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What Is Next For Palestinians?

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                          VIEWPOINT
"Exploring The Powerful Issues & Emotions of The Middle East" 
  Reaching out to 51,228 Viewpoint readers around the globe
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Editor's Note:

As the US tries to shore up its preferred faction in the
Middle East, the strangulation of Gaza continues. This
happens outside the eye of the MSM.

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                 Video Clip Of The Week

  Helen Thomas Blasts Use Of Torture in Press Conference 

Virtually alone in the press corps, veteran Helen Thomas 
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they will lose access to government officials. 

View: Helen Thomas Blasts Use Of Torture in Press Conference
   
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What Is Next For Palestinians? – Khalid Amayreh

The obvious failure of Palestinian Authority (PA) President 
Mahmoud Abbas's latest visit to Washington has been 
reverberating through Palestinian society, with many 
intellectuals and pundits advising Abbas to "quit" or at 
least stop acting at the US administration's beck and 
call. Some critics have even called for dismantling the PA 
and abandoning the two-state solution strategy in favour 
of the one-state solution of a democratic state for all 
its citizens. 

Abbas, in a frank and daring admission, told reporters 
following his meeting with President Bush at the White 
House last week that he failed to obtain a commitment 
from the US administration to pressure Israel into 
halting its wave of Jewish-only settlement building in 
East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The intensive settlement 
expansion drive brazenly defies US-led peace efforts, 
including the Quartet-backed roadmap and last year's 
Annapolis conference. 

For their part, the Israelis deny that they are reneging 
on commitments or pledges. Israeli leaders argue that 
they are only meeting housing needs related to "natural 
growth" within existing settlements. They also cite a 
private "understanding" contained in a letter sent by 
President Bush to former prime minister Ariel Sharon 
whereby Israel was given a green light to continue 
expanding settlements irrespective of peace talks with 
the Palestinians. 

The Bush administration has been reticent to acknowledge 
this supposed "understanding". However, its enduring 
refusal to rebuke Israel for its continued colonisation 
of Palestinian land underscores the extent of US-Israeli 
connivance against Palestinian interests and exposes the 
duplicity of US political calculations with regard to the 
Israeli-Palestinian issue. 

Palestinian sources close to PA-Israeli talks last week 
reported that Israeli negotiators on many occasions 
confronted their Palestinian counterparts with a series 
of written "pledges" and "letters" from the Bush 
administration assuring Israel that major Jewish 
settlements, at least, would be annexed into Israel in 
the context of a final-status deal with the Palestinians. 
Hence, according to Israeli negotiators, there was no 
justification for "vociferous" Palestinian protest every 
time Israel decided to build additional settler units 
in the West Bank. 

Reportedly, Abbas was also especially upset by President 
Bush's refusal to pledge that any contemplated Palestinian 
"state" would be created on 100 per cent of the Palestinian 
territories occupied by Israel in 1967. The implications 
of Bush's refusal are as clear as they are painful for the 
Palestinian leadership; namely that the Palestinians should 
stop dreaming of a full and total Israeli withdrawal from 
the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

According to sources within Abbas's immediate circle, the 
PA leader has come to feel "betrayed" and "deceived" by 
the Bush administration. "We thought there was only one 
game in town, and that was the roadmap," one PA official 
told Al-Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity. "But it 
turned out that the Bush administration had been giving 
Israel all sorts of assurances and pledges behind our 
back, which violate and nullify the essence of the 
roadmap." 

Asked what he thought the PA would do next, the frustrated 
official said: "I would lie to you if I told you I knew 
the answer." 

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The Weekly asked senior Fatah official Hatem Abdul-Qader 
for his view as to what the PA should do in light of US 
refusals to pressure Israel to halt settlement expansion 
in the West Bank. "I think it is time for all of us, 
including President Abbas, to realise that it is probably 
too late for the creation of a Palestinian state," he 
said. "All peace talks with Israel seem to have been a 
gigantic fiasco -- a total failure and big lie." 

Like many PA and Fatah officials, Abdul- Qader believes 
that Abbas is facing a real dilemma in having to choose 
between appeasing the US by compromising the Palestinian 
cause, or rebuilding Palestinian national unity with 
Hamas, which would upset Israel and the US and which might 
lead to the reinstitution of US-led sanctions on the PA. 
"It is clear that talks with Israel have reached a dead 
end. It is also clear that Israel is using the national 
rift between Fatah and Hamas to impose its conditions on 
us," Abdul-Qader said. 

"All the promises and pledges the Bush administration has 
made to us have evaporated," Abdul-Qader continues. "The 
US is only indulging in an open-ended process of deception 
for the purpose of giving Israel the time it needs to 
build more settlements and make the task of creating a 
viable Palestinian state unrealistic and unachievable." 

Asked what he would advise Abbas to do in light of receding 
prospects of reaching a breakthrough before the end of 
2008, Abdul-Qader said he would advise the PA president to 
"pay attention to our internal situation and stop bidding 
on fruitless talks with Israel. Abbas should be courageous 
enough to tell the Americans that he won't sacrifice 
paramount Palestinian national interests for the sake of 
American and Israeli interests." 

Abdul-Qader adds that in order for Abbas to be able to say 
"No" to the US and Israel, Hamas "will have to make the 
first step by accepting the Yemeni initiative". Fatah 
could facilitate this by refraining from "making impossible 
preconditions for national reconciliation". 

Earlier this week, Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip called 
on Abbas to "draw the correct conclusion" from the "rebuff" 
he received in Washington. "We call on President Mahmoud 
Abbas to stop seeking water from the American mirage. We 
urge him to immediately embark on tangible steps to re-
establish national unity. It is only with national unity 
that we can restore our rights and safeguard the vital 
interests of our people." 

Abbas has not said what he will do next apart from 
continuing in talks with Israel. Hani Al-Masri, a prominent 
political analyst in Ramallah, told the Weekly that Abbas's 
dilemma "stems mainly from the fact that he lacks a 
plan-B." Abbas "trusted the Americans too much and for too 
long. He should have explored alternatives to this futile 
process." 

"He should extend his hand to Hamas and re-establish 
Palestinian national unity, irrespective of American and 
Israeli reactions. He should stop this futile process 
under whose rubric Israel is liquidating the Palestinian 
cause," Al-Masri added. 

Al-Masri acknowledges that if Abbas were to cut from the 
so-called "peace process", the US and Israel would employ 
all kinds of sanctions, including starving the Palestinian 
population, to get him back in line. "But in the long run, 
[the US] will accept the fait accompli. After all, if we 
stand united, the whole world, including the Americans, 
will respect us. The ball is in our court, and no one 
else's." 

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