Why nothing changes

Posted on 04 September 2010

There’s lots of talk about talks. And there’s all sorts of odd talk. Like Saeb Erekat and his extraordinary apology to Israelis. He starts with “Shalom to you in Israel, I know that we have disappointed you.” He then proceeds with “I know that we have been unable to deliver peace to you for the last 19 years.” (Watch Erekat, Rajoub and Abed Rabo’s appeals to Israelis here.)

It’s astonishing that a man who is supposed to be the chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, which in turn is supposed to represent Palestinians, can apologise with such submissiveness to the oppressor for not “delivering peace.” Disgusted seems to be the general reaction of people I know.

And herein lies part of the problem. Erekat has been the PA’s chief negotiator, bar a short hiatus, for 16 years. Shouldn’t he have progressed onto something else by now? After all this time, shouldn’t negotiations have delivered something more to Palestinians than the occupation being even further embedded? There’s less land for Palestinians, more Israeli control, and no light at the end of the tunnel.

To be fair, Erekat is not alone. The same people keep having the same conversations that will only lead to the same result: failure. But are the talks in Washington going to deliver anything other than failure?

Palestinians are tired. They’re tired of false hopes and frutiless talks. They’re tired of having only sporadic control over their own daily lives and no control over their future. But perhaps most of all, they’re tired of the people who are supposed to represent them. They’ve been there too long, they’ve reaped many benefits from their positions, and all the while most other Palestinians have lost more and more.

The continuing disunity between the factions is a huge problem, not least for the electorate, and the PA is being disingenuous by entering into negotiations with Israel while there is so much internal discord. No one can even say for sure if Abbas, Fayyed or even the Legislative Council is currently lawful. Shouldn’t anyone speaking on behalf of Palestinians at least have the mandate to do so along with the broad support of the people? And what about Gaza? Hamas is not even included in any of the conversations.

Civil society and other political activists are trying hard to show there are alternative voices and views but the Sulta is doing a good job in trying to suppress them. The Sulta should be allowing Palestinians freedom to express themselves, but it is governing in an authoritarian fashion.

It’s time for a real change and that won’t come from the talks in Washington. Those who have failed for so long need to realise it is time for them to stand aside, Palestinians and Israelis. When that happens then there will be some hope for the future.

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