As some sort of normality — albeit a uniquely Palestinian kind of normality — settles in the West Bank following the Israeli invasion in March and the atrocities at Jenin, there is a growing sense that Palestine is at another crossroads, another stage at which the struggle for freedom and self-determination makes a new start in a new direction. Even as the world gives thanks for a ‘quiet’ period in Palestine, however, people are continuing to die daily, and the Zionists and their allies are laying their strategies for continuing the expansion of the lands they occupy and control, and for the expulsion of the Palestinians from those territories they still have.
As has been the case for most of the last 55 years, the pace and direction of the Palestinian struggle is again likely to be determined not by the Palestinians but by their enemies. Israel met massive resistance to the invasion, and failed to drive many Palestinians out of the West Bank, as they clearly intended. But that was only part of the plan, and other parts have succeeded far better. What the Israelis have done by their aggression is create a new reality on the ground in Palestine. The Oslo arrangement by which the Palestinian Authority was supposed to have complete authority and control over a part of Palestine, which could be presented as some sort of Palestinian ‘state’, has been totally superseded by an effective division not on territorial but on functional grounds. Israel has asserted its right to control the whole of the West Bank militarily, entering any area at will, and controlling all entry points and transit routes, while the Palestinian Authority is left as a subordinate local authority with limited administrative functions — basically to stand between the Israeli rulers and their Palestinian subjects, and to clean up after the Israelis whenever they decide to throw their weight around, break some furniture and kill some more people.
This is the situation that the Israelis would like to consolidate by some sort of interim political settlement that would officially be pending a resumption of the peace process, but would actually be pending Israel’s next move to further its interests and control. The expectation is that the Palestinians’ enthusiasm for resistance will blow itself out, and that the Israeli invasion will have crushed their defiance. The world is now preparing to formalise their defeat through a international political initiative of some sort, perhaps through a body including the US, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.
The Palestinians have long since resigned themselves to the reality that they can expect nothing from the international community or the sole superpower that controls it. Whether Washington’s policies are decided in Tel Aviv, or Israel’s in Washington, is a moot point; the reality is that there is no meaningful distinction between them. No one expects the US to be neutral or objective; all it brings to the table is the threat of power, exercised in support of Israel. One thing the Palestinians have shown over the years, however, is that they are not cowed by power, or broken by force. Whatever political initiative the world may be planning, this spirit of resistance and defiance is likely to prove the dominant reality in Palestine yet again.