The recommendation by the Palestine Liberation Organization Central Council (PLO CC) this week to suspend the two-decades-old security coordination with Israel illustrates the depths of meanness, desperation and irrationality that have come to define the broken relationship between the Palestinians and Israelis. It reflects both the unsustainable colonial mentality of the current rightwing Zionist leadership in Israel, and the stresses and failures of the current Palestinian national leadership that has not been able to achieve an effective response.
The decision is problematic because it can only lead to negative consequences and security breakdowns for both Israelis and Palestinians — but it is also inevitable, in view of the severe distortions and weaknesses in the implementation of the 1993 Oslo Accords that have served Israeli purposes and rights more than those of the Palestinians.
The 124-member PLO CC is effectively the most important national decision-making body of the Palestinian people these days, for two reasons: It includes representatives of all the leading Palestinian political factions, and the larger Palestine National Council (parliament in exile) has not met for years and is effectively moribund in the absence of new elections.
The Palestinians living under Israeli occupation or siege in the West Bank and Gaza have tried unsuccessfully to negotiate their liberation and statehood with the Israelis, under almost exclusive American mediation, since the Madrid peace conference in 1992. Most of the key elements of the Oslo Accords relating to issues like trade, finance, water, and free movement of people and goods have been forgotten or suspended. Only the “security cooperation” elements remain in force, but in a rather farcical manner from the Palestinian perspective.
Palestinians feel that their lightly armed police and intelligence system is being used to shield Israel from any attacks by Palestinian militants, while in the other direction Israeli troops routinely and uninhibitedly arrest, beat up, harass, and occasionally kill Palestinians whom they suspect of anti-Israeli acts or sentiments. This is not to mention the routine attacks against Palestinian people, homes, orchards, mosques and water systems by Zionist settler-thugs who often carry out their criminal deeds under the unwatchful eyes of nearby Israeli troops.
So the “security cooperation” helps secure Israel, but leaves Palestinians under daily assault by the same Israel. Palestinians are fed up with acting like the policemen who protect the Israeli occupation and subjugation that demeans them and seeks mainly to expel them from the land. The recommendation to President Abbas to terminate the security cooperation is not happening in a vacuum, but rather is one more step in a series of actions by both sides that reflect, above all, the total collapse of the negotiating process for a permanent peace agreement.
These include moves like Israel’s withholding every month $127 million in tax revenues it collects for the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Palestinian moves to seek a Security Council resolution on ending the Israeli occupation and also their initiation of formalities to join the International Criminal Court in order to prosecute Israelis for alleged war crimes.
Ending security cooperation means the two sides will no longer share intelligence information or coordinate arrests. It could also see the PA relax its moves to prevent demonstrations against Israel by angry Palestinians. Among the consequences of this would be tighter Israeli controls on already harsh restrictions on movement by Palestinians, and perhaps an expansion of some of the more militant nationalist and Islamist Palestinian groups in the West Bank and Gaza. Less security cooperation will hurt both sides, but it will hurt the Palestinians more, as is the norm in such colonial conditions between occupier and occupied.
It is possible also that this is a precursor to a decision by the Palestinians to dissolve the PA and force Israel to take charge of administering and funding the occupation that it had effectively subcontracted to the PA. All concerned should be braced for some bad things to happen in the arenas of security, political rhetoric, administration, finances and economy, and physical and psychological well-being of citizenries on both sides of the conflict.
We should learn again that the absence of a just peace is not permanent stalemate and perpetual occupation, but an inevitable slide into personal anger, political frenzy, and military ferocity. Both sides will suffer, until more sensible leaderships and more credible external mediators find the route to a meaningful, equitable negotiations process that meets the legitimate needs and rights of both sides. The one-sided American-Israeli-controlled “peace process” farce we have endured for decades has now suffered another warning sign that endless occupation and denial of Palestinian rights is not a sustainable condition, regardless of how safe the Israelis feel behind their walls and missile batteries.
Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly in the Daily Star. He was founding director and now senior policy fellow of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. On Twitter at: @ramikhouri.
Copyright ©2015 Rami G. Khouri—distributed by Agence Global