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Should Palestinians Opt for Direct Contact with the Israelis?

Should Palestinians Opt for Direct Contact with the Israelis?

Friday, 30 July, 2021 - 10:45
Nabil Amr
Palestinian writer and politician

Palestinians have finally given up on the meagre abilities of mediators in progressing on anything related to their protracted conflict with Israel, even in what is often described as ‘crisis management’ instead of resolution. These mediators have completely failed to resolve the conflict, despite their exaggerated interventions on everything having to do with their relations with Israel.

The largest and most active mediator on this issue has been the United States, and despite the increased autonomy of Palestinian authorities, and their reliance on this mediator, the outcome of its efforts appears to be very minimal, and geared towards minimal Palestinian needs. This is the case both as relates to economic support, which was generous in the beginning and became meagre in the end, and the political track, which was taken off table and replaced by a set of emergency measures that pave the way for making the next stage one of economic solutions that is totally isolated from politics.

As mediators, the Americans have been frank with the Palestinians that their conflict with Israel is not on the Joe Biden administration’s current agenda. This prompted Palestinian officials to think of options that, while not new, may be different. Direct contact with Israel began to appear as the prevalent discourse, according to the saying that “the nearest distance between two points is a straight line.” As such, there is no need to waste time on the sprawling network of mediators that have spent decades in useless interventions. Rather, it led to completely opposite results from what was hoped.

Old and new Israelis have long advised the Palestinians, and still do, to give up dependence on mediators, as long as they alone are the ones to permit or prevent; “Come directly to the source, for you will find more fortune with us than you will find with the Americans.”

Although some Palestinians think of it as an option without being an approved policy, direct contact with Israel is not without risks or the logic of calculations. Palestinians, divided and exhausted under the weight of crushing crises in the West Bank and Gaza, receive daily messages from the Israelis that explicitly and precisely define what they are granted and what they are denied. What they are granted are merely facilities of life, while what they are denied are independence and a state. This situation made Palestinian officials entrusted with making decisions caught between two fires; one of the mediators who continue to distance themselves from anything that is in the interest of Palestinians and according to their vision, and the fire of the Israeli rival that continues to lower expectations in the Palestinians’ present and their future. After acknowledging this, Palestinians may then choose which side to lean on.

The Palestinians cling to mediators while being certain of their inability to offer advantages on which to build some hope. The only motive for this is that mediators embody a buffer, albeit a gentle one, between them and their rival.

Mediators were once in a stage of serious and tireless work to achieve a political settlement, as support for the Palestinians in the face of the constant Israeli effort to neutralize them. However, this support, which faded away during the era of former President Donald Trump, no longer in the era of Biden had a degree of efficiency and effectiveness that could rescue Palestinians out of a state of futility in political stakes.

Between the anvil of impotent mediators, and the hammer of tyrannical Israelis, should the Palestinians, who are accustomed to the logic, mechanisms and limitations of Oslo, opt for a third path that is different from all that has come before?

This is the question that has not yet been answered by any Palestinian official at any level.

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