Written by: Salam Fayyad

What prompted me to write this article was a call made to me a few days ago by one of the correspondents of an international news agency, in which he asked about the validity of the impression of the high level of expectations of the Palestinian leadership with its upcoming meeting with the US president. I told him that I didn't know for sure, but I added hastily that there should not be even an illusion that Biden aims to do more than advise the Palestinian side to be more patient with the current state of affairs and that there is a looming "energy of relief" that must be prepared to exploit, especially since his administration, unlike its predecessor, is fully committed to the two-state solution. When talking about the Palestine cause, politicians make sure to stress the importance of living in dignity when talking about the people of Palestine.

Even if Biden added one sentence here and another there regarding the need to respect the status quo and to stop demolishing Palestinian homes, and even if he mentioned Sheikh Jarrah and Masafer Yatta, will any of this establish the belief, even for a moment, that we are on the threshold of entering a bright future that restores confidence in the ability of the so-called “peace process” that enables the Palestinians to establish their rights and achieve their aspirations? Of course not. The status quo is no longer a fixed one, but rather a permanently changing situation with continuous and non-stop Israeli changes, as well as demolition, displacement, killing and abuse. All of this coincided with the shift in the call to stop unilateral actions to mean exclusively the Palestinians’ reluctance to pursue Israel criminally on the international scene, without paying any attention, but rather with encouragement and support, especially by the previous US administration, for Israel in rooting its colonial occupation and its actual annexation of the Palestinian land it occupied in 1967.

On the other hand, the list of Palestinian grievances and related expectations from the US administration is long, and they are undoubtedly right. But the eligibility of the subtraction should not be confused with its validity. Specifically, I am not at all convinced, neither in timing nor in substance, of the relevance of the Palestinian position, which has been repeatedly emphasized in various forums and by various Palestinian, Arab and international leadership levels, concerning the necessity of “reviving the peace process,” “resuming this process from where it left off,” or “relaunching a serious peace process,” etc. And what has come to include, especially in recent times, the need for there to be a political horizon, or at least an “analyst” for the so-called confidence-building measures.

I base my assessment only on a conviction that has become the subject of almost Palestinian consensus that it is impossible in the foreseeable future to expect any Israeli government to accept a solution that meets even the minimum level of the aspirations of the Palestinian people. Not to mention that the premise of this solution is the recognition that Palestinians are a people who, like all other peoples of the world, have the natural right to self-determination. So, what is the point of continuing to trade in this delusion, especially in light of the prevailing facts that have resulted in a chronic state of imbalance of power between the occupying power and our people, the victims of this occupation? Is it not logical that we, Palestinians, are convinced of the validity of such a proposition before we expect others to adopt it?

If Biden surprised everyone by talking about the need to "revive the peace process," our leadership should not view this as a pleasant surprise. Rather, they should ask him what has changed since he took office about a year and a half ago, in order to push him to change his position on considering the attempt to continue, as previous US administrations used to prioritize negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis on the so-called permanent status issues, as futile. Beyond that, the Palestinian leadership should remind him of a guiding principle that formed a fundamental basis for his electoral campaign in terms of his commitment to “return to origins” in the United States’ management of its international relations, which his predecessor turned against most of them in general, and on all of them in relation to the Palestinian issue, starting with his decision to move the headquarters of the American embassy to Jerusalem.

It is noteworthy that in the wake of the announcement of the said decision, and even before the actual relocation of the embassy headquarters, the idea that it is impossible to turn back the clock in this regard in the post-Trump era was widely promoted. In this sense, it was not surprising that the Biden administration's ideas regarding a "return to origins" in Middle East issues did not address the issue of the embassy. In practice, awareness of this very sensitive issue with regard to our national interests has been raised, and it has been bypassed to review the US administration on other measures that it promised to implement decisively in the direction of correcting the imbalance caused by the Trump administration's policies and procedures related to the Palestinian issue, including the reopening of both the Representative Office of the PLO in Washington and the US Consulate in Jerusalem.

Naturally, none of this took place, and procrastination became dominant under various pretexts, centered in one way or another on recognizing the difficulty of implementing any American measure that contradicts Israel's desire. Sometimes the delay is due to the sensitivity of the situation regarding the negotiations to return to the nuclear agreement with Iran, and sometimes to the need to ensure that the ruling coalition in Israel does not disintegrate. Thus, the procrastination continues, and will continue even if the aforementioned facts change, due to domestic American political considerations, the essence of which lies in the difficulty of taking any action that contradicts the desire of the Israeli government. There are many examples of this, the most recent of which, and it will not be the last, was represented in a statement by the official spokesman of the US State Department last week that was only intended to distance Israel from any criminal, or even moral, responsibility for the martyrdom of Shirin Abu Aqlah.

Regarding the reopening of the consulate, despite the growing feeling amongst the ruling Democratic Party of the need to take a firmer stance on Israel's excesses, prominent members of the party, including the Senate Majority Leader, are vehemently opposed to this measure. And so, time and time again, the Palestinians have to be patient and understand. The question is: “For how much longer?”

The time has come for the US administration to start thinking that the difficulty of dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli issue is not exclusive to Israel. Specifically, I suggest that the Palestinians should ask the US President, after he has finished playing the "This is difficult and this is more difficult" card, to initiate a request to his foreign minister to cancel the two decisions taken by the former Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. The first of them was the one in November 2019 declaring that Israeli settlements are not considered inconsistent with international law, and the second one in November 2020 marked the exports of Israeli settlements to the United States as products of Israeli origin, which means that it is from the actual Israeli annexation of occupied Palestinian land.

Even if Biden adopts this demand, and I do not think that he will do so despite the ease of the required procedure and despite the fact that it indicates a deed, not just a word. Regarding the direction of "returning to the origins,” we must realize that any real effort in the direction of making matters difficult for the Palestinians must start by refraining from expecting any serious transformation in our favor if we do not start with all seriousness and determination to work on "uprooting our thorns with our own hands." This is a requirement that has become known to all. This means serious striving to achieve unity, first with the Palestinians, and then with the Arab brothers. It also means respecting the principle that the people are the owner of the jurisdiction and that respecting their will, rights and freedoms is the fortress of their leadership and the justification for its existence, and it is the only source of its legitimacy.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.