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On Thursday February 22nd 2007, al-Zayotuna Centre for Studies and Consultations organized a panel discussion under the title “Prospects for the Resistance and Settlement Tracks in Resolving the Palestinian Issue”. The discussion was attended by a number of Lebanese and Arab experts, in addition to a body of academics and people concerned with the issue. At the beginning of the discussion, Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh, General Director of al-Zaytouna Centre, welcomed the participants and spoke about the importance of such a discussion especially in the current circumstances, while the Palestinian scene is torn between two streams which differ in their views on how to liberate Palestine. Dr. Saleh then presented Suleiman al-Hamad, the panel’s guest of honor, who gave a commencement speech.

The First Session

In the first session two papers were presented: the first entitled “The Experience of the Palestinian Resistance: a Prologue for Assessment” by Dr. Bayan Nuwayhed al-Hout; and the second entitled “The Experience of Peaceful Settlement: a Prologue for Assessment” by Dr. Jawad al-Hamad. Both papers were commented at by Dr. anis Sayegh. The session was moerated by Dr. Talal Atreesy.

Nuwayhed al-Hout started her presentation by defining the resistance as: comprehensive resistance, that is, on the popular, military, intellectual, civic, media, etc… levels. It may occur in more than one field simultaneously or may be limited to only one aspect at a given time, but through summation, these aspects indicate the increase or downfall of resistance. Her paper focused on the development of armed resistance, dividing it into several stages.

The first stage extends between the Nakba of 15 May, 1948 and the establishment of the PLO in 28 May, 1964, a stage described as “the stage of loss and bewilderment”. The end of that stage witnessed the birth of resistance, although the mid-fifties included a number of courageous martyr operations from the Gaza Strip and deeper into the 1948 occupied territories (Israel proper), with Egypt supporting these operations and Syria backing similar ones at the occupied Syrian-Palestinian borders. 

The second stage extends between the years 1964 and 1970. It started with the first operation for Fatah movement at the break of the first day of 1965 and ended with the termination of the Palestinian presence in Jordan.

The third stage runs between the years 1970 and 1982. It ended with the departure of the Palestinian forces from Lebanon by sea and land. 

As for the fourth stage, it is one of new exiles extending from Algeria to Yemen which continued until the Oslo Accords and the relocation of the leadership to Occupied Palestine and then having the Palestinian Authority (PA). According to Nuwayhed, this stage stops in the middle of the exile era with the rise of the Intifada in 1987. That Intifada was a turning point, marking the eras before and after. The stage, hence, starts with the outbreak of the Intifada and ends with signing the Oslo Accords in 1993.

The last stage, apparently, extends from the Oslo Accords until the present time.

Then, Jawad al-Hamad, presented on the other hand the significant highlights in the peaceful settlement discourse. He discussed the Israeli breaches to the Oslo Accords, the various settlement initiatives and the Arab options, touching upon the Intifada and armed resistance as alternative options. Al-Hamad also discussed the attempts at reviving the settlement track and containing the second Intifada, as well as the shallowness of the proposed settlement initiatives, the negotiations prospects in light of a Hamas-led government, and analyzed some of the reasons that led to the failure of the settlement. 

According to al-Hamad, the settlement failed to achieve its planned goals, even those of the US and Israel, and was not able to deal objectively and justly with the Arab rights. It failed to give the Palestinians their national rights and to establish permanent peace and stability in the region. Nor did it succeed in ending the conflict between the Zionist agenda and the Arab Islamic agenda in the region. It failed to harness the Israeli aggressive and expansionist schemes, settlements, seizures, and expropriation, and it failed to prevent the continuing Israeli violations of the Arabs’ and Palestinians’ human rights. The settlement failed because it didn’t represent as realistic choice or substitute to war and resistance as the Arab and Palestinian aspirations, so it is no more a successful bet as long as it stands on the 1991 still basis, and as long as it keeps corroding in favor of the Israeli interests, visions and desires.

The Second Session

The second session was moderated by Dr. Jassim Sultan, and two papers in here were also presented: the first by Sami Khater on the prospects of the resistance track; and the second by Mounir Shafiq on the prospects of the Settlement track and the possibilities of its success. They were followed by a comment by Shafiq Al-Hout.

Sami Khater’s paper discussed the concept of resistance and its goals, achievements and dilemmas. Among the major dilemmas according to Khater, is the continued presence of a political thought stream that is yet willing to invest on the success of the settlement and negotiation tracks for resolving the Palestinian issue. Also there is the dilemma of combining the resistance with authority/ governing; and the severe Israeli measures in the West Bank (WB), especially the Separation Wall, the by-pass settlers’ roads and the checkpoints. Khater then went to discuss the indicators and positive prospects for the future of the resistance, foreseeing through the current local, regional and international political scene many positive indicators for the resistance and for maintaining a minimum level of standing against the Israelis, in holding up the national Palestinian demands and defending the legitimate rights. Thus, the future is in favour of the resistance track as a way of attaining the Palestinian rights, especially that the main drive causing the resistance, that is the occupation, is still existing on the Palestinian land and sanctuaries; and that the Zionist aggressions are still occurring, in the most brutal and cruel forms, measures and practices. The Zionist occupation is the last remainder of colonization in modern history that remains to the moment, and so it must end sooner or later.

At the end of his paper, Khater presented a set of recommendations for further establishing and emphasizing the resistance agenda, and building up on the past experience. Most significant among those:

1- Promoting the culture of resistance and establishing its roots.
2- Exerting the utmost effort to unite the Palestinians around the choice of resistance.
3- Working on building a Palestinian political system that includes Palestinians at home and abroad, and focuses on gathering the energy and resources of the Palestinian people to support the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, and their courageous resistance, and to adhere to the national Palestinian rights.

Next was the paper by Mounir Shafiq, where he argued that the course taken by the Zionist project on the Palestinian discourse since the beginning and until the period 2000-2006 (the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon, the outbreak of the second Intifada, the rising resistance in Palestine, and the failure of the occupation in Iraq to face the resistance) has paved the way for a new stage by the end of 2006. This stage is marked by an imbalance of powers that worked against the interests of the Hebrew state and America as never before. The proliferation of the crisis to the interior corridors of Israeli army is sufficient evidence of this extent, where many drawbacks and security breaches are being exposed within the army; this same army that was once the basis for establishing the whole Israeli state and society. In Israel, the army has always been higher than internal and external political crises, both structurally and strategically. This fact has rendered a historical harmony between the strategies and tactics of the Israeli leadership on the one hand, the Israeli potentials on the other, and the national, regional and international power balances. Shafiq added, “This harmony was shaken without echoing on the Israeli policies, and similarly, the internal crisis of the Israeli army and of the influential political parties did not echo on the strategies and tactics of conflict and resolution, nor on the components of the –unimplemented– settlement projects; In addition, imposing what is called “realistic settlement” isn’t as simple as it seems on face, i.e. imposing the Zionist view and the de facto established reality, because the conflict will continue in its different forms, including armed resistance. The other opportunity, then, is the continuation of resistance on the side of the Palestinian people and Arab nations in general, within the context mentioned above”. Shafiq concluded that: “what we and the near future are about, is merely an attempt by the Americans and Israelis, with silent blessings from Russia and possibly Europe, to stabilize the de facto situation under the name of “an interim state solution” on one side, and  on the other side the continuation of resistance. This is in a nutshell: no chance for a settlement that will be acceptable to both parties concerned.

The Third Session

The third session was moderated by Nafez Abu Hasnah, where three papers were presented: the first by Dr. Nizam Barakat on “The Israeli Strategies for Dealing with the Palestinians on the Resistance and on Settlement”; the second by Waleed Muhammad Ali on the “The Arab Ways of Dealing with the Resistance and Settlement Tracks”; and the third by Dr. Kamal Naji on the “International Ways of Dealing with the Resistance and Settlement Tracks”. Commentary on the three papers was contributed by Ma`en Bashour.

In his paper, Dr. Nizam Barakat considered that the settlement results have so far reflected an imbalance of power, in favor of the Israeli side. Even the pressing secondary issues which, in his opinion, were the real urging motives behind pushing for a peace process remained unsettled. When Arabs started negotiations, they hoped to achieve an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, a halt of settlement building, and an establishment of a Palestinian entity capable of stopping the Israeli confiscation of land and humiliation of Palestinians in the occupied parts; hoping for a future where the Arab full rights are attained. The settlement processes until now, however, have achieved little in this regard: withdrawal did not happen and only came in the form of a redeployment of Palestinian authority in limited areas where yet constant bargaining with the Israeli authority remains on the crucial issues of crossings and borders, preventing the Palestinian entity from taking shape, and the refugees from returning.

At the same time, the Israeli side achieved a deficient recognition, with Israel unable to achieve security or normalized relations with the Arab world; the Israeli defense expenses are on rise and threats persist for the two sides at home and abroad. Relations with the Arab countries and regional integration are still stumbling for Israel; while the Palestinian and Islamic resistance movements have grown more powerful in Palestine and Lebanon, with their political and military role developed, thus implying a continuation of conflict even if in other forms. Indeed, ending the war, resuming negotiations, and arriving at some settlement agreements does not mean achieving peace; the peace that gives the people back their rights, ends the state of hostility in the region, and creates joint cooperation relations to the interests of all sides.

The next paper, by Waleed Muhammad Ali, started by the argument that history experience informs us that reaching a temporary “settlement”, as a means of truce to stop the bloodshed and the high toll of destruction, is possible, but not with pleading. Attempting to reach a settlement must be accompanied with power factors. Experience proved that the main power factor for our nation, in the face of the military advantage of our enemies, is national resistance. This resistance, once embraced and supported by the nation, is the power factor to defend it and deter its enemies, eventually to be able to use its potential wealth and achieve its own interests. Conversely, continuing to declare peace as the only strategic choice, will only lead to more Zionist crimes, more American tyranny, and more Arab decay and fragmentation.

The last paper in this final session of the conference was presented by Dr. Kamal Naji. Naji noted that the international developments during the last few years, and the courageous resistance and persistence of the Palestinian people, made the international community move towards a new approach to settle the Palestinian issue, following the failure caused by the gaps in the Road Map. This requires that efforts better be concentrated on settling the final status issues, an approach that has become internationally more acceptable under the international – and even Israeli – recognition that the Middle East issues will only be solved by establishing a Palestinian state on the lands occupied by Israel in 1967 as a start to resolving all the regional issues including the strategic security problems of Israel itself. Such an approach also requires devoting constant efforts to provide the impetus needed to keep the Palestinian issue on top of international community’s priorities. This is to find just solutions for the Palestinian issue and release it from being handled in the frame of distorted approaches which call the attention to it only to support the ‘moderate’ camp in the Middle East, in the face of the ‘extremist’ camp, according to the American description.