But these bold steps might yet be another ploy to gain international support for a negotiated settlement towards creating a Palestinian state. That would not be surprising. Ever since the 1988 Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Algiers Declaration of statehood on the post-1967 territories, Abbas has been part of a Palestinian movement whose raison d’être was the attainment of that aim. Supported by a substantial body of Palestinian opinion, the two-state solution articulated this aspiration for decades.
To see it now under terminal threat by Israel’s annexation is alarming for its supporters. In Gaza and the West Bank they have reacted with calls for a resumption of the armed struggle; there is a fresh attempt at unity between the main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, to confront Israel. The political discourse is all about Palestinian statehood.
Yet, decades of experience should have shown that none of these past strategies has been effective against Israel’s steady advance on Palestinian land and rights. Only a new plan, one that takes account of the reality of the Palestinian position today, can work.
Not since the Nakba of 1948, have Palestinians been so weak. The Arab world, that was traditionally their support base, has changed. A hitherto unthinkable rapprochement between several Arab Gulf states and Israel has been growing in recent years, despite Israel’s ongoing oppression of the Palestinians. Egypt’s cruel blockade of Gaza, augmenting Israel’s, is unremitting.
In addition, there are suggestions of a weariness with Palestine’s cause amongst ordinary Arabs, perhaps not surprising for what seems an endless and insoluble conflict. By contrast, international popular support for the Palestinians has been growing, especially in Europe and America. The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign is a major part of that and may lead somewhere eventually. But it will take too long to rescue what remains of Palestine.
Israel, in comparison, is at the zenith of its power, wealthy, well-armed, and strongly backed by western states. It enjoys an exceptional international status that absolves it of accountability for whatever violations of law it commits, including the proposed annexation. The power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinians could hardly be starker, and makes a mockery of any peace plan not on Israel’s terms ever succeeding.