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Who Wants to Resolve the Palestinian Issue? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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I know full well that the Israelis do not want a solution to the Palestinian issue, and perhaps this is what many are content to acknowledge. However, we are obliged to also ask: Do Arabs want a solution to the Palestinian problem? The behavior of many Arab states, and along with Hamas, the opposition movements, and the moderates, does not suggest that any of these parties want a solution to the Palestinian problem either.

The Palestinian cause is an international problem for which there is no solution other than the creation of a state. Palestinians must choose which nations will help them and must avoid those who would relegate them to the ranks of renegade movements. All of this notwithstanding, there is no harm in our posing the most important question: Who really wants a solution to the Palestinian problem? Who wants to really deal with it?

Let’s begin with those closest to the issue: the Palestinians themselves. Let’s ask if the suicidal behavior of the different Palestinian factions indicates a desire for a solution, or, whether it indicates a secret desire to maintain the status quo? Mr. Ismail Haniyeh and Mr. Khalid Mishal up to now have not manifested the political maturity that would make it possible for us to say they want to be a part of a solution instead of merely talking about it. Without doubt, what Israel is doing in occupying and building settlements and cutting us off from one another inside Palestine has been condemned hundreds of times. In my view, you will not find a single Arab who supports this Israeli arrogance. But, does condemning Israel at the same time render guiltless and forgiven all the stupidities that the Palestinian factions are committing on behalf of their people and their cause? I think that the reasonable, discerning, and intelligent among us should not allow Palestinian leaders to remain beyond criticism.

The latest statements by Khalid Mishal in Cairo were not always bloodcurdling. However, it’s clear that the man is hemmed in by anxieties about “the enemy brothers” in Ramallah more than by worries about Israel. He was heard speaking more about those being held prisoner in Ramallah by Fatah than about those Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. The dreadful thing about these statements is that they indicate a man who does not want to liberate the land so much as he wants Hamas to dominate Fatah in the Palestinian struggle, a struggle, it seems to me, to reduce to his leadership of Hamas. As for the Palestinians themselves, he reduces them to two groups: either clients or traitors.

If the brothers and the leaders of Hamas will permit me, let me say to them that the Palestinian problem will not be solved, not by President Obama of the United States or the Messiah, unless the Palestinians begin to speak with one voice and unless the Palestinians rally around a united leadership. For, one will not find anywhere in the world a sensible person who will start negotiations on the future of a state with two competing groups as is the state of things today with Hamas and Fatah. Today, the solution to the Palestinian problem is more in the hands of Palestinians than non-Palestinians…”Truly, God does not change people’s condition until they change themselves [Qur’an, s.13:11].”

The way Hamas behaves does not worry America alone; it worries some Arab nations, too. Hamas today sees “Hezbollah” as a model for resistance. However, Khalid Mishal may no longer be so pleased with Hezbollah especially in the wake of the latest Lebanese elections, which thwarted the hopes of many of the party’s supporters.

People, whether in Gaza or whether in Lebanon, want a better life under the protection of a sovereign state that respects their humanity. Gaza is no different from Lebanon, or Egypt or Syria in this context. People may become charged up with resistance that remains with them for a long time. But, resistance must have a political aim and direction. States and movements do not make war unless there is a political aim behind the war or the resistance. Up to now, the leaders of Hamas have not convinced us that there is an intelligible purpose, design, or goal they aim to realize other than getting people to accept the leadership of Mishal and Haniyeh as symbols of resistance, and worthy, therefore, of honor, etc. We give them all that, but, it should not be seen as an invitation to neglect the innocent spirits for the sake of their own ambitions. While it may be that Mishal and Haniyeh only covet the dream of realizing a state for their people, this struggle is overdue in its need to develop new strategies. First among these strategies is the need to create a united leadership for the Palestinian state, a leadership that will convince enemies who will negotiate with them to surrender the land to them. It is easy to convince one’s friends, but, a solution to the problem requires first convincing one’s enemies. The behavior of Hamas in Cairo and in Damascus does not bode well for the claim that Palestinians represent members of a society that is united in singleness of heart.

Hamas must accept a representative role like that of Hezbollah in Lebanon today. Hezbollah developed into an armed political party that is striving to be a moderate internal Lebanese political entity, but, which at the same time wants to protect and preserve its weapons, weapons which, naturally, were inglorious when used to confront Israel in the presence of differing levels of strength among the classes separating the contending sides of the struggle. At the same time, Hezbollah is a source of tension for individual Lebanese in the political process. But, what really counted for Mishal in Cairo was his statement about the relationship between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, particularly when he said that he is not in lockstep with the Muslim Brotherhood organization in Egypt. Egyptians, frankly, worry about the mixing up of regional tensions with internal Egyptian affairs. Any behavior that inspires the Egyptian Brothers to fall in with Gaza would mean one thing only: and that is that the Egyptian regime had been encircled and contained by the domestic Brotherhood and by foreign Brotherhood elements nearby, namely Gaza. This is certainly worrying for Egypt.

In light of these givens, which are linked to the particulars of the Palestinian situation and the presence of Israel as a power perching upon its bosom, and in view of the unsuccessful challenges of the Muslim Brotherhood in Arab nations, I say to Mr. Mishal and Mr. Haniyeh, the international political situation has changed with the presence of Barack Obama in the White House. There will not be a better opportunity for Arabs, to be precise for Palestinians, a fact that is inescapable today. Palestinians must adopt a flexible stance with Obama if they want a solution to their problem, they must create their own leadership, and they must return to the negotiating table centering on the two state solution which was put forth by the Arab Initiative: the State of Palestine and the State of Israel. Hamas must fully understand that this time there is no escape from returning to dialogue with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and unifying Palestinian ranks. There is no one in international society who will agree to a three state solution. Israel, too, must fully understand that it must accept a Palestinian state as its neighbor, and that the era of procrastination, postponement, and delay is over. We know from past experience that Israel will not accept a Palestinian state without strong international pressure.

The opportunity today is a propitious one. All must undertake a radical rearrangement of their policies, following the sensible path of leaving behind the adolescent ways of revolutionary movements and crossing over to the sensible conduct commensurate with a state.