Two opposing trends were visible in Israel and Palestine on Monday, and one of them must disappear. The Fatah congress in Bethlehem reaffirmed the strategic decision among a majority of Palestinians to seek a negotiated peace with Israel, while a string of senior Israeli officials said that they would continue expanding settlements in East Jerusalem and would not repeat the “mistake” of withdrawing from Gaza.
These trajectories of Palestinians seeking peace and Israelis perpetuating colonial occupation are so contradictory that they clearly cannot persist as they are.
for the Fatah congress now to declare again that Palestinians have chosen peace with Israel, while also reserving the right to engage in armed resistance to occupation, seems unconvincing. The movement that once resonated widely around the Arab world has shown in the past 40 years that it is unable to achieve either option.
Israel has reversed position, by giving special permission for Fatah delegates from throughout the region to enter occupied Bethlehem in order to attend the Fatah congress, as it tries to support Fatah in order to weaken Hamas. Neither strategy will work, because external manipulation to craft a Palestinian leadership to Israel’s or the United States’ liking will always fail the test of legitimacy among the Palestinian people.
The three strategies on show – Israeli colonialism, Fatah’s acquiescence, and Hamas’ resistance – all reflect short-term approaches that are unlikely to generate lasting, just solutions to this conflict, while inflicting more moral pain and physical suffering on all concerned. There are no easy exits from this corner, though the starting point for any movement toward more effective and mutually beneficial policies is to accept that current approaches have been universally catastrophic for all concerned. This lesson is especially relevant for external mediators who try their hand at peace-making.