The dangerous Palestinian VIP class

Mahmoud Abbas's Israeli VIP permit

By Jamal Kanj

The Palestinian Authority (PA) must stop demeaning its people. One can understand being fooled once or even twice, but being fooled over and again every three to four years for the last 20 years is just going overboard.

It becomes a bit annoying to continue hearing cries from the same “deceived” Palestinian leaders, repeating empty threats in response to Israeli intransigence and lies.

I heard it directly from several senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) officials that if the current negotiations fail to reach an agreement by 29 April, the PA was prepared to join UN organizations. They spoke specifically of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Early in April Israel broke a nine-month-old agreement by refusing to release the final batch of Palestinian “hostages” as it agreed to with the US secretary of state, John Kerry, last July. Half-heartedly, the PA submitted applications to join 15 UN organizations.

Toothless measures

Half-heartedly, because the token measure ratified accords obligating the PA to fulfil UN conventions, none of which could have empowered the PA to put an end to Israel’s wanton disregard of international law.

The decision to endorse UN treaties such as Protocol 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and conventions on corruption, the rights of the child, civil and political rights, consular affairs, etc. was most likely to mollify rising internal frustrations with the sham negotiations. It was not directed at Israel and this might explains the US’s muted displeasure with the toothless measures.

Now the PA is disingenuously leaking out information about dismantling itself and turning over its role of managing the occupation to Israel.

Israel and Martin Indyk, the former America Israel Public Affair Committee (AIPAC) official who is mediating the talks on America’s behalf, understand very well that the PA’s threats are for local political consumption just like the inconsequential move to join irrelevant UN organizations.

It is mind boggling that the PA expects others to take its threats seriously. Shouldn’t it first take other steps such as ending security coordination to protect Israel’s illegal settlers? How about joining relevant UN organizations like ICC or endorsing Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention – which Israel is blatantly violating – instead of signing the worthless protocol one.

“The grovelling Oslo-created Palestinian VIP class”

The lack of seriousness displayed by the PA towards Israeli deception and lies can also be seen in its own officials. Take, for instance, the self-proclaimed Palestinian “chief” negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who publicly resigned more than a month ago, ostensibly in protest at the lack of progress in the peace talk. In reality, however, he was incensed by informal parallel secret negotiations conducted with Israel behind his back.

…Palestinian VIP club members do not experience the reality of occupation and have for the most part enjoyed this status since the establishment of the PA in 1994, as long as Israel was content with their performance.

He backed off once assured of his role as the main collaborator. Interestingly, though, he did not seem bothered enough to resign after Israel failed to carry out a feeble agreement he himself negotiated last July.

It is not just Israel’s disregard for international law, but this type of Palestinian leadership, which lacks self respect, which represent the biggest threat to the future of Palestine. It is the grovelling Oslo-created Palestinian VIP class.

VIP passes are renewable benefits bestowed by the Israeli army to supposedly facilitate the movement of Palestinian officials. Obviously, Palestinian VIP club members do not experience the reality of occupation and have for the most part enjoyed this status since the establishment of the PA in 1994, as long as Israel was content with their performance.

Live like ordinary Palestinians

To be taken seriously, the PA must first end this joke and limit the “intravenous” VIP status for its officials to no more than two years.

If the PA is not prepared to consider a “radical proposal” like ending security coordination with Israel, it should at least return all VIP passes and insist that its security coordinators and negotiating team navigate Israeli military barriers like ordinary Palestinians.

Besides making Israel and AIPAC’s American mediator sit and wait, reminding these officials of the evil of occupation might be an incentive to change the way VIP holders negotiate with Israel.

A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper. The version here is published by permission of Jamal Kanj.

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