Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas has recently delivered the most impassioned speech of his long and often dispassionate career. Many are suggesting that the speech was a prelude to the long serving President’s retirement as Abbas included the phrase “This may be the last time that you see me here”.
If this is Abbas’s swan song, it will leave many Palestinians asking why he did not adopt such a defiant and patriotic tone in previous statements. Mahmoud Abbas’s tenure as Palestinian President has generally been characterised as a series of disappointments, unanswered betrayals and a lingering sense of hopelessness. Abbas’s often lethargic rhetoric only added sand to the fire.
In this latest statement however, Abbas seemed to transform himself from a king without a crown into a true leader of the Palestinian Resistance, one who rejects the crimes of “Israel” without apology and furthermore, one who said of the American regime, what countless Palestinians say about Washington on a daily basis.
Abbas even indicated that Palestine may be on the verge of abandoning support for the so-called “two-state solution” which aims to legitimise the Zionist occupation of over half of Palestine’s legally defined 1947 borders. To-date, the Oslo Accords of 1993 are the most clear set of agreements in which Palestine signed up for, an often humiliating process designed to pave the way for an internationally recognised Palestinian state based on the lines of occupation which existed between 1949 and 1967.
In his speech however, Abbas stated, “I am saying that Oslo, there is no Oslo. Israel ended Oslo. We are an authority without any power and under an occupation without any cost. We will not accept it remaining like this”.
While “Israel” has consistently failed to withdraw from Palestinian territory in-line with the Oslo Accords and furthermore, refuses to engage in negotiations about illegal Zionist settlements as well as the status of Al-Quds, Palestine’s leadership and Abbas in particular has remained publicly and privately committed to the process set forth in the Oslo Accords.
While many Palestinian political leaders accepted the principle of a “two-state solution” prior to 1993, it was the Oslo Accords that formally officiated this position at an international level as it was at Oslo that Palestine formally recognised the existence of the “Israeli” regime for the first time.
In rejecting Oslo in vague but deeply powerful language, Abbas may be setting the stage for himself or perhaps a future Palestinian President to renounce the “two-state solution” and re-adopt the historical position of Fatah and the consummate position of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, that only the full reforestation of Palestine from the River Jordan to the Red Sea will be considered an acceptable solution to the grave injustice of occupation.
Turning to the US, Abbas firmly rejected Washington’s role as a possible mediator in the strongest language he has ever used when speaking about the United States.
“Any future negotiations will take place only within the context of the international community, by an international committee created in the framework of an international conference. Allow me to be clear: We will not accept American leadership of a political process involving negotiations.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is a settler who is opposed to the term occupation. He is an offensive human being, and I will not agree to meet with him anywhere. They requested that I meet him and I refused, not in Jerusalem, not in Amman, not in Washington. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley too, she threatens to hit people who hurt Israel with the heel of her shoe, and we’ll respond in the same way”.
He went on to detail Palestine’s retrospectively useless sacrifices for the sake of peace in the following way,
“At Camp David, they attempted a preposterous exercise. They told the Americans that we were ready to give up the right of return, 13 percent of the West Bank, and provide a Jewish prayer space at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Our stance is a Palestinian State in the ’67 borders with a capital in East Jerusalem and the implementation of decisions by the international community, as well as a just solution for refugees.We are for the national struggle, which is more effective because there is no one else we can rely on.
The Americans asked us not to join the 22 organizations including the International Criminal Court. We told them that we wouldn’t join, as long as they don’t close the PLO offices in Washington, don’t move their embassy to Jerusalem, and freeze building in the settlements. They didn’t agree, and as such, we’re not obligated to any agreements. We will join those organizations.
We accepted 86 decisions in the UN Security Council for the Palestinians, and none of them were implemented. Another 46 were vetoed by the Americans.
Israel has imported frightening amounts of drugs in order to destroy our younger generation. We must be careful, and for this reason we created an authority for fighting drugs, and are investing a lot in sport, mostly in soccer. We already passed Israel in FIFA.
We will publish a blacklist of 150 companies who work with the settlements, and will publish the names of dozens of people suspected of bribery to INTERPOL.
Prisoners and their family members are our sons, and we will continue to give them stipends.
The families of Palestinians killed have the right to turn to the International Criminal Court and to demand justice from the international community.
We won’t accept what the U.S. tries to impose upon us, and we won’t accept them as a mediator.
We will not be an authority without authority, and an occupation without a cost.
We will defend our achievements in the international community and locally, and we will continue to fight against terror, and struggle non-violently. We will join all political processes, led by the international community, toward the end of the occupation”.
Abbas’s remark about Israel trafficking drugs into Palestine in order to destroy the youth, is a deeply important statement as this problem has been burning for years and has scarcely been addressed by the wider international community. Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, drugs have been used to poison young people, including in Libya and Takfiri occupied regions of Syria and Iraq.
He continued, slamming the US plan, as conveyed by the Saudi leadership to Abbas, to make the comparatively unimportant city of Abu Dis the capital of Palestine, which would effectively force Palestine to surrender Al-Quds to the occupier.
He then turned to the Saudi dominated Arab League and stated,
“The Arab League’s foreign minister accused the Palestinians of not protesting sufficiently against Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. We are a people who went out for non-violent protests following Trump’s recognition [of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital], and the result was 20 dead, more than 5000 wounded, and over 1000 arrested, and they have the gall to say that the Palestinian people didn’t go out into the streets.
I say to the minister, that if he really wants to help the Palestinian people, support us, and give us a real hand. If not, you can all go to hell”.
Abbas then reiterated the longstanding demand for Britain to apologise for the Balfour Declaration before cursing Donald Trump and his family personally for the injustice wrought by them upon Palestine. After reiterating his rejection of Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” which would see Palestine deprived of Al-Quds, he addressed Trump directly and said “May God demolish your house”, which in the context of Arabic amounts to a curse upon Trump and his family to suffer the same injustices and homelessness as millions of Palestinians.
Predictably the Zionist media has criticised Abbas’s speech for the same reason that they criticise any Arab leader who dares speak up for the rights of his people. More importantly though, many pro-Palestinian outlets have criticised Abbas’s speech for being “too little—too late”. In particular, many, including Hamas, have accused Abbas of empty words because he did not propose a new way forward having rejected the Oslo Accords and accompanying (long stalled) peace process.
These criticisms fail to grasp the central point of Abbas’s speech. His words were a combination of decades of pent up anger that at long last, were expressed in a justified tirade against oppression and the allies of oppression. Furthermore, in leaving the future open to discussion, Abbas is allowing a would-be successor to frame the next stage of the Palestinian struggle for justice on his own terms, rather than locking him into a process that due to the rapidly changing nature of events on the ground, may not offer the flexibility any new leader ought to be equipped with.
Finally, his speech was a kind of mea culpa, in which Abbas finally became the leader Palestine needed, albeit, too late to redeem years of surrendering Palestinian dignity for hopes of a half-baked peace that has now been rejected by the regimes in Washington and Tel Aviv in the most overt fashion imaginable. In this sense, Abbas seems increasingly content with the reality that he will not be able to resurrect his legacy but that future leaders will be able to resurrect a more earnest and straightforward Palestinian struggle, one which doesn’t bargain away land in the hope of receiving the bare bones of a “state” while losing almost all that generations of Palestinians have given life and limb for.
The greatest mistake of Abbas and indeed of Yasser Arafat in his final decade, was believing that the US could somehow act as a genuine mediator rather than what it always was: a country interesting in pursuing a Zionist agenda that often cloaked itself in a deceptive veil of impartiality in order to psychologically neuter the Palestinian resistance. Investing such hopes in the United States were always futile from an objective perspective and now, the crassness and brazenly pro-Zionist habits of the Trump regime, bring this reality to the fore in ways that are far more obvious than under Trump’s three predecessors.
The only just solution for Palestine is a one state solution, one where all people have the right to exist, but where a colonial regime does not. The only solution is for Palestinians to be re-enfranchised on their own land and achieve that which was always their destiny: to form an independent Arab republic in the wake of what for Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Lebanon was a post-colonial period, but what for Palestine remains a colonial period which continues over a century after the Sykes-Picot agreement was signed by the two largest imperial powers of western Europe.
Palestine has suffered under a colonial occupation for longer than any other Arab state. Only a full emancipation of the land and people can rectify this ongoing injustice.