By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
Unfortunately, we have entered 2022 with a Palestinian Authority (PA) devoid of any political horizon, or any horizon for ending the Israeli occupation, institutional work or economic development. We have a PA with a leadership that has no vision or volition, or in short, a PA without a future.
The meeting between PA President Mahmud ‘Abbas and Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz at Gantz’ home near Tel Aviv on the evening of 28/12/2021, was a glaring indication of the failure and impotence of the PA as it bids farewell to 2021. While the meeting lost much of its value (if it had any to begin with) by having no official capacity, it also confirmed the operational function of the PA, responsible for only managing the daily life requirements, while its nature as an inclusive national Palestinian entity is shrunk and erased. At a time when Israeli settlement, Judaization, and aggression on holy sites and al-Aqsa Mosque are being escalated, and Palestinian villages are coming under regular attack by Zionist settlers, ‘Abbas travelled to reassure Gantz that the PA is determined to continue security collaboration with Israel that prevents the eruption of resistance against the occupation. Meanwhile, any talk about reviving the peace process is closer to absurd games that do not respect the minds of the Palestinian people and the Arab and Muslim Ummah (nation).
The PA (or practically speaking the leadership of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)) go into 2022 without a political horizon, whether in the domestic Palestinian framework, or the framework of the Palestinian national project and its primary pathways. In 2021, the PA and PLO leadership lost whatever credibility they may have had, after blocking the path of Palestinian national reconciliation and elections as a prelude to rearranging the Palestinian home front; beginning with blocking the legislative elections, which led to the obstruction of PA presidential elections and Palestinian National Council (PNC) elections. The Palestinians no longer see this leadership as qualified to manage the issue of reconciliation. There is now no choice but to seek a transitional leadership or another entity that has the trust of the Palestinian people.
Moreover, the PA has sought, by the same measure that it lost credibility among Palestinians, to prove its credibility to Israel and the United States. It thus continued security coordination with Israel at the highest levels, and “swallowed” Israel’s cuts to the allocations to the families of Palestinian martyrs and prisoners from the taxes it collects on the PA’s behalf. The PA sought to impose its “prestige” on its own people in the West Bank (WB) by suppressing pro-resistance protests, political dissent and popular demonstrations. This culminated with the killing of political and human rights activist Nizar Banat. The PA ended 2021 with an act of strife caused by its affiliated “National Security” agency in Lebanon, when its members attacked the funeral of a Hamas member, killing three and wounding scores, in an immoral precedent in Palestinian history.
This Authority and its leadership has lost direction and its reason for existence, after the peace process reached a dead end and the two-state solution collapsed. Israel succeeded in “managing” the peace process long enough without outcome, to double Judaization and settlement activities in Jerusalem and WB; and in turning the PA into an operational instrument that protects its back by repressing its people, doing its dirty work on its behalf and whitewashing its colonialism at a “five star” level of service as Israeli leaders say. Israel benefited from the PA as political cover and as a way to obtain political recognition from world states, including normalizing relations with Arab and Muslim countries. As a consequence, Israel achieved better stability and economic growth, while sequestering and encircling the Palestine issue, in preparation for liquidating it on Israel’s terms. Gradually, Israel has been imposing its vision on the ground, transfiguring the two-state solution into “creeping annexation” and “creeping disengagement,” pursing its theories of greater territorial expansion and smaller Palestinian population, managed by its agents and surrogates.
At the same time, the PA leadership tries to outsmart the resistance factions, imposing on them the condition of abiding by “international legitimacy,” as though this is the only path to salvation and to having a Palestinian statehood in WB and Gaza Strip (GS), when itself has failed over three decades to leverage this “legitimacy” and its instruments to achieve this goal. Notably, the PA seems to be unable to assess the “qualitative weight” of the engines of change and influence in the national project for liberation. Thus, it assigns greater importance to diplomatic stunts and appeasing the US and even Israel, while dismally failing to deal with its people and leverage its huge potentials in Palestine and the Diaspora. Likewise, the PA has ignored any effort to rearrange the Palestinian home front on genuine and representative bases, the capabilities and potentials of resistance factions, and the independents and various talented and competent Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. Above all, the PA has preoccupied itself with the maintaining the dominance of one particular faction (i.e., Fatah) over all Palestinian affairs, while excluding and marginalizing others.
Consequently, this leadership that is devoid of any political horizon, is determined to continue “tilting at windmills.” It has no recipe to tackle the failure of the peace process except to run faster after its mirage. It has no solution to rearrange the Palestinian home front except through further domination of one particular faction. The PA has no horizon for struggle and liberation, and no horizon to build official potential institutions that accommodate the Palestinian people, its components and its potentials under one umbrella.
Even in the economic sphere, the PA has no vision or real program to leverage the skills, experience, potentials and capital of Palestinians at home and in the Diaspora. It has no ability to enlist and mobilize these assets in a national project for liberation.
At the level of its own structures, there is systematic financial and administrative corruption in the PA, which is rife with fake employment, and employment based on loyalty, with positions filled essentially by Fatah members and partisans, and where those affiliated to resistance movements are excluded no matter their merit or competence, through a “patrimonial clientelist” system. Instead of preparing an economic environment suitable for the liberation from the occupation and for the development of a “resistance economy,” the PA entered into the catastrophic Paris Protocol. As a consequence, the Palestinian economy in WB and GS became hostage to the occupation and its instruments, while at the same time, it pursued a consumer model as though we are in the post-liberation phase.
As such, we have a PA and leadership without a vision for liberation or a will for change, or alternatives to the pathways that have proven their failure. Yet the biggest disaster is that this leadership is determined to press ahead and repeat the same policies over and over again, while agreeing to remain hostage to the “good will” of others, even if they are foes or enemies. Worse still, the PA leadership refuses to step down, or at least step aside and give room for a serious and transparent process to rearrange the Palestinian home front. Instead, the PA is content with its continued role in the subjugation and repression of the Palestinian people and its resistance forces.
This leadership has become a burden on the Palestinian people. Whether it likes it or not, it has brought about more favorable conditions for the Israeli project. It is no longer possible to continue managing the struggle against a global Zionist project, and its instruments of influence and major networks of interests, through leaders that lack the bare minimum requirements to lead a global major cause such as the Palestine issue. Therefore, the Palestinian people will have their say, sooner or later, and take charge and control.