After the Accords: What’s next for Palestinian liberation?

Trump, Netanyahu, and ministers from Bahrain and the UAE pose after the signing of the Abraham Accords on Sept. 15. (Official White House photo)


On Sept. 15, the atmosphere at the White House was thick with a haze of self-satisfaction as Trump administration officials touted their political triumph for the Abraham Accords, which were signed that day by Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain. They along with their sycophants in the bourgeois press took turns making grandiose claims that the accords would usher in a new era of peace in the Middle East as both Gulf monarchies agreed to normalize relations with Israel. In the Oct. 7 candidates’ debate, Vice President Pence echoed the triumphalism of that day as he bragged about the accord’s historic significance and U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city.

Although reactions to the Accords have been mixed in the bourgeois press, with some outlets praising its significance to advancing peace in the region and others noting its lack of substance, they have been unanimous in declaring the Palestinians to be the losers. An end to Israeli occupation will remain elusive for the Palestinians, at least in the short term. This is true not only because the Arab League is continuing to abandon the Palestinian cause but also because the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority that it administers have invested their hopes for a two-state solution in Israel’s good faith, support from authoritarian Arab states, and moral appeals to the international community of capitalist nations—all of which are merely chimera.

At the same time, the promise of high-tech weapons sales from the U.S. sweetened the deal for the UAE, but it will only intensify the arms race spawned by the region’s geopolitical rivalries. Regional peace is hardly on the horizon.

The language of the Accords: diplomatic newspeak

The accords are little more than the cynical fantasies of a desperate U.S. administration and its toady allies in the Middle East. After one reads the one-page document, saturated as it is with a noxious blend of rhetorical panache and political fantasy, it becomes easy to ponder the question—what exactly have these accords achieved?

The text of the document runs only half of a page, and the language is intentionally nebulous and replete with empty phrases such as “promoting interfaith and intercultural dialogue” and “tolerance and respect for every person.” And no imperialist accord would be complete without a reference “to end radicalization and conflict,” so that Israel may continue its occupation of Palestine and reactionary Arab states can repress unruly nationalities and religious minorities under the guise of fighting terrorism.

In the final paragraph, the crux of the accord is addressed, but again in a manner that is vague and, regarding the commitments of the parties to each other, ill defined. There is a reference to “establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and its neighbors in the region” and “to consolidate and expand such friendly relations based on shared interests,” but beyond this language, nothing specific is outlined. So, the question for supporters of Palestinian self-determination, the question remains—what effect does this have on Israel’s relation to the Palestinian people?

The forgotten cause of Palestinian liberation

In 2002, the Arab League, led by Saudi Arabia, drafted the Arab Peace Initiative, which requires Israel to end its decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territories as a prerequisite to normalizing relations with its member states. While Egypt and Jordan capitulated long ago when they signed peace agreements with Israel in 1979 and 1994 respectively, the rest of the Arab League has refused to normalize relations with Israel until resolution of the Palestinian question—until now.

Central to the Arab Peace Initiative is that an independent Palestinian state be created based on pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. Of course, none of this has come to pass, and in fact, the Arab Peace Initiative is effectively a dead letter, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to pursue serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians—instead encouraging the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and threatening to annex large swaths of West Bank territory.

Given the lack of seriousness of the Arab League toward a resolution of the Palestinian issue, it should come as no surprise that the UAE and Bahrain broke ranks and normalized relations with Israel. The UAE and Bahrain, both governed by Sunni royal houses, are close allies to Saudi Arabia and the United States and are concerned about the regional influence of Iran’s Shi’ite theocracy. Iran’s proxies, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, have had considerable influence in the areas where they operate, and more recently, those active in Iraq like Kata’ib Hezbollah represent an ongoing interest among the majority Shi’a to preserve their hegemony over the minority Sunni parties that oppressed them, especially under Sadaam Hussein’s regime.

There is also the issue of Yemen, where Iran is backing a rebellion of the Houthi against the government of Abdrabbuh Hadi, which the Saudis have openly supported and intervened with air strikes against Houthi targets.

It’s also important to note that the UAE and Bahrain have Shi’ite minorities, which make the influence of Iran’s theocrats and support for Shi’ite proxy groups in the region of special concern. For Bahrain’s regime, this is especially true. Shi’ite Muslims comprise 85 percent of the population. Shi’ite leaders have pressed for a change to the regime to reflect one based on popular rule of the majority. During the Arab Spring, on Feb. 14, 2011, the Shi’ites of Bahrain initiated large protests, the so-called the Day of Rage, which were sparked by repressive measures that the al-Khalifa dynasty was using to oppress the Shi’ite majority.

In the United States, both of the ruling bourgeois parties have vociferously opposed Iran’s government since its establishment in the revolution of 1979. Although the Democrats under Barack Obama showed a willingness to thaw relations slightly with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) of 2015, the Trump administration altered course and withdrew from it in 2018. Since then, administration propagandists have aggravated anti-Iran sentiment to a fever pitch among sections of the U.S. ruling class. The administration’s architect of the accords, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kusher, seized the moment to bring about a rapprochement between Israel and its former foes among the Arab states largely to further isolate Iran.

The Trump administration certainly views the accords as a means to apply more pressure on the Palestinians to make concessions to Israel in order to secure its objective of an independent Palestine. Kushner, when interviewed after the accords were signed, proclaimed the “beginning of the end of the Israel-Arab conflict.”

While the UAE and Bahrain have certainly abandoned their solidarity with the Palestinian cause and placed the PLO in an even more precarious position vis a vis Palestinian statehood, Kushner’s triumphant proclamations are predicated on several false assumptions: First, Palestinian self-determination will largely be defined by Israel. Second, the Palestinians can only achieve self-determination through a negotiated settlement. Third, the cause of Palestinian self-determination depends on support from the Arab states of the region.

A Leninist view of self-determination for Palestine

In 1971, the then Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the United States issued a “Resolution on Israel and the Arab Revolution” that, despite its age, offers us a Leninist position on the national question as it pertains to Palestine. Its first point was that the SWP “gives unconditional support to the national liberation struggles of the Arab peoples against imperialism, that is, we support all these struggles regardless of their current leadership.” This is a key point that should not be summarily dismissed regardless of the current state of that leadership, i.e., the PLO. If there is broad popular support for an independent Palestinian state and a mass struggle to achieve that goal, then it is the obligation of revolutionaries in the imperialist centers to support that and not dictate to the Palestinians how they should conceive of self-determination.

We should keep in mind that a year prior to the publication of the SWP’s resolution, the PLO was involved in fighting a civil war against the feudal monarchy of Jordan’s Hashemite dynasty. While not a revolutionary socialist organization, the PLO was recognized by the SWP as an organization with “deep ties to the Palestinian masses.” Fast forward to today, the Fatah party of the PLO administers the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank, created when its leader, Yassir Arafat, signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. The Authority oversees the distribution of social services afforded by taxes collected by the Israeli occupiers, donations from imperialist nations such as the United States, and polices the civilian population under occupation. The Authority also cooperates with the Israeli defense apparatus to share intelligence on the activities of militant groups that are considered to have the potential to carry out attacks against Israeli targets. Essentially, the PLO is now fully collaborating with their oppressors, and long ago abandoned the armed struggle for Palestinian national liberation.

The fact remains that the state of Israel, which is not an expression of Jewish national liberation but is rather a colonial-settler state with deep ties to imperialism, maintains a decades-long and brutal occupation of the West Bank. The Israeli occupiers have not only fractured the Palestinian lands into isolated territorial islands within the West Bank, but they also promote the illegal seizure of Palestinian lands for the construction of Jewish settlements. The reality on the ground negates the notion that a two-state solution can solve the issue of Palestinian self-determination.

As the SWP resolution correctly pointed out, “In the epoch of imperialism, neither the Palestinians in particular, nor the Arabs in general, can fully attain the goals of their struggle for national liberation, national economic development, and other democratic tasks, except through the process of permanent revolution.” This formulation recognizes the role of the working class of the Arab world in providing leadership to the national liberation struggle as it simultaneously carries out the struggle to advance the socialist revolution.

It was clear in 1971 and is abundantly clear today that the national bourgeoisie and their representatives, exemplified by the Fatah bureaucrats of the Palestinian Authority, are incapable of leading the struggle for national liberation. It is equally clear now as it was then that neither the bourgeois nationalist governments of Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Turkey nor the reactionary feudal monarchs of the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia are capable of securing the liberation of the Palestinian masses. To them, the Palestinian masses are merely a bargaining chip in a geopolitical poker game.

Palestinians must struggle to organize a party capable of carrying out the national liberation movement and advancing the socialist revolution. This would provide a beacon for the working classes of the entire Arab world. 

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