Absence of a political horizon invites instability in Palestine

Since late August, the political horizon for Palestinians has been shuttered. At that time, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met US President Joe Biden at the White House and told him point-blank that he had no plans to negotiate with the Palestinians or meet the Palestinian leader, and he certainly would not consider the internationally supported two-state solution. Bennett not only told Biden this in private, but he later boasted about it to the American Jewish community, putting him in the same position as the Arab leaders back in September 1967. Then, the three Arab no’s were no recognition of Israel, no negotiations and no peace.

But unlike the reaction to the Arab no’s, very little has happened to Israel for its intransigence and public rejection of even the pretense of having a political process. Some might argue that, unlike the conniving Benjamin Netanyahu, who claimed to want peace but acted to the contrary, Bennett means what he says about his rejection of peace.

The result of the absence of a political horizon has been seen on the ground in the West Bank. Daily skirmishes are taking place, with more Palestinians being injured and killed than before. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Territories tallied that, by the middle of November, 68 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank in 2021, compared to 24 in 2020 and 27 in 2019. A more worrisome figure is that of the injuries: 13,857 in 2021 compared to 2,558 in 2020 and 3,479 in 2019.

These numbers reflect a dangerous situation that will continue to escalate so long as Palestinians see no horizon or a road map that can bring an end to this ugly, decades-long occupation.

Palestinians are even more depressed and frustrated when they see the Israeli leaders visiting Arab capitals rather than politically punished for their actions and intransigence on the negotiations front.

The instability of the West Bank has forced the US and even Israeli officials to try and find ways to lessen its negative impact. While the Israeli occupiers and their American patrons are thinking of ways to buy their way out of the trouble, the one thing that Israel badly needs is the cooperation of the Palestinians when it comes to security.

The dangerous situation will continue to escalate so long as Palestinians see no road map that can bring an end to this ugly, decades-long occupation.

Daoud Kuttab

While the idea of a total abandonment of security coordination is next to impossible considering the dire straits that the Palestinian leadership finds itself in, there is no doubt there is little appetite among Palestinians to protect Israel from Palestinian resistance actions. Major acts of resistance will most likely continue to be monitored and President Mahmoud Abbas’ security coordination will ensure that no significant acts of violence take place, while at the same time encouraging Palestinians to increase their nonviolent acts of popular protest.

With its attempts to regain popular support — which it lost due to the cancelation of the legislative elections in April — the Palestinian Authority leadership is trying to show the public that it is not an Israeli puppet. Palestinian security forces are less and less willing to confront or stop Palestinian protesters. Intelligence cooperation, which is always a key element in security coordination, is not at a high level so long as Israel is not doing anything to encourage Ramallah to share any valuable information it has relating to the defiant Israeli occupiers.

The most recent local council elections held in areas under total Israeli control (Area C) have given the Fatah movement a small boost due to the success of its members or tribal leaders affiliated with it. Elections in the major cities are due to take place in March 2022. It is unknown if the Hamas leadership will agree to elections in Gaza.

For the Palestinian leadership, the current stalemate is putting them in a bind. They cannot gain public support as a tough negotiator with Israel when the Israelis are not even interested in talking or meeting with them. Even the Biden administration, which promised to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem and allow the reopening of the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington, has not fulfilled its election promise. At first, the delay was aimed at preventing the collapse of Bennett’s coalition government and any failure to pass an annual budget. The US is now embroiled in sensitive talks with Iran, so Washington does not want to anger the Israelis, who are opposed to the return of the nuclear deal.

Palestinian frustration will escalate in the coming months if the current stalemate and absence of a political horizon continue. While there is no use in having a fake process, if the various parties are interested in stability, they must pay much stronger attention to what is happening to the Palestinians as their political horizon is totally shut down.

• Daoud Kuttab

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