The Road To Statehood

The Road To Statehood

Reaffirming Identity and Launching the Revolution

            This introduction does  not intend  to offer a detailed account of President Abbas’s  role in founding the movement, rather it aims to  show a reality that Abbas realized earlier in time, namely  that politics reap what armed struggle sows, and that armed struggle is, at its base,  inherently political, yet, it may take  other forms.

This realization prompted President Abbas to assume a key role in leading political action; he took initiative and actively contributed to bringing the Palestinian Cause to the fore of international politics.

Years of revolutionary action augmented this great leader's visions which intertwined with the visions and political stances of many of his companions from the generation of giants: Abu Ammar, Abu Iyad, Abu Jihad, Khaled Al-Hasan and others. They worked as one team toward upholding the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

During its early years and following the second launch in 1967, the revolution yielded enormous achievements, including obtaining revolutionary legitimacy and recognition by worldwide liberation movements.  It gained the recognition of major countries which positioned themselves as bastions of liberation forces, such as China and the Soviet Union. This chapter of Palestinian history was marked by revolutionary romanticism.

Here we see the core of President Abbas – he is one of the foremost leaders who influenced the essence of Palestinian political thinking through practice and an individual who was also influenced by his contemporaries. It is from the thinking of Abbas and his peers that the notion of a Palestinian entity or a Palestinian state came into being as a right of the Palestinian people among other inalienable rights, most notably, the right of return and the right to self-determination.

The Advent of Political Realism

The notion of a Palestinian entity or state came to life in the wake of the 1973 October War, which resulted in negotiations concerning Israel’s withdrawal from territories captured in 1967, including the Palestinian Territories (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip). A thorough debate on this issue led to the Palestine Liberation Organization adopting an interim program in which it   endorsed for the first time the idea of establishing a Palestinian Authority which would be sovereign over Palestinian territory from which the occupation withdrew.

President Abbas was one of the supporters of this national mindset which paved the way for the creation of a Palestinian state, known in this program as "the Palestinian Authority."  Since this moment in the PLO’s history, political realism has continued to grow and has become increasingly visible in the Palestinian arena just as it has developed incrementally alongside the mounting national struggle both inside and outside the homeland.

President Abbas actively sought to build recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization as a legitimate revolutionary entity by garnering recognition for the PLO and the Palestinian cause from the Arab and the international community, particularly as represented by the United Nations and the Permanent Security Council member states.

In later stages, President Abbas led the increasingly growing stream of political realism, most notably at the holding of the 18th round of the Palestine National Council in a favorable atmosphere in which the great national Intifada broke out and with increasing international interest in the Palestinian cause. The slogan "Politics Reap What Armed Struggle Sows" materialized at this point. Out of the National Council grew the first realistic peaceful initiative, founded on the Palestinian National Fundamental Principles and Objectives which were   initiated by the PNC on its independence round in 1988. Also stemming from the National Council, Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, commissioned by Abbas, composed the Declaration of Independence for the State of Palestine in a historic statement which came to be proclaimed in Algeria by the iconic leader, the late President Yasser Arafat.

In 1988, political realism successfully produced a peaceful Palestinian initiative based on the recognition of U.N. international resolutions 242 and 338, supporting the principles of freedom, independence, and the creation of the Palestinian state. The road to statehood, constructed by costly sacrifices and paved with martyrs’ blood, has grown clearer gaining increasing recognition by the international community as well as recognition under international law.  The search for means to help realize the state of Palestine has started.

In this context, President Abbas, together with his fellow Palestinian leaders, was the architect of the Palestinian political process on this path. The door for dialogue with the United States was opened.  Although that dialogue was mostly futile, it nevertheless served as a starting point of contact with a great power.

Political Negotiations

Political realism marched its way toward the Madrid Conference and the ensuing negotiations. In the beginning, the Palestinian delegation participated in these negotiations under the Jordanian umbrella and then later participated independently.  

A Palestinian delegation from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, appointed by the PLO, and with Faisal Al-Husseini participating as representative of Jerusalem conducted negotiations in the United States and a delegation commissioned by the late President Abu Ammar and under the direct supervision of President Abbas participated in the back channel negotiations  in Oslo. While both of these negotiations were ultimately halted, they led to the Declaration of Principles known as the Oslo Accords in 1993. The Oslo Accords laid the foundation for the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority on Palestinian territory, marking a major step towards the realization of the Palestinian State and the fulfillment of other rights including those of the refugees, Jerusalem, security, water and borders.

 Israel has denied and breached the accords it signed and acted in contravention of international law.  Israel’s violations of the accords came following the death of peace partner, Yitzhak Rabin, and concurrent with the rise of rightist anti-Oslo Accord governments to whose policies the Israeli Labor Party consented. Additionally, following Rabin’s death came the expansion of extremist rightists, the obstruction of the peace process, and the invasion of the West Bank in 2002 (Operation Defense Shield) which besieged the late President Yasser Arafat.   As a further breach to the Accords, Israel began construction of the Separation Wall, continued to expand settlements and persisted in the judaization of Jerusalem. All of these actions committed by Israel while the international community looked on and neglected its responsibilities and while the United States relinquished its role as an honest borker contributed to the setback of the peace process which was agreed on in the Oslo Accords. Moreover, Hamas’s practices, especially the coup it carried out in Gaza in 2007 also hindered the peace process of the Oslo Accords.

The Political Program of President Abbas and Large-Scale International Support

When President Abbas ran for presidential election following the death of leader Yasser Arafat, he introduced a political program that resonated across the international community, capturing international public opinion and putting Israel, which often protested the lack of a Palestinian peace partner, on the spot.

President Abbas has become internationally acknowledged for his ability to gain support for his political program worldwide and thus to put the ball in Israel’s court, placing it in a tight position. 

The political program of President Abbas substantiates his vision for establishing the State of Palestine and offers a fair solution to the refugee question on the basis of resolution 194, in conformity with the terms of reference for the peace process as exemplified by international resolutions, the Arab peace initiative, and the two-state solution. His political program embraces Jerusalem as the capital of the independent Palestinian state and provides a just solution for sovereignty, security, water and border related questions.

During the term of Olmert’s government, the international community approved Abbas’s program, putting the peace negotiations back on track. However, the negotiations were stopped again when an extremist rightist government was formed under Netanyahu. This extremist government placed large obstacles in the way of resuming negotiations by expanding settlements, especially in occupied Jerusalem. It considered the issue of Jerusalem as an off-limit issue and asked the Palestinian side to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, thus threatening the future of a million and a half Palestinians living inside the green line.

The new American Administration led by President Obama sent positive signals when President Obama addressed the Arab and Islamic world in Cairo and appointed George Mitchell as a special envoy to the Middle East peace process. President Obama stated that among his priorities was a just solution of the Palestinian issue.  He held that settlements were a real obstacle to peace and must be stopped immediately. As a result of these statements, AIPAC increased pressure on the Obama administration, rendering it unable or unwilling to push Israel to stop settlement building, and particularly that in Jerusalem. The American Administration’s backtracking on its position and its request that the Palestinian side return to the negotiating table with nationally unaccepted conditions came as a big shock to the Palestinians. The U.S. withdrew its demand that settlement building should stop in Jerusalem in a bid to make the Palestinians surrender to the status quo and accept a negotiating process which didn’t include the issue of Jerusalem.

Key Political Achievements

Faced with such demeaning conditions, the Palestinian leadership refused to return to negotiations. President Abbas adopted a historic stand at this moment    in declining the Israeli conditions for resumption of talks and in openly expressing disappointment over the U.S. position which failed to assume its responsibilities according to international law.  The negotiation process then reached an impasse as the Palestinian people awaited transformations in international politics which would allow them to attain their rights through negotiations. 

Reluctantly, the international community made some statements.  For instance, the European Union issued a statement confirming that the June 4th borders   constitute the real borders of the State of Palestine, that Jerusalem is part of the Occupied Territories and that the EU doesn’t recognize Israeli possession of land expropriated by force. Despite bringing forward these points, the E.U. statement still left some issues open to negotiations.

The march of President Abbas toward the creation of the State of Palestine has not abated and the people of Palestine still have confidence in their leadership. The Central Council has held that the President should press ahead with his duties especially as the issue of statehood has become internationally acknowledged, even at the Israeli level.

The conflict is now focused on the borders of the state, sovereignty, security, water and the capital. The people of Palestine led by President Abbas still advance toward the establishment of their independent state and the fulfillment of their national fundamental rights, at the top of which is the right of return for refugees. The Palestinian leadership is holding on to its objectives and fundamentals, and the Palestinian National Authority institutions and those of the PLO still strive to build the foundations of the State of Palestine.

The road to statehood is strenuous and demanding. But, it is by the power of will and the potent spirit of the people of Palestine the dream will come true.