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Khalil Shikaki

Khalil Shikaki is a professor of political science and director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (Ramallah). He has a PhD in political science from Columbia University and has taught at several Palestinian and U.S. universities. His research has focused on the peace proce...
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Changing the status quo: what directions for Palestinians?

Khalil Shikaki, 29 May 2016

From the beginning of the Oslo process in 1993, the Palestinian-Israeli peace process has been overwhelmed by obstacles. Violence, settlement construction, abandonment of obligations, and shifts in the domestic environment of Palestinians and Israelis have each played a role in derailing all efforts to end the conflict. The Oslo Accords created the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1994, a measure that was seen by the Palestinians as the first step towards the end of Israeli occupation and the building of a Palestinian state. Despite its limitations, the PA was seen as the midwife for independence and sovereignty. Optimism about ending the conflict was high and support for mutual reconciliation was vast. But as they approach the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation, and twenty-three years after the signing of the Oslo agreement, Palestinians have concluded that the Oslo process is no longer able to deliver independence or end of occupation. In fact, they believe that Israel has consistently and deliberately violated the most consequential of its own obligations under Oslo: Israeli army redeployments and transfer of territorial control and jurisdiction to the PA, respect for PA jurisdiction in the areas under its full control, freeze of settlement construction, and Palestinian free movement inside the West Bank and safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. As a result, the Palestinian public and elite have grown confident that preserving the status quo can only consolidate occupation and that the PA itself, to be true to its mandate, must lead the efforts to challenge that status quo rather than play a role in maintaining it. The twin conclusions they have now reached are that (1) Israel ’s right wing has no intention of ending its occupation or allowing the emergence of a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel and therefore bilateral negotiations with the current Israeli government is not a viable path to independence; and (2) the current mixed Palestinian policy, of limited diplomatic confrontation accompanied by civil and security cooperation and coordination with Israel, is not likely to prove effective in challenging the status quo and might even lead to the opposite, and therefore the PA and civil society must embark on a new strategy, one that imposes greater costs on the occupying power and forces it to come to terms with Palestinian aspiration for independence. Palestinians are currently debating what that strategy might entail.

This report provides a brief description of the context for this debate as well as the various approaches proposed by the Palestinian elite and public. The description is based on the results of the work of a task force established by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in October 2015. Comprised of twenty experts, academics, and former and current policy makers, the task force explored, in five policy papers, seven closed workshops, and one public conference, five approaches for the Palestinian Authority and civil society to embrace. The approaches call a departure with the past, ending various elements of PA-Israeli cooperation and embarking on a new strategy of total political confrontation. The new strategy calls for specific legs that include a non-violent popular resistance approach, a boycott, an end to security coordination, a rights-based approach, and a resumption of negotiations. Elite interviews and three public opinion surveys were conducted between September 2015 and March 2016 in order to assess elite and public perception of these approaches.

The final report can be read here:

Changing the status quo: what directions for Palestinians?  - Khalil Shikaki

Policy papers:

Link to the PSR project page here

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