A NUMBER OF THE ESSAYS and other items appearing in the current issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies have direct or indirect bearing on Palestinian strategy and the stalled “peace” process.
Most directly related to these issues is the essay by Camille Mansour, a former advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team before Olso, which critically assesses past Palestinian performance in order to draw lessons for the future. Among the questions posed are what posture the Palestinians should take in negotiations with Israel; what auspices they should negotiate under; and whether, when, and under what conditions they should negotiate. Ultimately, the essay argues for an end to an approach where negotiations for a final agreement are seen as the end-all and be-all, stressing the need to subordinate them to a well-thought out strategy.
Raef Zreik’s probing essay uses as its starting point Israel’s insistent negotiating demand—of relatively recent vintage—that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Zreik places the demand in historical context, tracing the evolution of the tension between Israel’s Jewish identity and the state’s development toward a more civic concept. He stresses some of the implications, both within Israel and outside it, of these new trends, and concludes by arguing both for a more nuanced understanding of the demand for recognition of Israel’s Jewish nature, and the importance of responding to it in an appropriate manner.
Veteran journalist and Palestine-watcher Graham Usher, from his post at the United Nations, provides an examination of the path followed by backers of a UN Security Council draft resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity, and the diplomacy engaged in by the United States to obstruct, and finally to veto the resolution. This story is particularly relevant to what is expected to be another diplomatic contest at the UN in the fall of 2011 over the issue of recognition of Palestinian statehood.
This issue also features an interview with Hamas “Foreign Minister” Usama Hamdan, who responded to questions about Palestinian national reconciliation, the history of Hamas’ relations with the Fatah movement. As Hamas’s representative in Lebanon for over a decade, Hamdan also discusses the organization’s activities in that country, which are relatively little known in the United States. While shedding light on the movement’s positions on a variety of pressing issues as well as on its decision-making process, the interview also provides interesting background to the renewed efforts to effect an inter-Palestinian reconciliation in the wake of the fall of the Mubarak regime.
This issue includes as well a Special Document File drawn from the “Palestine Papers” produced by al-Jazeera and the Guardian, focusing on several recent shifts which have brought U.S. policy even closer into line with that of Israel.
Finally, the Journal publishes an examination of an understudied branch of the Palestinian diaspora, that in Central America, looking at its historical evolution, and recent trends within these communities.
—Rashid I. Khalidi