'What Could One Point to as an Achievement for the Palestinian Authority?' Interview with Ben Fishman

Published June 26th, 2019 - 12:12 GMT
Interview with Ben Fishman
Interview with Ben Fishman

“There's a debate about whether the goal of the Trump initiative, as articulated by Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, is to isolate the Palestinian leadership, which they feel is not serving the Palestinian people, and to go directly above their heads to the Palestinian population. The punitive steps that the administration has employed have not necessarily proven to change the dynamic on the peace efforts.”

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For weeks and weeks, the world has been anticipating America’s so-called “deal of the century.” With the Bahrain dress rehearsal beginning today, DC Insider spoke with Ben Fishman, a Senior Fellow in The Washington Institute's Geduld Program on Arab Politics, to cover all the set bases.


“The administration [has] pursued all kinds of punitive measures against the Palestinians; not only the elimination of aid- there’s the removal of the PLO office in Washington, the embassy move in Jerusalem, and many other things,” Fishman explained regarding U.S.-Israel efforts to negotiate with the Palestinians.”

“The premise to all of these steps was not to necessarily pressure the Palestinian leadership to go back to the negotiating table, but to reflect what the administration viewed as the Palestinians’ unwillingness to negotiate. Obviously, the Palestinians have a very different view over these issues.”

The administration [has] pursued all kinds of punitive measures against the Palestinians

In the past several months, the U.S. has been continuously pressuring the Palestinians into returning to the negotiating table due to their ‘unwillingness’ by cutting off nearly all funding to the Palestinians, but has that unwillingness changed? From Fishman’s viewpoint, it hasn’t.

“No, it has just been further embedded. They're not going to deal with the Americans under the circumstances, but also not with the Israelis during this election season.”

However, four of Israel’s Arab parties decided to unite for the upcoming elections in the past week. Ayman Odeh, the group’s potential leader, stated that it was a mistake to run individually and that they’re now prepared for “national unity.” 

In regards to the PA, Fishman believes that it has never been of much assistance to the Palestinian people:

“Look at their record. What could one point to as an achievement for the Palestinians Authority? What can one point to in terms of governance in the West Bank? They may defend themselves by pointing to the current lack of revenue and lack of assistance, but they haven't taken their own initiatives, unlike in years past when Salam Farhat was the prime minister and did make some significant developments.”

“Look at their record. What could one point to as an achievement for the Palestinians Authority? What can one point to in terms of governance in the West Bank? 

Significant developments are most needed now considering the fact that Israel continues to illegally occupy further Palestinian land while blatantly ignoring international law- including not following through with the ceasefire that was agreed upon. According to Fishman, the disruption of the ceasefire shouldn’t be blamed on Israel. 

“The escalations are primarily the response of Hamas. Israel definitely doesn't want a ground war again in Gaza and it’s not in Hamas’ interest, either… That was one of the triggers of the last round of Israeli elections. Ultimately, it's extremely complicated to formalize a ceasefire.”

Meanwhile, with all the recent developments, it has become quite clear that the U.S. is doing all that it can to cozy up to Israel, including the bizarre and irrational decision for U.S. President Donald Trump to name a settlement [in the Golan Heights] after him.

“Netanyahu wants to convey his closeness to the administration, specially Trump, and it's clear that his posters and advertisements from the previous campaign season focus on this relationship… It went both ways because shortly before the elections in Israel, the U.S. recognized the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. 
 

Israel definitely doesn't want a ground war again in Gaza and it’s not in Hamas’ interest, either…

“I'm not sure whether or not Trump is going to take such an active role in endorsing Netanyahu this time around because of what happened last time. However, politicizing the US-Israel relationship on either side, whether it's Trump as a Republican or Netanyahu as candidate for prime minister, is dangerous for the broader relationship.”

Factually, the Golan Heights was seized by Israel from Syria during the 1867 Middle East War, yet here we are… Do all these signs point to a “deal of the century” or the end of the Palestinians?

It might be useful to explore hypothetical development plans for Palestinian cities, but it’s hard to do that without the other track being visible in the dialogue.”

 “The authors of the peace plan have not clarified whether the end state involves a two-state solution and haven’t clarified whether the ideal end state is a Palestinian state and so there’s extreme skepticism among the Palestinian public. Starting with this economic approach should be good in theory, but I’m very sympathetic to the viewpoint of the Palestinians whom don’t want to be perceived as being bought off by promises of economic assistance. It might be useful to explore hypothetical development plans for Palestinian cities, but it’s hard to do that without the other track being visible in the dialogue.”

Ben Fishman is a Senior Fellow at The Washington Institute's Geduld Program on Arab Politics. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Al Bawaba News.


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