Articles > > FOUR OPTIONS

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2019-04-07
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

The Palestinians are faced with four options in responding to the [anticipated U.S.-sponsored] 'deal of the century', as it will be proposed to them in the coming days or weeks, according to different estimations.
 
The first option is to reject the deal in its entirety on the grounds that it is actually the 'slap of the century', as PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas has put it. This is an extremely popular option, and no Palestinian would fault the PA for doing so. And it is extremely unlikely that Hamas or any of its wings would play such a card that is likely to burn their fingers. Hamas will nevertheless seek to monitor the mounting pressure on the PA and the growing possibility of its collapse. 
 
Hamas may be waiting for a chance to swoop in on the PA in the West Bank, while its security and military establishments maintain the tahdi'a [lull or calming down] on the lines of contact between the Gaza Strip and Israel. This option will resonate favorably in Damascus and Tehran and will be welcomed by many other [Palestinian/radical] factions and movements as well. 
 
Such a stance may also be a relief to Russia in particular, at a time of growing conflict between it and the U.S. For its part, Israel might equally welcome this option, as it would thus be exempt from issuing an immediate or urgent response itself. It may issue a provisional acceptance accompanied by several reservations, and the Israeli propaganda machine will return to practicing its favorite hobby of holding the Palestinians responsible for wasting a 'new opportunity' for peace just as they have wasted previous opportunities. 
 
The 'moderate' Arab countries will not be pleased but they will not oppose this option publicly at least, with the possible exception of some smaller countries whose opinion makes no difference anyway. They may secretly hope that the Palestinians would offer a conditional acceptance of the initiative, which would leave the door open to subsequent negotiations and possibly coupling the 'deal of the century' with [a new iteration of] the [2002/07] Arab Peace Initiative.
 
The second option would be to accept the deal wholesale. However, the chance of adopting this is approximately nil. The PA would face a wave of absolute outrage, and the doors will open before all parties to the struggle eager to place their bids and tenders. This option would anger the [Iran-led axis] countries that adopt the doctrine of 'resistance and rejection' along with their movements, and it would be a relief to the 'moderate' [Arab] countries and Washington. It would also perhaps come as a surprise to Europe and Russia, and an embarrassment to the extreme right-wing in Israel. 
 
This option would also provide the PA's opponents, namely, Hamas and its brethren, with prime propaganda material to attack the PA and destroy its remaining credibility and popularity. It would first and foremost be a costly option for the PA, the Palestinian presidency, Fatah, the PLO, and the Palestinian people. 
 
The third option is to say 'yes, but...', or adopt a line of conditional acceptance, whereby the PA announces that it accepts the initiative in principle, but attaches a long list of conditions and reservations, precisely as Sharon did to the Middle East Quartet's [2003] 'Roadmap' by adding 14 reservations that essentially stripped it of its substantive content. This option would please the 'moderate' Arabs but would invoke wrath from broad swaths of the Palestinian people, the 'resistance and rejection' countries, and their movements. The West and Russia might accept it, and it may largely, but not necessarily entirely, satisfy Washington. 
 
If the Palestinians were to pursue this line, it may produce a similar choice on the Israeli side. Tel Aviv would accept the initiative but attach a set of terms and conditions that will seek to minimize everything on offer to the Palestinians in return. However, all in all, this option seems no more likely than that of completely rejecting the initiative upon its announcement. 
 
The fourth option is that of engaging in evasive maneuvers, in the sense of delaying a Palestinian response while waiting for Israel's reaction, in the hope that the extreme right will compel Netanyahu to give a 'no' or conditional 'yes' to the initiative. The ball would then be in Israel's court, and the Israeli propaganda and media machine would be unable to accuse the Palestinians of frittering away opportunities or further inciting against them in Washington and the world's capitals. 
 
'Abbas would feel pressure to issue an immediate, direct response, but so would Netanyahu. Netanyahu does not want to say 'no' to Israel's greatest friend, and impatiently awaits a Palestinian 'no' in order to evade extreme pressure from his right-wing and to delay any potential crisis in relations with Washington. The PR game revolves around who will reveal their hand first, Israel or the PA, but in conditions that are unfavorable to either 'Abbas or Netanyahu. 
 
But the Palestinians are not accustomed to practicing taqiyya [concealing true beliefs as a precautionary measure] and swallowing their true stance regarding what is proposed to them. 
 
We are thus most likely to be heading towards a Palestinian rejection of the initiative with strong popular support, albeit at a high cost to the PA.