When the PA fails, even Israel will not bail it out

The Palestinian Authority is not too big to fail. Even its paymasters in Israel may not bail it out
6 min read
17 Dec, 2021
Throughout the decades, the Palestinian Authority maintained an illusion of power, with no qualms about losing Palestine if it can safeguard its privileges. Yet, what will the PA do when these privileges inevitably end? writes Ramona Wadi.
This picture shows the headquarters of Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Jerusalem affairs in town of al-Ram, near Jerusalem, in occupied West Bank on 15 November 2021. [Getty]

In 2016, the Middle East Quartet had declared the two-state paradigm obsolete. The UN's response to the announcement was to ensure the two-state politics retained its relevance despite no chance of its implementation. Needless to say, the Palestinian Authority (PA) acquiesced to this strategy, partly because it has no other option than to follow the lead of its donors.

However, the PA's pragmatic and compromised reasoning does not absolve it of the fact that it has profited from its betrayal of the Palestinian people’s political rights. PA officials have occasionally complained of the international community's tolerance towards Israel's human rights violations, which sets the cycle of "waiting" in motion.

A case in point would be the UN's non-involvement during the Trump-Netanyahu allegiance, which culminated in the signing of the Abraham Accords. Only then did the UN spring back into rhetorical gibberish, claiming that the normalisation agreements could kick-start diplomatic negotiations for the two-state compromise.

"With each encroachment, Abbas issued warnings and threats and then retreated from each stance – the only exception so far being the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigations"

It is interesting to note, however, that all the waiting cycles tie back into the two-state diplomacy. This is why waiting is convenient for PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and his officials, who have no political will to look beyond the obsolete and tap into the Palestinian people's political aspirations.

In an interview with France 24 this past November, the PA's Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki rattled off a series of anniversaries related to Palestine's loss. "We are still waiting," he said. "The Palestinian vision, or dream, of an independent, viable Palestinian state of their own is really shrinking." Truth; nevertheless, unimpressive coming from a PA official who knows the Palestinian leadership is actively doing all it can to extend the waiting which has plagued Palestinians since the early stages of the Zionist colonial project.

Let us not forget that at each destructive stage, and this was particularly evident during the Trump administration’s tenure, the PA did nothing but adopt the same strategy of "waiting". With each encroachment, Abbas issued warnings and threats and then retreated from each stance – the only exception so far being the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigations. Even in the latter, Israeli media reported that the Biden administration was pressuring Abbas to abandon its pursuit for justice.

Perspectives

The current situation is no different in terms of the PA's choices. In his address to the UN General Assembly, Abbas warned that Israel has one year to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories, otherwise he will revoke recognition of Israel and the Oslo Accords. At this point, both threats are insignificant, because contrary to the PA, Israel has not wasted its time "waiting".

All Abbas has proposed to do in this one-year interim is an international peace conference which would possibly be held in Paris. The PA's envoys, according to al-Maliki, are indicating the urgency to revive the two-state compromise, which is already obsolete, to avoid a one-state possibility, which is what many Palestinians are advocating for, in line with decolonisation and the emergence of a single democratic state with equal rights for all.

With al-Maliki, like the rest of the PA and the international community, declaring the two-state as the "only solution", it is clear that the Palestinians' call for a single democratic state will not sit well with Ramallah. Indeed, Abbas is doing all he can to retain the current status quo, which means that Israel colonises additional Palestinian territory while the PA willingly "waits," just as it waited for US President Joe Biden to emerge victorious at the elections, only to have the new US administration retain Trump's destructive policies on Palestine.

But, al-Maliki insisted, the PA has faith in Biden, it is just "waiting for him to start implementing what he has promised us." Waiting, again, and willingly.

This is not to say that the PA is not reaching new lows in its collaboration with Israel. Last month, the Times of Israel reported that a meeting took place between the new Shin Bet Security service chief Ronen Bar, and Abbas, during which security coordination was discussed.

In August, Abbas met with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, in a bid to boost the PA's low standing after Palestinians protested the cancellation of elections and the atrocious murder of Nizar Banat at the hands of the PA's security services. Bolstering Hamas, Israel said, would mean weakening Hamas. Hence, the PA accepted to compromise upon a series of concessions that would weaken the Palestinian people’s political stance.

One of Abbas's most pathetic displays of subjugation was his meeting with the delegation from Israel's Meretz party in Ramallah, where he conveyed his wish to meet with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked. Not only was the grovelling embarrassing, Abbas also conjured up the image of an Israeli minister "afraid" to talk to him. That statement set the foundations for Abbas's most pathetic acquiescence so far.

"We know there will be no political negotiations but let’s meet and talk about what is possible, even if we do not agree on anything," Abbas insisted.

"Where will the PA stand if diplomacy decides it is no longer viable to sustain and its borrowed privileges are revoked?"

With such pleas emanating from the Palestinian leadership, does al-Maliki expect the two-state compromise to be sustained? The PA has performed well in its role as Israel's collaborator, thus rendering the two-state obsolete, which is what the "international community" intended all along.

The two-state politics is not just about the hypothesis of an independent and viable Palestinian state. It incorporates all of Palestine's historical losses, protects Israel's colonial expansion, and leaves the Palestinians dependent upon the humanitarian paradigm, which the EU, in particular, has politicised through its aid for illusory state-building. Even if there is no possibility of a Palestinian state emerging because Israel's de-facto annexation is now protected through the normalisation agreements and the international community's approval.

Throughout decades of waiting, the PA has perfected its stance to maintain its illusion of power. The bottom line is that the PA has no qualms about losing Palestine if during that process it can safeguard its privilege. Yet, the PA's privilege is related to Israel's colonial expansion and the international community's two-state diplomacy. Where will the PA stand if diplomacy decides it is no longer viable to sustain and its borrowed privileges are revoked? 

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law.

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.