When they started negotiating on the basis of the Oslo accords (and even prior to them), the Israelis aimed primarily at two key goals:
* Getting the recognition of the State of Israel , as a permanent, legitimate part of the region, from the Arab states.
* Subsequently, getting secure and recognised boundaries from threats or acts of force.
One is well obliged to state that none of these two important objectives has been reached. Israel therefore failed.
The PLO, which is not a state forced on people, but a grassroots organisation, had a different goal. Since the beginning of its fight, the objective was the establishment of a Palestinian authority (it was even said a Palestinian independent state) on any liberated portion of the national land. That goal was clearly and repeatedly stated in the literature that accompanied the fight of the PLO, since 1964. How the Palestinians would attain their ultimate goal – i.e. the independent state – has been a matter of debate between the different groups that constituted the PLO, and later, between them and those who chose to remain outside the nationalist organisation (like Hamas). Connected to that first objective (i.e. establishment of a national authority on any portion of the land), was another stating the right of the Palestinian refugees to come back to their homeland.
Here also, one is obliged to recognise that regarding both objectives, the PLO, conversely to Israel, has succeeded. It is a relative success indeed, but a success all the same. Nothing to be compared to the big Israeli failure regarding its two goals.
And you know why.
Israel has not obtained the recognition it sought from the Arabs, neither as a permanent, legitimate state of the region, nor even for its “boundaries.” Actually, where are they? Nobody knows. And Israel cannot know and recognise its own boundaries if its Arab neighbours still say: we do not recognise these borders. We have claims concerning territories Israel conquered by force.
While on the Palestinian side, we actually see a national authority running the liberated portions of the Palestinian land. We also saw many former Palestinian exiles joining that land since 1993. I don’t say this is exactly what the Palestinians wished; I say this is what, in fact, happened, because the struggle has led to such a result, and the struggle has not yet ended.
Now we know, many Palestinians were against the Oslo accords, which did not satisfy all their demands. Nevertheless, it is beyond doubt that whatever the PLO has managed to achieve from Oslo, it has it already there, and it cannot be undone.
All along the history of this fantastic struggle for freedom, justice and dignity, the Palestinian intelligentsia has produced a huge mass of literature about the ends and the means. As far as I know, the Palestinian leaders, whatever their ideological inclination, have always recognised the two pre-mentioned goals for their national struggle as utterly important: the liberation of any portion of the national homeland is a major goal that was partially accomplished in 1993. The return of the refugees was also partially achieved.
For those who discuss the means and the substance of the accords, the debate will still continue. Personally, I am convinced that the 1993 Oslo accords have been an important phase in the still ongoing struggle for the liberation of the Palestinian people. They have not achieved everything, but who has ever pretended that such a struggle against a power supported by all kinds of weapons and allies, could bring victory in a single phase? From this viewpoint, Oslo was not a victory. Yet, it brought hope. Peace is possible.
It is important now to distinguish between at least three phases: pre-1993, 1993 and its process, and post-Oslo process.
The Palestinians who recently took to the streets and demonstrated in front of the president’s residence in Ramallah, chanting “Down with the Oslo accords,” expressed a wide belief shared by many Arabs. The Oslo process has come to an end. We cannot go back, but we have to move forward.
The point now is how? What are the tactics and the means capable of granting progress to the Palestinians on their way to freedom? The question is most certainly on the mind of every Palestinian leader.
To answer this question, one should analyse the present political spectrum on the Palestinian side. It is constituted of several rival groups, more or less ideologically close, more or less organised, with more or less powerful allies, funds, and weapons at their disposal. On the domestic and regional/international levels, they enjoy varied support.
The situation of revolt and upheavals in the Arab world, with its potential upcoming changes, is a blessing to the Palestinian struggle. The Arab world has never been so close to give the Palestinians its full support as it is today.
Yet, the present phase is not easy to assess and exploit to its entire potential, because of its ambiguities, since in several countries, counter-revolution is creeping to block the democratic élan. Nevertheless, the PLO may surmount its present difficulties, if it succeeds in liberating itself from the bureaucratic routine that compelled the organisation to act as if it were a mechanism in the PA apparatus.
Logically, the PLO should distance itself from the PA and refuse to be at its service, dedicating itself to thinking and planning the next phase of the struggle for liberation. The PA is there just to run the affairs. It is not a state. Any government is provisory. The entire phase is transitory. Israel knows it very well. All the acts of the Netanyahu government are signs of the growing despair inside Israel. Colonialism has failed in the Arab world. Resistance has succeeded against the most powerful states in history. To integrate itself in the region, Israel will be obliged to change – a fundamental change.
As to the Palestinians, it is not the PA that generated the PLO, but the other way around.
The future Palestinian state will see the day out of the continuation of the struggle. Whether the PA, with the same men we see today at its head, would pilot the struggle or the PLO, or still another Palestinian organisation… this remains the big question of the future.