Analyzing the current realities of the Middle East, and acknowledging that the Arab-Israeli conflict has come to an end, two Anglo-Palestinian scholars—Hussein Agha and Ahmad Samih Khalidi—call for a major rethinking of Palestinian national goals and priorities. While Agha and Khalidi make some dubious assertions, such as the claim that “each credible ‘peace’ formula ends up . . . offering less [!] to the Palestinians than the one before,” they also put forth such concrete proposals as the formal restructuring of Palestinian national institutions and the pursuit of “soft” rather than “hard sovereignty.” But most importantly they urge a fundamental change in attitude:
Palestinian diplomacy has failed massively. . . . Whatever Israel’s responsibility for the Palestinians’ plight, the Palestinian leadership must bear its own share of responsibility for its people’s safety and welfare. . . . Palestinian leaders promised their people a path to freedom and empowerment. Yet in the last two decades, they developed a culture of dependency rather than resourcefulness, an expectation of external salvation rather than self-reliance. This sapped their will to build and develop their society and stymied their willingness to explore new thinking.
Palestinians of the post-Oslo generation have lacked valid and viable political outlets, torn between parroting worn-out slogans they no longer believe in and waiting for overseas charity to bail them out. National assertion and independence have given way to nagging, complaining, sulking, and a sense of entitlement, with Palestinian leaders frequently looking to outside powers for succor. This deterioration has undermined and corrupted Palestinian politics, deflated popular action, and encouraged political drift. It has also alienated foreign supporters, who have become exasperated with Palestinian conduct.
[The Palestinian leadership] must recognize that salvation comes from within while reexamining relations with the United States, leveraging the Arab normalization processes to Palestinian advantage, and involving Egypt and Jordan in any new talks. It must redefine the Palestinian notion of sovereignty, review Palestinian views of security, and refrain from shirking responsibility or indulging in threats that are not credible.