THE Palestinian-Israeli conflict is again at the forefront of the news with the request to admit Palestine as a full-fledged state to the United Nations. Part of the Palestinian Authority's stated rationale is to pave the way to pursue claims against Israel at the U.N. and the International Criminal Court.
Mahmoud Abbas, de facto president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has stated such a move would internationalize the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one.
On the surface, these may sound like positive changes for the authority. The U.S.-backed political process has been fundamentally flawed because it lacked grounding in international law. During this time, Israel furthered its conquest of Palestinian land through illegal construction of Jewish-only settlements and the wall that rips through the West Bank. While Palestinians were being lured to the negotiating table purportedly to resolve the borders of a Palestinian state, Israel was deciding them on the ground.
The PA has spent much of the last decade meeting the wide-ranging demands of the U.S. It has little to show for its efforts other than U.S. threats to use its veto power to prevent U.N. admission of Palestine as well as cut off financial aid to the PA.
As morally unacceptable as the U.S. position is, it can be understood by the well-documented influence of the pro-Israel lobby, which for decades has put Israeli interests and the careers of American politicians ahead of all else, including American national interests. This past week, even Thomas Friedman, who has long undercut Palestinian freedom aspirations, noted the lobby's unhelpful role in a New York Times column: "The powerful pro-Israel lobby in an election season can force the administration to defend Israel at the U.N., even when it knows Israel is pursuing policies not in its own interest or America's."
What is more perplexing, however, is Abbas' ultimate objective of returning to the negotiating table. The PA has stubbornly pursued this failed strategy for the past 18 years. The frequently used definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result — becomes inescapable.
The cost of satisfying the U.S. and Israel has in many ways been self-destructive to the PA. Its role as subcontractor for Israel's security work has brought mistreatment and alienation to its Palestinian citizens. The PA has abandoned the path to democracy to maintain its grip on power and counter Hamas. It has disenfranchised millions of Palestinians in the diaspora with its neglect of Palestinian refugees and their inalienable right of return.
The European powers do not bring hope as an alternative to the U.S. With their leverage as the donors who fund the salaries of PA officials, they reportedly are attempting to strike a deal that would allow Palestine to upgrade its status, but not join the International Criminal Court. While Israel would be pleased with this outcome, as it could continue to act with impunity, it would obviate one of the only potential benefits of Palestine's enhanced U.N. status.
It is clear that the Palestinian people cannot put their faith in Israel, the U.S., Europe, the Arab regimes, or even the self-proclaimed Palestinian leadership. These players must accept the consequences of creating a dangerous situation so meaningless that Palestinians now have virtually nothing left to lose.
A new reality must emerge in place of the political theater and private backroom negotiations. Nelson Mandela said "only free men can negotiate." Responsibility for achieving freedom and restoring the national, political and human rights of the Palestinians must shift squarely to the Palestinian grass roots.
As people across the Arab world have rejected the old formulas and old guard to take control of their future, Palestinians around the world must do the same. Now that the Arab spring marches into the Arab autumn, there could not be a more appropriate time for Palestinians to turn over a new leaf.
First published in The Seatle TImes: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2016300937_guest24tuffaha.html