“I know nothing about negotiations, but when I do negotiate, I take a pen and a piece of PAPER.”
by: Refaat Alareer
The latest cache of papers Al Jazeera exposed about the past half dozen years of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations proved to the observer that neither Palestinians in the streets are key players in shaping their future nor the negotiators are serious about their job. The papers exposed shocked some of us and came as old news to others who were believed to be conspiracy theories adherents. Two things in particular left the majority of us speechless: the Palestinian future map that was drawn on a napkin (yes, a napkin!) and the super-generous offer of the biggest Jerusalem in history (no, not to the Palestinians) but to the Israelis
Settlements were given the green lights not by the Americans but by Palestinians who were supposed to be fighting for us and for our rights. Illegal settlements such as French Hill, Ramat Alon, Ramat Shlomo, Gilo, Talpiot, and the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s old city were conceded to Israel. Those areas contain some 120,000 Jewish settlers. Those areas were annexed from Palestinian farmers whose parents and grand-grand-grandparents owned, plowed and planted for thousands of years. Even Israelis feel weak and embarrassed talking about why they grabbed those areas.
And now, in a stroke of a pen on some napkin perhaps huge portions of Palestine vanish into thin air. Just like that. Still the chief (grand, supreme, or whatever ) negotiator rejoiced at what he called ‘the swap’ which in reality was giving up parts of the holy city of Jerusalem for patches of land some where in the desert.
A reader would assume that we Palestinians are a bunch of poor idiots with some amateur negotiators with two or three years of experience in the field. No! There are as many specialists in every field needed for such talks as there are in any advanced country. And those who made the shameful concessions had more than 20 years of experience. The irony is that neither the experts were picked to participate in the negotiation nor the negotiators were given permission by the Palestinians.
And the napkin! That’s another disgusting saga. I know nothing about negotiations, but when I do negotiate, I take a pen and a piece of PAPER. The Map on the nap or the “Mapkin” showed Israel’s proposed swaps in the Jerusalem area. Israel would keep all of its major West Bank settlements – Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, Kedumim and others – none of which were included in the Palestinian offers. In a word, our future, lands, holy shrines and sites, hopes, dreams were on that piece of linen!
And guess what? In return the Israelis gave us—nothing! They offered no concessions. They made no gestures. They showed no sign of understanding or exchanging what might be called ‘gifts’. Now I say, how much should we give up till the Israelis start to finally think of giving things back? How many times should we fight ourselves and kill ourselves in sacrifice on the Israeli altar till the Israelis finally determine that we are peaceful and that we deserve an independent state? How many more years of experience does the Palestinian negotiation team need to learn that they should be taking things seriously and take papers when discussing our future state instead of scribbling stuff on a piece of cloth? When will they decide that the masses have the right to know what goes on in the dimly lighted, five-star hotel rooms?
There is a point both Israel and the international community overlook or prefer to overlook. Even if Palestine or most of it was given to the Jews, we Palestinians will never ever approve of such disgracefully reprehensive concessions. And those people simply do not represent us! We have not signed a paper. We have not sent them a napkin. We have not given them the green light to start giving in/up things the way they like.
All I finally hope is that the napkin map was not scrawled with a pencil nor was it flushed in some five-star toilet. And if that handkerchief is lost, those lousy ‘negotiators’ should be ware of Othellos that might put an end to their joyrides on the backs and heads of the most determined and persevering people, who will smother them not with a fluffy pillow but by some dirty napkin picked from some faraway landfill.
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