By Dr. Mamoun Fandy

In his column in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, liberal Arab intellectual and scholar Dr. Mamoun Fandy calls on the Palestinians to take advantage of the current global political climate, which he says is favorable to them, to advance their cause. He says that the Arabs must confront the Palestinian leadership with its shortcomings - such as its rejection of the political proposals offered to the Palestinians, its damaging adherence to a "resistance" aimed at self-glorification, and the Hamas-Fatah schism - and states that the Palestinians must decide right now whether to be part of the problem or part of the solution.    

Following are excerpts from Dr. Fandy's column:(1)
  

"Where Should Someone Who Wants to Mediate in Solving the Palestinian Problem Go" - to the PA or to Hamas?

"Where should someone who wants to mediate in solving the Palestinian problem go? Should the Europeans and the Americans go to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, or to Hamas in Gaza? Who should former U.S. senator George Mitchell or EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana talk to...?

"Today, there is in fact no Palestinian partner [for peace] - and the idiotic warring Palestinian factions can take 'credit' for that. There are of course those who make a living from the [intra-Palestinian] struggle, with their writing or their television programs, but they are not confronting the Palestinian [leadership] with this truth. But it's better to discuss the Palestinian problem like adults, not like adolescents.

"In terms of international [climate], there has never been a better opportunity than there is right now for solving the Palestinian problem. Europe supports the Palestinians and wants a U.N. resolution establishing a Palestinian state, like the resolution that established the state of Israel - and Javier Solana is pushing for this. [U.S. President] Barack Obama is most certainly the best U.S. president ever for the Arabs in general - and for the Palestinian problem in particular. The ones who oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state today are the Palestinians and the Israelis - in that order...

"The birth of a new state in the Middle East - which is an unstable region from the outset - must have international support and aid, and must [contribute] to the stability of the entire region. A state that only adds to the anarchy is undesirable. A Palestinian state will add to the region's stability if it has a strong and cohesive leadership, and if it is led by a forceful individual. One such Palestinian leader is Muhammad Dahlan, a powerful security figure, who despite Hamas's opposition to him has the best capabilities and the most [correct] outlook [to bring about] the birth of a Palestinian state that is a partner in the region's security and stability...

"The behavior of the various Palestinian factions, and the rivalry between them, looks to the world like efforts to maintain the status quo. [Hamas prime minister] Isma'il Haniya and [Hamas political bureau head] Khaled Mash'al have so far shown no political maturity proving that they want a solution instead of rejecting one."
 
   
The Palestinian Leadership Must Confront Its Shortcomings; "The Palestinians Today Are the Worst Enemy of Their Own Cause"

"There is no doubt that the occupation and Israel's establishment of settlements contribute nothing to solving [the Palestinian problem]. But in our articles in Arabic, which are not directed at Israel, we must confront the Palestinian leadership with its shortcomings. Condemning Israel must not be a free pass for the Palestinian factions to commit folly against their own people and their own cause. Those of us with any sense will reject any immunity from criticism for the Palestinian leadership.

"It is important that we be honest in criticizing the Palestinian situation, which is precarious in the best of cases. Once I was invited to a meeting with the Palestinian foreign minister, in an important country. During the meeting, the Palestinian foreign minister was shown a map of the Israeli settlements. When the minister took hold of the map, I immediately realized why the Palestinian cause is going nowhere: He looked at the map, but [could not make head or tail of it]. It was obvious that he had never looked at a map in his life. I wondered: Why, when we have the best intellectuals from the best universities in the world, do we let these leaders represent us… This is a question that the Palestinians must answer for themselves.

"The people in Gaza or in the West Bank want a state like everyone else has. They want a better life under a sovereign state that respects their humanity. In this aspect, Gaza is no different than Lebanon, Egypt, or Syria. The [Palestinian] people are tired of this pointless 'resistance' - because resistance must have a political goal.

"States and movements do not fight or resist unless there is a political goal behind the war or the resistance. To date, the Hamas leadership, and even many in the Fatah leadership, have not convinced us that they are striving to attain a particular logical and practical goal. If the goal [of the resistance] is for a few members of the leadership to be recognized as symbols of resistance and [national] honor - we are perfectly willing to give them this recognition, but there is no need to sacrifice innocent lives in order to accomplish such a limited goal.

"However, if the goal is realizing the dream of establishing a Palestinian state, and for this people to live in dignity like other peoples - then that is a different struggle, which requires new strategies. The first [of these] strategies is the creation of a united leadership for the future Palestinian state - one that will convince its enemies to negotiate with it and to give it the land. It is easy to convince friends - but solving the problem requires first of all convincing enemies…

"The Palestinians today are the worst enemy of their own cause. The time has come for us to tell them this openly, out of love, and not out of vindictiveness.

"There Will Never Be a Political Situation Better Than There Is Now for the Arabs, And Particularly for the Palestinians"

"Global political circumstances have changed since Barack Obama entered the White House. There will never be a political situation better than there is now for the Arabs, and particularly for the Palestinians. Thus, the Palestinians must be flexible with Obama if they wish to solve their problem; they must unite their leadership, and they must commit to a cessation of violence and to return to the discussion table to deal with the two-state solution presented in the Arab [peace] initiative... No one in the international community who wants a solution seeks three states [Gaza, Ramallah, and Israel]. Israel too must understand that this time there will be no way around accepting a Palestinian state alongside it.

"The era of delay is over. We already know that Israel will not accept such a state without intense international pressure… At the Fatah [Sixth General Conference],(2) the Palestinians must... create the impression that they are a people worthy of independence - and not a people in some adolescent stage, in which its sons consume each other.

"The Palestinians again face an historic choice: whether to be part of the solution or part of the problem. They also [now] have [an opportunity] to give Palestine a cohesive leadership, with a single address - to which the whole world can come if they want to talk."
  

Endnote:  
(1) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 27, 2009
(2) The article was published prior to the conference, which took place August 4-5, 2009 in Bethlehem. 
 

 

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