional leaderships, in
particular, that they are fed up with the old rhetoric, the constant
let-downs, the unabashed corruption and the very culture of defeat that
has permeated the Palestinian political elite for an entire generation.
Abbas has operated his political office on the assumption that, so
long as Palestinians received their monthly salaries and are content with
his empty promises and occasional threats – of resigning,
resisting against Israel, lobbing bombshell speeches at the UN, etc. –
then no one is likely to challenge his reign in Areas A and B - tiny
cantons within the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.
Erekat has been the primary enabler of that PA charade, for he is the
‘chief negotiator’, whose protracted term in that precarious post has
negotiated nothing of value for the Palestinians.
In 2002, I
followed the Israeli invasion of the supposedly self-autonomous PA areas
in the West Bank, when Erekat made an appeal on Al-Jazeera Arabic
television to the Israeli Government to exercise sanity and common
sense. The entire display of the PA leadership was beyond tragic, proof
that it had no real authority of its own and no control over the events on
the ground as Palestinian fighters battled the re-invading Israeli army.
He appealed to Israel as if he felt genuinely betrayed by its military
Jazeera released thousands of secret documents in January 2011,
revealing discussions behind closed doors between Israeli and Palestinian
negotiators, Erekat held the lion’s
share of blame. With a clear mandate from his superiors, he appeared
uninterested in many Palestinian political aspirations, including
Palestinian sovereignty in occupied East Jerusalem - the spark behind the
current and previous Intifadas. He offered Israel the “biggest Yerushalaim
in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarised
state… what more can I give?” he was quoted in the Palestine
What is particularly interesting about Erekat, and
equally applicable to most PA leaders and officials, is that, no matter
how devastating their roles - which they continue to play out, whether
through political incompetence or outright corruption - they do not seem
to go away. They may change position, hover around the same circle of
failed leadership, but they tend to resurface and repeatedly regurgitate
the same old language, clichés, empty threats and promises.
After retreating for a few weeks as Intifada youth took to the streets to
protest the Israeli occupation, PA spokespersons, including Erekat, are
now back on the scene, speaking of squandered opportunities for peace, two
states and the entire inept discourse, as if peace was ever, indeed, at
hand, and if the so-called ‘two state solution’ was ever a solution.
In a recent interview with Al-Jazeera’s ‘UpFront’, Erekat
warned that the PA was on the verge of shutting down, as if the very
existence of the PA was a virtue in itself. Established in 1994 as a
transitional political body that would guide the process of Palestinian
independence, the PA morphed to become a security arm that served as a
first line of defense for the Israeli army, in addition to guarding its
own interests. Billions of dollars later, and after intensive military
training provided by the US, the UK, Italy, and other western and
‘moderate’ Arab countries, the PA security forces have done a splendid job
of cracking down on any dissent among Palestinians.
So why is
Erekat warning of the PA collapse as if the sorry leadership in Ramallah
is the center of everything that Palestinians have ever aspired for? “Soon
enough Netanyahu will find himself the only [one] responsible between the
River Jordan and the Mediterranean because he is destroying the
Palestinian Authority,” Erekat said. So what? According to the Geneva
Conventions which designate Israel as the Occupying Power, Netanyahu is,
indeed, responsible for the welfare, security and well-being of the
occupied Palestinians, until a just political solution is assured and
enforced by the international community.
Using the same tactic
which, along with Abbas and other PA officials, was utilized repeatedly in
the past, he vowed that “soon, very soon, you’re going to hear some
decisions” about disbanding the PA.
It matters little what Erekat
and his Ramallah circle determine as the proper course of action. Not only
has his language become obsolete and his references irrelevant, but the
entire Oslo ‘peace process’ travesty – which delivered nothing but more
illegal settlements and military torment - was dead a long time ago. In
fact, it was the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000 that killed Oslo and the ten
years between the end of that uprising and the advent of a new one were
filled with mere haggling and desperate attempts at breathing life into a
‘process’ that made some corrupt Palestinians a whole lot richer.
The hope is that the current Intifada will cleanse the residue of that
dead process, and surpass the PA altogether, not through acts of violence
and vengeance, but rather through the establishment of a new leadership
manned by good women and men who are born in the heart of Palestinian
Resistance, in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. The new leadership
cannot be imposed from above, or achieved after deliberation with
‘moderate’ Arabs, but selected through an organic, grassroots process that
is blind to factional allegiances, religion, gender and family lineage.
Palestinian Intifadas do not liberate land but liberate people who
assume their role in the struggle for national liberation. The 1936
Intifada liberated the fellahin peasants from the confines of the dominant
clans and their allegiances to Arab regimes so that they could face up to
the British and the Zionists; the 1987 Stone Intifada liberated the people
from the grip of Tunisia-based factions, thus the establishment of the
Unified National Leadership of the Intifada along with Hamas; the 2000
Intifada was a thwarted attempt at escaping the sins of Oslo and its
empowered elite. For the current Intifada to achieve a degree of initial
success, it must find a way to entirely dismiss those who took it upon
themselves to negotiate Palestinian rights and to enrich themselves at the
expense of the impoverished and oppressed Palestinian people.
the Intifada is to be true to itself, it must seek to break not just the
hegemony over the Palestinian political discourse which is unfairly
championed by Erekat and his peers, but to break political boundaries as
well, uniting all Palestinians around a whole new political agenda.
There are many opportunists who are ready to pounce upon the current
mobilization in Palestine, to use the people’s sacrifices as they see fit
and, ultimately, return to the status quo as if no blood has been shed and
no oppression still in place.
After reiterating his support for
the two-state solution which is now but a fading mirage, Erekat told
Al-Jazeera, “We are fully supporting our people and their cry for
I think not, Mr. Erekat. Twenty years is long enough to
show that those who have taken part in their people’s oppression, cannot
possibly be the advocates of their people’s freedom.
– Dr. Ramzy
Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an
internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of
several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include
‘Searching Jenin’, ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada’ and his latest ‘My
Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story’. His website is: www.ramzybaroud.net.
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