الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   22 تموز 2021

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هاني المصري

AMR'S WARNING: "U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr has warned of the PA's collapse, calling it a 'dry forest', in the sense that it can go up in flames at any moment," says Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian news-portal www.masarat.ps

Amr's warning is not only an accurate, partial description of the situation, it is meant to push Israel to do what it must to ensure the PA's survival, which is in Israel's interest according to the Israeli security services and the vast majority of Israeli commentators and experts on Palestinian affairs. This is evident in the recommendation to support the PA and prevent its collapse in the wake of the [May 2021] Jerusalem uprising/[Gaza/Hamas] Operation Sword of Jerusalem

From the very beginning, or after the failure of its political program, the PA became a burden on the national project rather than representing – as the martyr Yasser Arafat and Oslo's supporters envisioned – a preliminary, transitional phase on the road to ending the occupation and embodying the Palestinian state after the final status negotiations that were scheduled to conclude in May 1999, and it has become a permanent solution on part of the 1967 occupied territories.

In light of this, some politicians, mostly intellectuals, and a fair proportion of the public have hasten to demand the PA's dissolution, believing this to be a magic solution to the Palestinian national movement's predicament.

This raises some questions: What does dissolving the PA mean? Who will dissolve it? If it is dissolved, what would replace it? Does dissolving the PA [in the West Bank] entail dissolving it in the Gaza strip, or not? Is there a third option, such as changing it?

--What does dissolving the PA mean?: Does it mean that the president, cabinet, and their subordinates, PA staff and security personnel numbering up to 160,000 and tens of thousands of pensioners and their families numbering 700,000 at the very least, all have to go home, close their offices, and surrender healthcare, education, and other services to [Israeli's military] COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), which the late [PLO chief negotiator] Saeb Erekat described as the true head of the PA?

If the PA/PLO leaderships are in charge of decisions and the factions, especially Fatah and Hamas, do not want the PA to be dissolved, and have only mentioned or threatened it as a tactic, who is going to dissolve it? Will the deed be done by calling for a popular revolution to topple it? Who will launch it? And when will this happen? 

Should the PA's dissolution top the list of priorities, whereby the forces of revolution and change must fight to dissolve it if they want to resist the occupation, under the pretext that the PA poses an obstacle to resisting the occupation and it must be removed from the resistance's path? Or is resisting the occupation the surest and fastest way to dissolve or change the PA? (I have already addressed whether priority should go to the struggle against the PA or the occupation in my last article, so there is no need to reiterate it and those interested can refer to it). 

What fate will befall the 1.5 million Palestinians who benefit directly and the others who benefit indirectly from the PA's existence? After all, it is the main employer of the workforce and the main player in the Palestinian economy.

When this issue is raised for discussion, some hasten to recite and respond the occupation would be responsible according to international law and consensus (although it puts the least stock in international legitimacy) and would replace the PA, meaning it would directly deal with the people without a mediator or proxy – as if the occupation would implement international law with integrity!

Question: What if the occupation does not agree to replace the PA? This is what is most likely, if not certain, to happen.

There are growing dangers threatening the cause, the land, and the people that must be prepared for. There are risks of a non-peaceful transition of power in the event of a vacancy in the PA presidency and PLO chairmanship [both held by PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas]. Thus in the absence of a consensus on the main legitimate institutions for the transitional period, rapid action must be taken to agree on a successor and to ensure a smooth transition of the PA presidency/PLO chairmanship. 

It is crucial for this to occur as part of the process of reviving the national project with a united establishment and a single leadership, and with the participation of all shades of the political and social spectrum. Otherwise, we might find ourselves dealing with an authority that is even more utterly subordinate to the occupation than the current one, while preoccupied with a Byzantine debate about whether to dissolve the PA or not, and about a one-state scenario or an independent Palestinian state, while the colonial project is advancing at the cost of our territory, rights, and holy sites. 

As you recall, at the 2010 Sirte Arab League Summit, President Mahmoud 'Abbas threatened seven options, including that of the PA dissolution. According to a reliable source, he sought to carry out the threat the following year, and sent an envoy who met with an Israeli security official. The envoy said that the PA has no authority, the occupation is not costly to Israel, and that is why it has no wish to end it and is striving to separate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank to block the path to establishing a Palestinian state, and therefore the PA wants to hand over its keys to their true owner, the Israeli government. The Israeli official's response was essentially that Israel refuses to go back to occupying and governing the West Bank directly, and will not do so, even if the PA were to dissolve itself. 'Try a different ploy. The PA does not want to dissolve itself, it is only threatening to do so to improve its conditions, and Israel is keen on it remaining,' he said.

Indeed, in no universe would any such authority dissolve itself. There is an integrated structure that has become rooted after 26 years, giving rise to vested interests driving individuals and groups to defend the authority and their privileges with all their might, and lesser interests driving the majority of the public, with ensuing legal relationships, and countless responsibilities. Given the PLO's clinical death and the political and institutional split, this makes dissolving the PA with no clear alternative or national project, a sure leap towards chaos, insecurity, and multiple authorities and decision-making centers. Thus, in light of the infighting and struggle over succession, the PA could collapse, and several parties, first and foremost Israel, could seek to build an alternative authority.

Nevertheless, if we assume, for the sake of argument, that the president were to deem it necessary to dissolve the PA, another PA official (or officials) acting with the support of the occupation security services and regional and international conditions, will depose and replace him, finding support from most people who depend on the PA for their income and livelihood, and even from non-beneficiaries and some of those calling for its dissolution, because they would be frightened by the idea once they realize it might actually happen.

And if the PA were to do the devil's work, as they say, and decide to dissolve itself, Israel would establish an alternative authority or authorities. Israel has plans filed away if needed, most notoriously Zionist scholar Mordechai Kedar's 'seven emirates' [local self-run entities] plan, which involves establishing 'emirates' in Palestinian municipalities. 

A key Israeli conclusion reached in the wake of the PA's establishment – and especially since the second [2000/4] intifada, the racist separation wall's construction, and the [2005] disengagement from the Gaza Strip – was that the PA's establishment was one of the occupation's most significant achievement, due to its direct engagement with the [Palestinian] people on Israel's behalf, thereby significantly weakening the resistance and blocking other scenarios such as the embodiment of the state of Palestine or a one-state scenario. 

Yes, Israel benefits from the PA's presence, but this does not mean that there are no points of friction and contention with it. The occupation authorities have adopted policies and implemented procedures in pursuit of continuing to transform the PA until it becomes more closely aligned with Israeli objectives, and acknowledges that autonomy under the PA is a final and not a transitional resolution, that the time of negotiations on core issues has passed, and that efforts to persuade or pressure Israel via the UN and its agencies and treaties, or the International Criminal Court, or peaceful resistance or other means are futile.

In that vein, we note Israel's pressure on the PA to withhold salary payments to prisoners and the martyrs' families, suppress incitement, change educational curricula, more strictly pursue all forms of resistance, and act on the basis that Jerusalem and Area C will remain outside the PA's jurisdiction and that it is pipe dream for matters to return to how they were prior to September 28th 2000 [before the second intifada]. 

Let us move on to the next question: 

--Does calling for the PA's dissolution entail demanding its dissolution in the Gaza Strip?: Here, the demand for the PA's dissolution stumbles, much like demands for the one-state scenario. It is inconceivable to call for this directly or indirectly because it would entail calling for the occupation's return to the Gaza Strip and losing the relative freedom in the semi-liberated Strip. Besides, how would the [Hamas-led] resistance and its weapons and missiles be dealt with?

Nevertheless, some dare to call for dissolving the PA in the West Bank while retaining it in the Strip – not only that, but to transfer the PLO/PA headquarters to the Gaza Strip under the pretext that it is liberated and can serve as a launching pad for liberating the rest of the occupied territories.

First, the Strip is not liberated according to international law, but is considered occupied, because the occupation has it under siege and carries out attacks and assassinations against it. Yes, the Strip's situation is significantly different from the West Bank, but it is an exaggeration to consider it or behave as though it were liberated.

Second, transferring the leadership and center of the national movement to a Strip under siege and threat of aggression would make it vulnerable to pressure and extortion, and take it out of the fire into the frying pan. In a paper produced by Masarat (the Palestinian Center for Policy Research & Strategic Studies) [headed by the author of this piece], we proposed a solution based on distributing the PLO and national movement offices and departments wherever Palestinian people are located, especially in the Gaza Strip, rather than grouping them all in one place. It was a mistake to transfer the center of the entire Palestinian struggle to occupied territory. 

Third, transferring the Palestinian center of gravity to the Gaza Strip is directly or indirectly compatible with the old-new Israeli plan to separate the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, and turn the Strip into the Palestinian domain so as to facilitate devouring the West Bank.

There is a third option, that of striving to change the PA as part of a comprehensive vision and a new strategic path, by changing its form, function, commitments and budget so that it becomes an authority that serves the national program and reinforces steadfastness and physical presence on Palestinian soil, and a tool in the hands of the PLO, whose institutions must be rebuilt so it becomes active and represents Palestinian people everywhere.

This is process will be a struggle that the occupation will resist, and it may lead to the current PA's collapse, but in the heat of the battle, an alternative will be forged and a new type of authority will be established adjacent to a resistance capable of achieving independence, and an effective, unified PLO that makes confident strides towards achieving Palestinian goals.

All this will not be accomplished by the current PA. 

"Rather, a fundamental change is needed in the existing structures, leaderships and programs, and the difficulty of this feat does not justify surrendering to the status quo, either explicitly or while hiding behind expressions that reject it," concludes Masri.