Since the beginning of his United States presidency, George W. Bush, together with his group of neo-conservatives, set for themselves a Middle East strategy they dubbed "constructive chaos,"1 which begs the question: How can chaos be constructive? Nonetheless, this strategy became increasingly clear through its concrete implementation on the ground. The propagation of chaos through the dismemberment of countries and the displacement of peoples is the key to U.S. hegemony over the region. This has been amply demonstrated by what took place and is still taking place in Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon, Palestine and, before that, Somalia. It is all a manifestation of Bush's alleged commitment to spreading democracy and building a new democratic Middle East. Commendable words, but the real objective is another story. The occupation of Iraq did not have as its aim the liberation of the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of President Saddam Hussein, as was the claim; it was primarily for the petrol. This is what Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, wrote in his recent book The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World. This was echoed by General John Abizaid, the former commander of the U.S. Central Command, with forward headquarters in Qatar.

'Everything Is Subject to Change'

The dismantling of the region's countries into mini-states along religious, sectarian and ethnic lines lends justification to the establishment of the Jewish state on religious bases and weakens the Palestinian and Arab positions in confronting the issue and Israel's occupation and expansionist policy. Thus, in addition to petrol and the control over its production and marketing, the "constructive chaos" strategy seeks to secure the superiority of the state of Israel over the various Arab states, as well as its control over the most strategic region in the world. The promotion of American-Israeli hegemony over the Middle East can only happen through the debilitation and fragmentation of the countries and the peoples of the region.
In this connection, one recalls what former President Bill Clinton said to the late President Yasser Arafat in Camp David II, when the latter refused to buckle under Clinton's pressure to accept then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak's demands: "You have to know that you are in a region where everything is subject to change; not only governments, but also geographical boundaries." This prompted Arafat to retort: "I will go to Gaza and will invite you to march in my funeral." Thus, American strategy pertaining to the region - constructive chaos - predates and is not confined to Bush and the neo-conservatives. However, they gave it a tangible dimension by implementing it, thanks to American military superiority in the world.
The whole region and especially Palestine are witnessing the impact of this strategy. Instead of working for the consolidation of the unity of countries and rallying the people behind just causes, we find ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, immersed in the policy of dismantlement. In effect, we are oblivious to the concept of the unity of the people, the unity of the cause and the unity of the political entity - the triad in any national liberationist strategy, without which we stand to lose a great deal.

What Sykes-Picot Split…

The Arab decision-makers have to face up to the fact that, if it was not possible throughout the past decades to unite the Arab countries and nations that had been split up by the Sykes-Picot Agreement, they have now become even more powerless to preserve regional cohesion and have failed to address the Palestinian question, deemed the primary cause of the Arab predicament.
The acute ineffectuality and fragmentation of the official Arab order had its profound impact on the Palestinian people, their political movements and leadership. They ended up being victims of the same ailments affecting the Arab world, because of their position within the Arab social and political map and in the region in general. Additionally, the nature of their cause places them at the center of political machinations in the region. Under the pressure of the balance of power in the wake of the First Gulf War, the Palestinian leadership went to Oslo alone in the belief it would be able to achieve some gains for its people. It got involved in the "political process," the outcome of which speaks for itself today. The Palestinian leadership paid a hefty price, starting with its acceptance of postponing to the final stage the basic issues: refugees, Jerusalem, the settlements, borders, security and water. In other words, it agreed to the fragmentation of the cause. With the exception of the problem of the Palestinian refugees and their right to return in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194, these issues are indivisible and they have only one solution: the total withdrawal of Israel from the territories it occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem.
Let us reflect upon Israel's subsequent actions. The occupied territories were divided into Areas A, B and C, thus leaving all control over the territories in the hands of the occupying forces. Since March 2002, these divisions were effaced from the map, so that reverting to this prior arrangement or even going back to the September 28, 2000, situation have ended up being the Palestinian demands of the moment, overriding the expectation for complete withdrawal.

Arab Acquiescence

With renewed attempts at reviving the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the call these days is to cleave to the Road Map, but which Road Map are we talking about? Is it the one that has been drafted by the Quartet? Or is it the one to which then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon introduced his 14 amendments that were endorsed by the U.S. administration in a letter addressed to him by Bush on April 14, 2004? Neither version mentions the issue of prisoners - an issue that concerns every Palestinian household. And where has international legitimacy gone? And resolutions at their core: the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people on all the land occupied in 1967 and its capital East Jerusalem; the right of refugees to return to their homes according to UN General Assembly Resolution 194; the illegality of occupation, settlements, the separation wall, the changing of the features of Jerusalem and many others?
An issue that raises great concern is the mentality the Palestinians and Arabs have of internalizing whatever the enemy wants - even seemingly from a position of opposition or even resistance. This was the case in Oslo, when the Palestinian leadership split the national cause by accepting to postpone the discussion of the major issues; and in Oslo II, when it accepted to have the occupied territories divided into Areas A, B and C. And this has recurred with the talk about land swaps and the implication thereof of acquiescing to Israel keeping lands and positions it wants inside Jerusalem and its hinterland, as well as the big settlement blocs. There is no precedent of the PLO having consented to such an arrangement, although the subject was brought up in Camp David II, and we all know only too well the outcome of that summit. The utter failure of the talks drove Clinton to admonish the Palestinian side, threatening that his plan would cease to be valid after his leaving Camp David and the American presidency.

Expressing a New Arab Stance

During the Beirut Summit of March 2002, Abdullah bin-Abdel Aziz, the Saudi crown prince at the time, came up with an initiative that was endorsed by all the members with the introduction of some rectifications; it came to be known as the Arab Peace Initiative. Sharon's response was to invade the Palestinian Authority areas and to lay a siege to the Muqata'a, Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah. To date, Israel has not accepted the Initiative in spite of the fact that the Arab leaders have recently renewed their commitment to it during the Riyadh Summit. And as part of the follow-up committee emanating from the summit, the Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers went to Israel in an attempt to secure Israel's endorsement of the Initiative - in vain.
It is worth noting that the Initiative shows an essential transformation in the official Arab stance in favor of Israel. This is especially true of the issue of refugees, whereby instead of holding to the spirit and letter of Resolution 194, which stipulates the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and to be compensated for all damages, the initiative talks about "a just and mutually agreed-upon solution on the basis of [UN General Assembly] Resolution 194." This weakens considerably the Arab position with regard to the resolution even before the start of negotiations. The other important feature of the Arab Peace Initiative is the collective Arab readiness to recognize Israel and to normalize relations with it if it withdraws from the territories it occupied in 1967. This constitutes an advance and collective relinquishment of claims on the part of the Arab countries, even before Israel has agreed to embark on implementing its commitments to the relevant international resolutions regarding ending the occupation of the territories. Israel dealt with the Initiative and the delegation commissioned to discuss it with utter disregard. It took what it found useful for its public relations campaign, but rejected the Initiative per se, which contributed to the weakening and fragmentation of the official and collective Arab position.

A Need for Unity

To compound matters further, a geographical and social split took place in the territories as a result of Hamas' military takeover in Gaza, allegedly in self-defense against the security apparatuses or Fateh elements, after it had agreed to the political parameters set out by the Palestinian leadership, and to the Mecca Agreement with all that it implies. This propelled the Israeli and American strategy of displacement to unprecedented dimensions on the Palestinian arena and placed the Palestinian people and their cause in a most vulnerable position. It is incumbent upon the Palestinian people - irrespective of their allegiances - to organize their ranks and forces and to rally behind their cause and unity.
Upholding the right of return is a non-negotiable individual and collective right guaranteed by international legitimacy for over 60 years. However, it must be integrated with the right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent state with its capital East Jerusalem, for one without the other becomes meaningless. This was stressed repeatedly in the PLO's political program proceeding from the National Council. The meeting that took place in Annapolis in November [2007] must not lead to the deepening of the existing rifts or to the substitution of the PLO, for all this will only exacerbate the fragility of the national unity and the steadfastness of the people. Today, we face an urgent need to solidify the cohesion of the Palestinian people and the unity of its cause in order to confront all attempts aimed at fragmenting the nation, regardless of intentions or means.

1 According to philosopher Leo Strauss, the father of neo-conservatism in the United States, real power cannot be exerted if one remains in the status quo, but only, quite the contrary, in the act of destroying all forms of resistance. It is by plunging the masses into chaos that the elites can aspire to ensure the stability of their position.