“Israel relates to all the areas as ‘C,’ we’ll relate to all the areas as ‘A,’” said Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh to the families whose homes in Wadi al-Hummus were demolished by Israel. Well said, if we ignore the fact that the artificial division of the West Bank to various areas of administrative, policing and military authority was supposed to expire in 1999. To back up his words, Shtayyeh will need much more than compensation for the demolition’s victims.
The letter “C” embodies the genius of Israeli planning and the naiveté of the Palestinian leadership. The genius was enlisted in the service of a tremendous act of fraud. Its objective: to complete Israel’s taking over the land and to create separate Palestinian reserves, under cover of the euphoria at the Oslo negotiations.
Because the world promised to support a Palestinian state, the PLO leaders who came down from Tunis believed that the artificial division of the West Bank was temporary. The naiveté became calcified and turned into foolishness. In other words, into collaboration with the fraud, even when Israel’s intentions were already crystal clear. The foolishness served the material interests of a ruling stratum and its entourage, while exacting a high price: The people lost their trust in their leadership, to the point of loathing for them and open contempt for Fatah.
“C” is the direct, logical line that is drawn between Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, the teams they appointed to negotiate the interim agreement and its implementation – and Bezalel Smotrich, Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Ya’alon.
There was probably logic to a gradual removal of the army from various areas in the West Bank, subject to the creation and deployment of Palestinian Authority institutions. But had Peres and Rabin’s intentions been free of colonialism, all the administrative-civilian powers to plan and build, to rehabilitate and expand agricultural areas, to upgrade the water infrastructure and so on would have been restored immediately to the Palestinians. Deliberately, they were not restored.
The Palestinian enclaves and the expanding settlements swallowing them were not created by chance. It’s what the brilliant planners of the Zionist enterprise – the leaders of the Labor Party – planned. Smotrich and Netanyahu only learned from them. The 700 construction permits that Israel promised last week (apparently for existing Palestinian buildings) are a joke. Even the government didn’t hide that it’s throwing sand in everybody’s eyes.
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The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Civil Administration and the Yeshastan Council will continue with their crusades to prevent the PA from laying water and electricity lines, building sewage purification facilities, paving roads based on the needs of Palestinian communities, building schools and developing tourism.
When the facts are so clear, the Palestinian prime minister should prove that his words are not empty slogans. As a first step, he and President Mahmoud Abbas must order the thousands of members of the security agencies to deploy outside the cities and the villages, without weapons and uniforms, so as not to give the Israelis an excuse for a bloodbath. Every day, on the orders of Abbas and Shtayyeh, they should accompany shepherds to grazing areas and laborers who are building schools and linking villages to water pipelines, help rehabilitate agricultural terraces and plant trees, and escort the trucks delivering building materials.
They should guard the villages and houses being threatened by Jewish thugs and Civil Administration officials. They should enter the Old City of Hebron by the dozens, by the hundreds, every day: They should pray in the Ibrahimi Mosque, escort tourists, visit the heroes under siege in Tel Rumeida, defend the renovators of ancient buildings and escort students who are routinely attacked by settlers and the Border Police.
Shtayyeh and Abbas can order the leaders of the security services and Fatah like Majid Faraj, Ziad Hab al-Reeh and Hussein al-Sheikh to go out to the people, and to visit these places regularly. A change in the job description of the security services from “subcontractors for the occupation” to “defenders of the people and the land” suits Abbas’ promise to stop operating by the terms of the outdated agreements with Israel. And most important: Such a change would likely help Palestinians believe their leadership cares about them.