OPINION: Time for Palestinians to adapt to the new reality
by Khalid Abou Zahr
They should start by unifying their leadership, agreeing on a road map to peace, and renouncing violence and terrorism.
I remember being in the US in early March 2017, soon after President Donald Trump was elected. At the time, Daesh’s presence in Syria and Iraq was the biggest geopolitical worry. During a meeting with the founder of a private equity firm I had just met — he had no particular interest in the region beyond security implications for his home country — we discussed this topic.
As the discussion went on, I explained the situation in Syria, the regime’s role, and delved into all the main issues in the Middle East and how they correlate, from Iran’s influence to the dangers of youth unemployment. Following about 10 minutes of me speaking, he interrupted and asked a simple question: So, what is the solution? I must admit that it caught me off guard and I was not able to answer for a good minute.
At that moment, I realized that we have been facing so many issues in the Middle East that we stopped thinking of solutions. The Arab world has become, from kindergarten onwards, a land of geopolitical experts, but we are all mostly like Western economists, who can explain a crisis after it happens but not find a solution or predict the next problem.
Discussing the Palestinian issue and the peace process is exactly like this. Many reasons can explain the situation, such as the failed peace initiatives, repeated mistakes by the Palestinians, the divisions in the leadership, etc. All of this and a bigger focus on domestic issues by citizens and leaderships in the Arab world have made the Palestinian situation a topic and less of a regional cause for which you search for a solution.
Therefore, the question I would like to start asking is not what is the solution, but what do the Palestinian leaders want? What do they consider a victory What is their objective?
Fatah does not want victory for its people, it wants to keep receiving subsidies — this is victory for its leaders. As for Hamas, it seems that its leaders are not looking for victory either. Despite their useless screams of destroying Israel, they know very well that they will never achieve this. What they aim to create is the concept of perpetual martyrs. It is not important for them to achieve for their people, it is important for them to keep the will of sacrifice going, and this means more Palestinians deaths, more misery and more losses. This line of thought resonates well with both the Iranian mullahs and the Ottoman brotherhood.
So, in this perspective, what is the solution for a better life for Palestinians? How do we make sure they can live in peace and security? How do we make sure Palestinian children have access to electricity, water, education, and health care? I cannot say I have the answer, but I can provide a beginning, which starts with accepting a new reality and adapting.
One thing I wish Palestinians would understand is that those who scream oppression, injustice, apartheid and call for the boycott of Israel on their behalf live comfortably and their children are safe and go to nice schools. They will move on and have a nice cappuccino with almond milk as soon as they are done writing their Facebook post in support of the Palestinian struggle. But they will do nothing for them.
All they do is make themselves feel better and grant themselves a judgmental status. Once again, this line of thoughts runs through the mullahs in Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the left-wing movements in the West. All three claim to pursue equality and justice, but their leadership is strangely always more equal than others.
Palestinians should instead focus on the new reality that was first presented to them by Jared Kushner. I argued then that the Palestinians should accept the dialogue and seek to enhance, in the best possible way, what was originally offered — and this time take the deal. The deal was not about justice for the land but a better future and better lives: A new starting point with stability and peace.
At the time, I made a comparison between the Palestinian cause and what are known in the business world as zombie companies. A zombie company is one that no longer generates revenues but, instead of being shut down by its stakeholders, is kept alive and financed at a continuous loss. In that sense, the Palestinian cause has become a zombie cause.
However, prior to reaching an agreement with Israel — no matter what form it takes or however unfair or unjust it is — the Palestinians should start by unifying their leadership, agreeing on a road map to peace, and renouncing violence and terrorism. Unfortunately, if they were to choose Hamas’ road map, which refuses peace and whose stated objective is to destroy Israel, then they would end up even more isolated.
Not only would they be at odds with the Arab countries, but they would also continue to be the tools of the Iranians one day and the Turks another. Their suffering would not stop and would be traded as commodities by these powers.
At the time of Kushner’s deal, I was criticized by some for putting the obligation on the oppressed instead of the oppressor. My answer was clear: When, since the beginning of history, have we seen the oppressor, or the stronger party, forfeit what they acquired? And why would they?
In the current situation, I see no events that could change the balance of power to the advantage of the Palestinians and get them better conditions — not now or in the coming 50 years. All I see is a continuous downward trend that will only keep on accelerating.
After decades of unconditional support, each Arab country is now moving ahead in pursuit of its own national interests and those of its citizens. They have the right to do so and the Palestinians should do the same.
The Palestinians have been dealt awful cards; they have suffered and will continue to suffer if they do not adapt to the new reality. This is undeniable. Yet their leadership is misleading them. A courageous leader is one who speaks the truth to his people, who clearly states what is achievable, and ultimately gives a better life to his citizens and agrees to the best deal possible. It is time for the Palestinians to reset their objectives. The world is different, with wars being fought for data and cyberspace, hence a small land with bright minds and resolve can make Palestine unmissable.
The Palestinians have the power and capacity to do so. This should be the goal of their leadership: To create a land of entrepreneurs and free thinkers.
Unfortunately, for now, the main wind being blown at the Palestinians is extremism and socialism. These both present bad solutions and the wrong thoughts, but the misery and oppression in Palestine make it a fertile ground. This should also be understood by the US and the Israelis.
I doubt the current leadership is interested in finding a solution. It seems that Hamas is now focused on making a successful move into the West Bank with the support of Iran and/or Turkey. It is not in a hurry to make the lives of Palestinians better, but it is in a hurry to see the end of Fatah so that it can attempt to take over the West Bank. For Hamas, this is the solution, and it would also be a good one for the Israelis. Maybe Palestinians will change the game and look out for themselves.
Piece first published on Arab News.
Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.