The Need for Bravery and Frankness Before the Peace Option

Of course, the Syrian government has the right to make the recovery of the Golan Heights a priority, whether through peaceful negotiations with Israel or liberating the area through armed resistance. Certainly, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is right when he said, "I'm the president of Syria and not the president of Palestine, and I have to work for the interest of my country. It's important to see the Palestinians regarding their rights and their land, but this is not a comprehensive peace." For peace to become comprehensive, it doesn't require making things conditional on the Israeli-Palestinian peace track. The Palestinian leadership doesn't need competition when it comes to ending the Israeli occupation of Arab territory; it is going to try to make the biggest possible efforts through policies of renewal and self-criticism, unlike the Syrian leadership. The government in Damascus adheres to its old-fashioned feelings of threats, anger and desire for revenge whenever there is interest or international movement regarding the Palestinian track, as if it's determined to mortgage Palestine and the suffering of its people to when the Golan is completely liberated, and as it justifies mortgaging the Shebaa Farms in Lebanon, as a ransom for the Golan, after the Lebanese track was no longer under the control of Damascus. With such "logic," the Syrian leadership uses the Palestinian resistance and the Lebanese resistance as a cover for not allowing or not being ready for a resistance in Syria. Because the new and important phase of Arab and Muslim movement toward convincing the administration of George W Bush to work hard on establishing a Palestinian state, it is the duty of the Syrian government, as well as Arab people who belong to the "rejectionists," to decide. If the Palestinian issue is an Arab issue and an issue of Muslims, as it has been told to generations of people who were deprived of education and a normal life in the name of the Palestinian cause, then it should be made the top priority.

The Palestinian issue, as championed by governments in Syria and elsewhere as part of resistance and Arabism, has become, in reality, a tool used to justify the inability to act, and a way to engage in bargaining, at the expense of the suffering of Palestinians under occupation. "The right to respond to an Israeli aggression," as the Syrian president told the BBC recently, is a right whose time has come to put into practice, if the response is to a 30-day old attack or a 30-year old occupation. Justifying the lack of a response by saying that you don't want to "destroy any chance of peace" is the latest trick in a series of such maneuvers by the Syrian regime. The Palestinian leadership, represented by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, is responding to the occupation with steps and programs that are meant to get rid of the occupation. This leadership resists, using the language, rights and aspirations of the people to the rule of law, unlike those who use the language of resistance to numb people and exploit them.

The two languages cannot meet, whether now, or later. It is an option based on the existential logic that is adopted by the two sides. One side believes that the reality of the Palestinian issue requires dealing with the world on the basis of openness, and not on the options of others. This is the team that will re-define struggle and scream in the face of the "nationalist" and religious extremist camps, and dare to drop the mask from the face of the resistance, or drop the slogan of the resistance, since it isn't available. The other team adopts rejectionism as a slogan, without presenting a program for afterward. It is a team of destroy first, then we'll see. More importantly, it is a team that uses the Israeli occupation of Arab land as a pretext for avoiding explanations of who it truly is, what it's offering, and what it wants. It is the usual kind of authoritarian group, in the sense of using force, anger and popular disgust to achieve ideological ends or the interests of allies, with regional aspirations of hegemony. There is no point in seeing a debate between the two sides. There's no need to waste time at this juncture. All of the talk about dialogue, reconciliation and accord is unrealistic, and just for consumption. It's a civil war, in the best of scenarios.

The same is true in Palestine, where the war also uses contradictory voices - the language of destruction versus the language of construction. The language of partnership versus the language of dictates. The language of poetry and music versus the language of curses and shouting.

The platform of the 13th Palestinian Government's 13th, which was presented recently by Palestinian PM Salam Fayad, speaks the language of Fairuz when it speaks of Jerusalem, calling it "the city of prayer." It's a platform that proves the impossibility of dialogue between the PA and Hamas, which was a movement that became a government, and now a faction. It's impossible for Salam Fayad - or Mahmoud Abbas - to be part of a formula in which Hamas is a part, as long as Hamas resumes its commitment. Such a discussion is possible between Hamas and Fatah, since it can deal with the strange contradictions in its ranks. But there is no common ground for such a discussion between the government of Fayad and the Hamas faction; each one is in its own world.

There might be more to fear from Fatah than Hamas, since Fatah wants to regain power from the government of technocrats headed by Fayyad, through a Fatah coup, while the Hamas coup has become more difficult at the present time. Each group is opposed to what Fayyad's government is doing, since the latter believes in renewal and visions, and removes the traditional domination by both movements of the Palestinians and the mortgaging of this people in the name of the resistance. The government's 13th platform is a document that deserves to be read because it is the most advanced political program in the entire Middle East.

The platform talks about peace, not as a strategic option, but as a "necessity imposed by current political conditions and international relations." It talks about "support for the city of Jerusalem, since it is the eternal capital of the Palestinian people," just as the language of confrontation with Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal capital. The platform reminds us, upon reading it, of a Palestinian whose name was linked to Jerusalem and failed to convince the Arabs of how to support it, the late Faisal Husseini, who screamed: Come to Jerusalem in order to save it.

This platform talks about Jerusalem as "a city of peace, tolerance and worship open to indigenous Palestinians, and all human beings without walls or roadblocks." It talks about the need to "revive the political, cultural and economic status of Jerusalem through revitalization of its institutions and economy by creating jobs, construction of housing units, and by improving the competitiveness of its services and products. This is liable to enhance the residents of Jerusalem steadfastness while confronting the schemes of settlements activities and migration."

In discussing the political prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons, providing security, anchoring the rule of law, maintaining only "legitimate" arms (under the concept of one source of legitimate weapons and one law), the platform discusses the need to "enhance the rule of law and preserve the judicial system's independent standing," in order to ensure the principle of "the rule of law and justice." It speaks about fighting "corruption, nepotism and favoritism" and the need to "pay attention to the individuals with special needs."

In the language of this platform, the refugee camps are not a nest in which victims are transformed into wrath, masked in angry weapons. This platform talks about promoting agricultural activities and protecting agricultural products, and about promoting the concept and practice of good citizenship. The platform dares to talk about "building a clear cut strategy to fight all practices centered on accusing "others" of atheism and/or treason, combating the exploitation of religion to achieve political gains by groups or individuals, and enhancing the status of Islam as a religion of tolerance and moderation while preventing the use of Islam to justify killings, exclusion of others and destruction." It is must reading for governments and NGOs, as well as the rejectionists, so that they can take notice.

At this juncture, the salvation from Israeli occupation will not come through armed resistance. If the Syrian government wants to make armed resistance a true, strategic and serious option, for it and the Arabs, it should take the decision to activate the Syrian-Israeli front and open it to the resistance, in order to liberate the Golan, Palestine and the Shebaa Farms, whether the latter is Lebanese or Syrian. Damascus' use of the resistance as a drum to beat, via Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, serves as a commotion that shifts attention away from the Syrian regime's abandonment of resistance to liberate its territory. When Damascus promotes the Lebanese resistance, it's nothing more than a Syrian government policy based on bringing down the Lebanese state and preventing its army from carrying out its missions. The goal of this is to enable Hizbullah and the Palestinian factions and other non-Lebanese militias from Lebanon, and at the expense of the country's sovereignty. The "logic of resistance" has been used as a card in order to concentrate on "the logic of negotiations," which reminds us of the emperor having no clothes. The question that needs to be raised is: why is the Syrian resistance absent, or "made to be absent," while the government in Damascus makes the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance into a national program for Syria?

Liberating the Golan must be a sovereign decision of Syria, whether through resistance or negotiation, and this is precisely the way that Syria should deal with Palestinian decisions. When the Syrian president says that he won't attend a "fall conference" which is expected to be convened near Washington DC next month, since it will concentrate on a Israeli-Palestinian peace and "this is not connected to the Palestinians alone," he is saying that the Palestinian issue is not a central one, and does not constitute the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In fact, he is acknowledging that his regime is unconcerned with helping achieve a Palestinian-Israeli settlement. Thus, he talked about the possibility of Syria attending if the goal of the meeting involves this accomplishment. "As long as our occupied land is not under consideration, the answer is no."

Why no? Why doesn't the Syrian leadership feel comfortable about supporting a meeting that is based on establishing a Palestinian state and enshrining the principle of two states? The Syrian president says that "Syria cannot attend if there is no discussion of occupied Syrian territory." It's very strange for the Syrian president to stipulate that the conference be about "achieving a comprehensive peace" to include Syria, as if he is objecting to American and international interest in establishing a Palestinian state. If Damascus were to decide to overturn its mentality and surprise everyone by attending a conference for the sake of Palestine, perhaps it would be able to prepare the ground and generate similar support for a subsequent conference, on the Golan Heights. Certainly, the people of the Golan have the right to throw off occupation, no less so than the people of Palestine; however, this dueling when it comes to the Palestinian and Syrian negotiation tracks with Israel is unbecoming of any Arab government, especially Damascus, which uses the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance, with no apologies to anyone.

The decision by Syria to attend or stay away from an international conference devoted to establishing a Palestinian state is a sovereign decision, in any case. At its heart, this issue involves attempt to block progress toward treating the Palestinian issue by ending the occupation. At first, the objection involved Syria's exclusion from the conference. Then it was said that invitations would be issued to Arab states, including Syria, and the objection became one of the reference points of this conference. Then it was a complaint about the Palestinian Authority's approval of attending a conference devoted to the Palestinian issue. Of course, if the goal of the conference merely involves avoiding blame for the US administration's failure to carry out the commitments announced by President George W Bush in his address, during his first term, on a "vision" for establishing a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel, then it would be better not to see such a conference take place. At the present juncture, a failed conference would not only kill the "vision," but would also bring considerable harm to the Palestinians, Arab moderates, Arab states that support moderation, the PA, and the US, both in terms of its government and its people.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his foreign minister, Tzipi Livni continue to hedge on their commitment to the framework and time-tables necessary to implement the commitments and establish a Palestinian state next to Israel. For her part, Livni did not address the UN this week using a language of honesty regarding this historic moment. She said that she wanted the Arab and Islamic worlds to "offer support, and not set down conditions," calling for "deepening cooperation and regional ties between the Arab world and Israel, in parallel with our achieving progress on Palestinian-Israeli peace." The parallelism must not involve achieving progress toward peace, but should be based on this fact, now. This means that any parallel movement should involve deepening cooperation and regional ties and beginning the implementation of steps on the ground to create a Palestinian state. The language of "progress," "process," "political horizon," and "peace" is vague and people have become fed up with such talk, which is linked to the impression in the Arab and Islamic worlds that this rhetoric is aimed at seeing Israel avoid dealing with reality.

The truth is that there is no way that Israel can continue to hedge when it comes to peace, through hiding behind high-sounding sentences and expressions that are empty of a serious commitment to ending the occupation. The formula is quite easy: end the occupation. The parallel movement should involve regional ties with Israel and measures to end settlement, and halting the construction of the separation wall, which eats up Palestinian territory. There is no getting around this, and there is no need to play games with the negotiation tracks, Israeli-style.

To be completely clear and simple about it, the success or failure of this conference won't be the end of the story. Israel won't win, and won't enjoy security as long it remains a state based on occupation, which refutes its argument that it is democratic. The nationalist-rejectionist front will not liberate Palestine as long as it uses the resistance as a slogan for inciting resistance and then avoiding it. Realistically speaking, there is no clear, logical and effective option, one that is in the interest of all of the concerned parties, except ending the occupation that began in 1967. It will liberate the Arabs from occupation, the Israelis from the complex of being under siege, and the Americans from the Israeli burden, which threatens the US national interest if Israel continues to reject peace and the steps needed to achieve it. Between the Arab claim of resistance and the Israeli claim of readiness for peace, there is an open space for being honest and confronting things; George Bush is not the sole and final address for such an effort. The title of such frankness with one's self, and this challenge to one's self, is the self itself.

For this reason, pursuing a policy of renewal, along with self-criticism, is the most patriotic and national policy possible, and is the true resistance that will lead to ending the occupation.

(Translation: Lina Hamdan - DarAlHayat.Com)