"In the wake of the PA/PLO's decision to dispense with [security and coordination] agreements [with Israel], confusion, ambiguity, inconsistent interpretations, and grave concerns about the future have taken hold," contends Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian news-portal www.masarat.ps.
On the one hand, there is a degree of ambiguity in the decision itself, leading to a variety of interpretations. Some interpret the PLO 'dispensing' with the agreements to mean voiding them, while others simply deem it to be a response to the Israeli government dispensing with them first, in the sense of an eye-for-an-eye. A third party views the decision as a response to the annexation plan, which, if frozen, would cause it to be reversed, while yet another group interprets the decision as a prelude to voiding the agreements and beginning to chart a new path that is fundamentally different from the one that the PLO has pursued since the 1993 Oslo Accords were signed until today.
On the other hand, the occupation state circumvented the agreements long ago, and is preparing for the dawn of a new phase in the Zionist movement's history by annexing areas of the West Bank down the path to annexing it all later. Therefore, it will not return to upholding the agreements or back down from its annexation scheme, and could potentially manipulate it by drawing a misleading distinction between declaring sovereignty and imposing its laws and declaring legal annexation.
In that vein, the occupation wants the PA to be completely transformed into a security service authority, just as it was transformed from a broad autonomous administration into a limited one with an apolitical role, and to agree that any future negotiations would (as Netanyahu declared and Trump's vision stipulates), be based on recognizing Israel's Jewish character, taking the [Palestinian] refugee issue off the table, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, paying no salaries to Palestinian prisoners and families of martyrs, and agreeing to Israel's security control from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Setting aside the different interpretations of the Palestinian decision and whether it entails voiding the agreements or simply dispensing with them or something else, other than saying it would suspend security coordination and commit to fighting terrorism, the leadership has not explained this decision or what it entails in terms of procedures and arrangements.
The occupation suspended civil coordination in a move that appears to have surprised many of the political elites who were banking on the PA being a joint Israeli-Palestinian interest that cannot be compromised, forgetting that Israel is not a charity and that it views the PA as a package deal that cannot be partially suspended and continue to operate as usual. If the PA does not provide the goods, it will be dismantled, altered, and reinstalled as a fully compliant authority.
The suspension of civil coordination, for which the PA was unprepared, was cause for great concern. Relations between the occupation authorities and PA agencies and ministries are deeply intertwined and complicated. Suspending them causes considerable damage to the people's interests and lives, because no alternatives were created in advance.
How will [Israeli] transport and labor permits be issued ? How will goods be transported and managed? Will the PA receive [Israeli] tax allocations or not? Will there be coordination with the PA, when Israeli occupation patrols storm cities and towns, or not? Will the police and security personnel frequent their stations and homes without coordination, or will they fulfill their duty to defend their families, which would lead them to disproportionate military clashes? Will coordination in the event of traffic accidents in Areas B and C take place or not? What about transporting medical patients and other countless issues?
The leadership has not provided the required answers. It has opted to wait and bet on international interventions, banking on the Red Cross and other international organizations to take over coordination until the crisis is over. But what will it do if the crisis persists? This will entail a vacuum that will be filled by third parties. The UN is unable and the occupation is unwanted when it comes to assuming the PA's tasks. If it returns out of political, livelihood, and security necessity without the occupation backing down from its annexation plan, that would mean the PA is prepared to accept and coexist with the status quo, and will gradually become a fully compliant authority that implements 'economic peace'. If it does not agree, the PA will gradually collapse, despite the fact that none of the stakeholders want its dissolution.
The occupation power was prompted to take a hardline stance on the dissolution decision via its recognition of the fact that it will be difficult for the PLO to settle for this decision should Netanyahu carry out his threat to annex the Jordan Valley and settlements, as scheduled. He is likely to proceed with the annexation because he views it as a political and personal necessity, given the [corruption] charges leveled against him, exploiting Palestinian vulnerability and division, Arab fragmentation, and the world's preoccupation with the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout and many other issues.
The presence of a U.S. president who rivals Zionist hardliners in their extremism and is in need of evangelical support as his chances of victory decline and his openly anti-annexation Democratic rival pulls ahead, makes it all the more likely for annexation to proceed between July and the presidential elections.
At the very least, Netanyahu's government will proceed with annexation via a decree enacted by the government or PM or a bill ratified in a Knesset bill that would be implemented immediately, or in installments at a convenient time. This is how the matter of prisoners and martyrs' salaries, among others, was handled; bills were ratified in the Knesset and implemented when the government saw fit.
We have witnessed a political bazaar of Palestinian reactions and contradictory propositions of every hue and shade. Some have advocated turning the PA to a state under occupation without explaining how it would operate without the occupation's consent or approval. Others have called for dissolving the PA and transferring its duties to the PLO without explaining how that would happen when the PLO's leadership and departmental headquarters are located only a few meters away from the Muqata'a [PA headquarters in Ramallah], and both operate under the auspices of the occupation.
Some advocate holding elections, viewing this as a magic wand without considering how realistic this proposition may be, and whether they mean elections for a state, or for the PA in its currently precarious fate, or for the PNC [Palestine National Council, the PLO's highest political body], all of which cannot be held without struggle and the passage of enough time to make the arrangements possible.
Others call for dissolving the PA and focusing on the PLO until the occupying state bears responsibility for its occupation, but the proponents of this view have not considered the fate of the PA's 160,000 employees, 75,000 pensioners, and many other beneficiaries of its existence. Is it possible to dissolve the PA when no authority can dissolve itself? If it is dissolved or collapses, will this entail direct Israeli occupation, or will there be efforts to form an alternative authority or authorities?
Some have called to abandon the project of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and the two-state solution, without heeding Netanyahu's proclamation that annexation will not grant citizenship to the Palestinians in the annexed areas and they will remain wards without nationality. This demonstrates that the man who foiled the establishment of a Palestinian state on part of Palestine, will also be able to thwart the single state option that threatens Israel's alleged Jewish and Democratic nature. Any national solution requires a struggle to change the balance of power, and this is not currently within reach.
As for the one-state solution, there are several schools of thought: A state for all its citizens, such that the struggle for a Palestinian state becomes a struggle for equal rights – as if the world is going to impose such a thing when it could not do enough to establish a Palestinian state or a binational state, let alone a secular democratic state in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians live after 'recognizing' Zionism or Israel's Jewish nature transitions to Jewish in-fighting, or after full liberation and the defeat and dismantling of the Zionist colonialist project, or a Muslim or Arab country is built on the ruins of Israel.
They seem to have forgotten that the more we argue about how to skin the bear before it has been caught and treat politics as a matter of slogans and posturing without accounting for balance of power and what is possible and what is not, the more deeply enshrined the sovereignty a single racist colonialist state becomes.
It seeks to annex the rest of Palestine to Israel by annexing territories without their residents, who will be grouped together in enclaves within the annexed territories or in densely populated ghettos cut off in the remaining territories that could be deemed a 'state' or 'empire', until a convenient time arrives to expel more Palestinians, annex the rest of Palestine, and establish Greater Israel.
There is another approach that I believe would fare better than the others, although it may be too late or this may be the last chance. The Palestinians must adopt a new comprehensive approach in order to get rid of the Oslo Accords and the political, economic, and security structure and conditions wrought by it as part of a gradual historic process of rebuilding and operating PLO institutions that represent the Palestinians in word and deed, by forming a unified interim national leadership that works towards forming a new national council and establishing leaderships and departments across all Palestinian communities, especially in the surrounding countries.
This approach involves relegating the PA's political duties to the PLO so that it may serve as an administrative and service authority, which, in turn, requires reviewing its functions, budget, operational structure, and security agencies, many of which are superfluous as there is really only need for a police force and perhaps one other agency.
With this approach, the PA would seek to provide the ingredients for Palestinian people's survival and facilitate their livelihood affairs. It would serve as an instrument in the PLO's hands serving the national program, while preparations are underway to establish popular committees, consolidated leadership in all areas, and education, healthcare, and economic institutions, in addition to mobilizing civil society institutions such as parties, unions, municipalities, and associations in anticipation of the PA's collapse or the occupation dissolving it and replacing it with a puppet authority, should it refuse to accept the racist colonialist status quo it has created.
In this approach, the [Hamas] Gaza authority would merge as part of a single authority, while accounting for special circumstances and particulars, for instance, the fact that the occupation has redeployed forces despite having no presence there [in Gaza], occupies a part of it, besieges it, and continuously threatens it with aggression. This requires an authority that represents the entire nation, with the mandatory organization of armed resistance forces into a national army under a single strategy and unified command.
The foregoing requires the PA to gradually change its obligations, budget, and structure. A status quo built over the course of 25+ years cannot be undone by a decision. At the same time, it must prepare for the prospect of its collapse, dissolution, or replacement with another authority that may take shape as a Palestinian 'emirates' project, as proposed by Zionist scholar Mordechai Kedar, who views 'the emirate of Gaza' as the first step in his scheme and that the current conditions facilitate the establishment of the remaining emirates on familial and provincial grounds.
Although the current [PA] approach rejects Trump's vision and the annexation scheme, sticking to it without adopting a new comprehensive approach will either reproduce a second Oslo Accords with new terms that are worse than those of the first Oslo, or it will lead to the PA's collapse and the establishment of an authority (or authorities) entirely compliant with the occupation's will, which can be achieved by spreading security chaos and turmoil, hunger, poverty, and unemployment, driving the people to accept any authority as preferable to the rule of thugs, bandits, road-blockers, and the occupation's lackeys.
Despite all the turmoil, loss, and division, there is still hope, because the Palestinian people are committed to their cause and prepared to fight for it and the Palestinians, Arabs, and world reject Trump's vision and the annexation scheme. This may not be yet enough to thwart it, but if the Palestinians act now to take steps towards unity, partnership, resilience and popular resistance, prepare for an intifada, and build upon prior achievements and remaining gains, they will be able to defeat the annexation.
It is no insignificant feat for 140 countries to recognize the Palestinian state, for the UN and international law to be opposed to the occupation's actions, and for the International Criminal Court to embark on prosecuting the occupation for its crimes. Moreover, the Arab peoples are against normalization and uphold the centrality of the Palestinian cause, and international public opinion stands with Palestinian rights.
"Add to that the fact that the region and the world are changing and will inevitably witness further change, especially when the coronavirus pandemic is over, and many Israelis, including Zionist hardliners and security and military personnel, view the harms of annexation to currently outweigh its benefits," concludes Masri.