الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   13 حزيران 2019

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هاني المصري

"In an ill-advised statement to the New York Times, [PA] PM Mohammad Shtayyeh said the PA is likely to collapse within two months and that it may resort to dismissing police officers, thereby intimating that it may be impossible to continue security coordination [with Israel]," writes Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian news-portal www.masarat.ps.

It is the PM's responsibility to make decisions and to find solutions to various problems and issues by managing the government's resources and expenses so as to mobilize the available capabilities to the maximum, especially during times of crisis; it is not his job to compete with political analysts.

By talking about the PA's possible collapse and hinting at halting security coordination, Shtayyeh's aim is to urge Israel and those who are keen on upholding the PA, both among the Arabs and internationally, to take action to save it before it is too late. However, this will not work, because Israel will be busy with elections and forming the incoming government until next November and it will not dial back its thievery at the very least until then. Moreover, the Arabs have failed to provide an adequate financial safety net. The U.S. administration's decision to end financial support to the PA and UNRWA compounded with talk about the PA's collapse has led to mounting Palestinian fears about the fate that awaits them.

This article will attempt to answer the question: Is the scenario of the PA's collapse already underway?

The PA's collapse is certainly possible, and its likelihood is growing, given that Israel's thievery is being accompanied by a total political impasse this time around, along with the aggravated state of the ongoing inter-Palestinian [Fatah/Hamas] split, accelerating Arab normalization with Israel even before a resolution of the Palestinian problem is reached, and Donald Trump's administration shifting traditional U.S. support for Israel to backing its more extremist trends. 

The U.S.-Israeli plan (known as the 'deal of the century') has entered the implementation phase with the objective of liquidating Palestinian rights (such as self-determination, the right of return, national independence, equality, and justice). Israel has already taken over most of the territories and has begun planning and working to annex parts of the West Bank, starting with the settlements and continuing with Area C. This involves completing the process of isolating the Palestinians within enclaves and facilitating their mass movement to Jordan, Sinai, and new countries of refuge so as to displace them at a later phase should the opportune moment arrive. 

The PA's collapse is also possible because the U.S.-Israeli plan seeks a new government that agrees to self-governance under the jurisdiction of Israeli sovereignty, stays out of politics, stops demanding Palestinian rights, and accepts or co-exists with the status quo that the occupation has imposed and will continue to impose in the coming years. Hence, it requires a shift from the transitional resolution embodied by the PA based on the [1993] Oslo Accords, since it is ill-fitted to manifest a final resolution, towards a new government that would accept, or at least coexist, with the establishment of a Greater Israel over the whole of historic Palestine.

In theory, it is possible to fully transform the PA to achieve the desired goal. Should it prove to be unresponsive, it can always be dismantled and reestablished anew, or a new authority (or authorities) may be formed that would be more amenable during the phase of liquidating the Palestinian cause in all its different dimensions – as proposed by Zionist researcher Mordechai Kedar in his scheme for establishing 'Palestinian emirates' [or 'city states']. This time around, the crisis is more severe than ever before, and it must be dealt with on that basis. 

If the factors affecting the Palestinian situation remain as they are now or are exacerbated further, the PA's collapse will not only be possible, but probable. This raises the possibility that the PA is mismanaging the crisis by addressing it as if it were a matter of financial thievery alone that Israel will soon back down from.

This might explain why President Mahmoud 'Abbas resolved to reject the remaining balance due to the PA [of Palestinian tax monies held by Israel] in protest against the [Israeli] deductions of funds earmarked for [Palestinian] martyrs and prisoners' families. The Palestinians are wagering that the Israeli government formed after the next elections will restore the funds due the PA in full, especially if Benyamin Netanyahu's opponents were to win, because the PA and its role in security coordination serve Israeli interests that cannot easily be dispensed with. However, nobody expected the newly-elected Knesset to dissolve itself and call for new elections, which means that five more months must pass before a solution can be found to the issue of suspended funds.

Here we should caution against complacency that Israel would return the monies sooner or later. Lest we forget, Israel's decision to loot Palestinian funds was taken in light of the circumstances outlined above. The Israeli government did not spontaneously make a decision that it could back down from upon a whim, as it has done more than once in the past, but rather according to a bill ratified by the Knesset. Backing down would require nullifying or amending the bill in the Knesset. While this is not an impossible task, it is a difficult one that takes time, especially since polls indicate that the next Knesset will be even more extreme than its predecessor.

Another point that bears mentioning pertains to the dissonance between wagering that Israel will cease its thievery, and talking about establishing mechanisms to implement the PNC's [PLO Palestinian National Council] decisions, which would require changing the rules of the entire game. If the PA and its leadership have accounted for this in their calculations, their refusal to receive the diminished funds would be understandable, but it would need to be part of a new, proactive strategy rather than a kneejerk reaction. 

But what is the alternative? There is in fact an alternative capable of safeguarding the Palestinian cause and frustrating the schemes that aim to liquidate it, especially Trump's [anticipated] deal. However, it requires certain preconditions that have yet to be met, as follows:

First: A comprehensive vision and a new political strategy of struggle must be articulated, and the political will to implement it must be secured. This requires giving priority to ending the [inter-Palestinian] split and restoring national unity, without which the Palestinian people's collective potential, capabilities, and strengths cannot be mobilized to confront the dangers threatening the Palestinian cause and to make progress in achieving national goals and rights. This requires refraining from staking on or laboring under the delusion of renewing the political [peace] process, or on any prospect that Israel and the U.S. might change course. Those who stake on others are sure to lose, but those who bet on their own people will succeed, and in this case in particular will be able to influence others.

Second: The current financial crisis must be addressed differently than its predecessors, as if it were not financial in nature but political at core, wrought by the pursuit to perpetuate the occupation and liquidate [Palestinian] national rights in exchange for a mere financial bribe.

Washington and Tel Aviv's rulers aim to complete the process of transforming the PA into a self-governing authority that serves no political role, which they began circa 2000 by storming Palestinian cities and besieging the late President Yasser Arafat. A solution to the crisis will therefore neither be merely technical or financial but fundamentally political in nature. Neither the government nor the PA can bear this responsibility alone, but rather all the Palestinians must do so. Getting sucked into searching for solutions to the financial crisis through loans from banks and Arab and foreign private sector institutions and countries only exacerbates the crisis and ignores its causes and roots.

Third: The PLO's institutions must be rebuilt to include all shades of the Palestinian political and social spectrum everywhere. They must be totally empowered, renewed, and reformed, and their departments and leaders should be allocated to the various areas where the Palestinian people reside such that they are capable of replacing the PA or finding an alternative that can act as one of the PLO's instruments in serving the national program. In its current state, the PLO is worse off than the PA and cannot provide the required alternative.

Fourth: Once an alternative becomes available, the PA can go to hell. Its collapse without a replacement could lead to chaos, security breakdown, and multiple centers of authority, which would not be conducive to igniting a wide-scale intifada and resistance, and so action must be undertaken to create an alternative. The transitional period until that is achieved could entail a reconsideration of the PA's structure, functions, obligations, and budgets so as to respond to Palestinian needs. For example, there is no need for security to consume between 23-36% of the PA's budget, while only 1% is allocated to agriculture.

"The security budget should be reduced and commensurate funds should be earmarked for agriculture, industry, domestic tourism, education, and healthcare, as well as to enable the marginalized areas to hold steadfast in the face of seizure, settlement, annexation, and blockade, to develop a real austerity plan, and to combat corruption and mismanagement," concludes Masri.