By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
I don’t know why does the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership (which is the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Fatah) insist on being like the one who shoots himself in the foot, especially when dealing with the Palestinian internal affairs?
Decisions and procedures are made, and policies are adopted, which the least that can be said about them is that they are contrary to logic, and the tendencies of most Palestinian factions and the majority of the Palestinian public. Even when the PA description of the dangers and challenges is correct, the actual procedures would increase its gravity and weaken the internal Palestinian front more.
The Palestinian national project suffers a major crisis; vision, leadership and institutions wise; political program wise, and work processes and implementation priorities wise. It suffers also escalating challenges and risks— especially after Trump won the US presidency two years ago—such as targeting the land, Jerusalem, holy sites and refugees, and the identity and aspirations of the Palestinian people… trying to close the Palestinian dossier by what is rumored about the “deal of the century” and others. However, since the Palestinian factions (including the PLO, PA and Fatah) called upon each other to face these challenges, we can see a different approach on the ground—actually an obstructive one—by the PA leadership especially President ‘Abbas and his team.
President ‘Abbas has insisted on refusing the invitation of the unified leadership framework to meet, despite the fact that it is the unifying framework of various Palestinian forces, and the one capable of having an effective work on the ground. Palestinians, while awaiting the PLO rebuilding and reform, remain in dire need for a national framework within which they would coordinate their tasks.
For 14 years, since the Cairo Agreement in 2005, and throughout the last eight years, since the reconciliation agreement in 2011, ‘Abbas has not put one brick to rebuild the PLO, whose keys are in his hands. He is still trying to obstruct any smooth and fair participation, by weighty Palestinian forces such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (PIJ), in the PLO’s bodies and institutions, inside Palestine and even outside Palestine where some steps can be taken away from Israeli dominance.
In January 2017, in Beirut, the Palestinian factions agreed on convening the Palestinian National Council (PNC), where all Palestinian forces would participate; however, in April 2018, ‘Abbas insisted on convening the PNC in Ramallah, under the occupation, against Palestinian consensus and despite the boycott of Hamas, PIJ and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). He continued with this policy throughout 2018, ignoring major Palestinian forces, which led to the expansion of PNC’s boycott by most of the Palestinian forces from inside the PLO and outside it (except for Fatah), as was the case at the PNC meeting that was held in November 2018. Consequently, ‘Abbas found that his policies have isolated Fatah from the other national constituents, and have increased the Palestinian rift rather than dealing with it.
The same applies to the sanctions imposed by ‘Abbas and his team, for about two years, on Gaza Strip (GS), where the salaries of thousands of employees were reduced or their services terminated, while the electricity bills were not paid, etc. This is despite the fact that the PA receives the tax revenues collected by the Israelis on goods entering GS. These sanctions aiming to coerce or subdue Hamas and the resistance movements in GS, which ‘Abbas insists on, find almost total opposition by the Palestinian people; even from Fatah’s leaders (in their private meetings), and from the Fatah public themselves. For example, according to the latest public opinion poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah (March 2019), 82% of Palestinians demand ending the sanctions imposed by the PA on GS; as well as on most Palestinian forces and factions.
The same is true when ‘Abbas and the Fatah leadership insist on their own interpretation of the idea of “empowerment” of the PA government, by controlling everything (above and below ground), including security and arms; contrary to the original agreed on in the reconciliation track. Such an insistence is opposed by most Palestinian factions and rejected by the majority of Palestinian people. Notwithstanding the foregoing, ‘Abbas and his team keep exerting their pressures on GS to impose their will, in a way that the Palestinian public finds it odd and provocative.
The Palestinian public and factions have an almost consensus on stopping security coordination with Israel, and there are decisions from both the PNC and the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) to stop the coordination. However, ‘Abbas and his team insist on countering these decisions, where the former is always asserting the “sanctity” of this coordination and his strict commitment to it.
In such an atmosphere, ‘Abbas and his team keep adding fuel to fire by dissolving the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in December 2018, through a decision by the Constitutional Court, whose formation, specialty, jurisdiction and the credibility of its rule are in question. It was a counter-reconciliation decision, deepening the Palestinian schism, which was widely refused by the public as well as by most Palestinian factions and forces.
In this divided crisis environment, and amidst the opposition to the decisions of ‘Abbas and PA leadership, another decision was issued to deepen the crisis and “legalize” it, which is forming a new PA government headed by a Fatah official and having members from the PLO factions, while intentionally excluding Hamas and forces that are outside the PLO. This means that Fatah has decided to put the reconciliation agreement aside, isolate Hamas and place it under political siege, and deprive it of effective partnership in the Palestinian national decision-making, while ignoring its large popular size or its size as a resistance movement. Indeed, some of the Fatah leaders (i.e., Jamal Muhaisin) are talking about Hamas as a “terrorist movement,” reminding us of the corrupt tyrannical Arab political environment, which is normalizing its relations with Israel.
Other Fatah leaders mention “all” national parties when talking about forming the government, while excluding Hamas from this “all”… hence, entering a state of denial that would push the Palestinian national movement into terra incognita of retardation and backwardness… in addition to the crises and blunders it is suffering. Thus, this government would be considered a “prescription for failure,” especially after most Palestinian factions had refused to participate in it.
In these conditions, according to public opinion polls, Fatah doesn’t have more than 10% who want parliamentary elections. At the same time, around two thirds want President ‘Abbas to resign and are dissatisfied with his performance, and the same percentage are pessimistic about the success of reconciliation, whereas the perception of corruption in PA institutions stands at 82%.
Here we go back to the article’s original question, why are there all these policies and procedures that harm PA and Fatah themselves, in addition to harming the Palestinian national project?… Why insist on these policies that serve no one, and which the enemy employs to his advantage? And why this insistence against the opposition of the majority of the Palestinian people and factions? And what will it achieve by that?
Is this insistence just a mistake in calculation? Or are there forces luring ‘Abbas and his team to go in that direction, maybe there are promises that are not yet clear?!!
This article was originally published in Arabic on “Arabi 21” on 1/4/2019.