x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Palestinian proposal needs a back-up plan

"The announcement by Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, about the intention of the Palestinian Authority to unilaterally declare an independent Palestinian state by August 2011 stirred a strong Israeli reaction," remarked Waleed Nouayhed in a comment piece run by the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat.

"The announcement by Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, about the intention of the Palestinian Authority to unilaterally declare an independent Palestinian state by August 2011 stirred a strong Israeli reaction," remarked Waleed Nouayhed in a comment piece run by the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat. Irrespective of the Israeli attitude, one can question whether the Palestinian Authority is able to undertake this project, or can win support from the international community? In principle, the idea is a legitimate right backed by both the EU and US, but at issue is its foundations, political borders and geopolitical position. Can the Palestinian Authority determine its identity and role in the context of a regional balance of power based on mutual respect?

There are many obstacles facing the unilateral establishment of a Palestinian state. The most important of these is the ongoing expansionist policy of the Israelis and separation walls, which prevent communication between Palestinians across the Occupied Territories. No less important is what the Palestinians can do to sustain their project. The declaration of a state requires an alternative plan if the international community does not support it.

"How can we explain the decision by the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement [SPLM] to retreat from the upcoming presidential election, which was followed by a similar collective decision by the main northern opposition parties?" asked Ahmad Amrabi in an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. To understand the present situation, we may need to differentiate between the agendas of opposition forces in the North and the South. The SPLM, for instance, has as a priority to govern the South as a step leading to independence. The North opposition leaders support federal authority.

By this account, one may need to inquire about the reasons behind the row over elections, and the possibility of a political conspiracy by the SPLM and the ruling party the National Congress. It is alleged that the aim is to provide the atmosphere for the president Omar Bashir to win by withdrawing the nomination of the SPLM candidate. In return, Mr Bashir would ensure the general referendum in January 2011. "We do not know yet whether this is true but the evidence prompts us to believe in it. Having decided to opt for separation, the SPLM does not care about national government." Other parties pointed to procedural irregularities and therefore requested the postponement of elections for more six months."

"When photos of the Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad were circulated showing him leading a traditional plow on a Palestinian plot of land in the the Occupied West Bank, he made his name as a popular figure and a potential inheritor of Palestinian leadership," remarked Satea Noureddine in an opinion piece for the Lebanese newspaper Assafir.

He also leads a new generation of technocrats that could take over the task of leading the Palestinians. To further his public image, he pioneered a campaign of boycotting products originated in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. He frequently invites both Palestinian and Israeli media to report on the boycott. A man not known for being politicised is gaining more support among Palestinians. Similarly, he has attracted Israelis who are seeking a flexible Palestinian partner ready to negotiate. The scene of tilling the land is symbolic to the Israelis in that it may shift the focus. The Palestinian cause may shift from being a national issue loaded with moral and demographic burdens to a set of trade union requests that can be negotiated.

Areeb al Rantawi, in an opinion article in the Jordanian daily Addustoor, revisited the Iraqi poll results, highlighting the importance of the Sunni-Arab turnout.

By largely voting for the Iraqiyya list, Sunni Arabs in fact dealt a severe blow to those who had called for an election boycott, and also for the Islamic movement, which lost al Tawafuq 44 seats in the parliament. "Kurds also voted for secular forces. By doing this, I think they chose to subscribe to an Iraqi identity that preserves the integrity of each community within the framework of a multicultural Iraq."

Following a process of trial and error, a pro-secular system is likely to gather constituents around a national identity, which, in turn, will help prevent the outbreak of civil conflicts. The Iraqi elections marked an increasing awareness of the role of national identity over close loyalty to clans or religious entities. This means that Iraq followed the same pattern as elsewhere in the Arab world, where "political Islam" has continuously been in decline since 2006.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae