الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   04 شباط 2023

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هاني المصري

"The official leadership's decision to suspend security coordination was unavoidable, especially in the wake of the Jenin massacre," maintains Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian news-portal www.masarat.ps.

If it is implemented on the ground and continues on a long-term or permanent basis, it will have great repercussions, especially on the future of the cause and on the existence of the PA, which could collapse, be dissolved, or change in structure, obligations, and balance of power.

So far, the decision has been interpreted as sending several messages: It is a message to the Palestinian people, who will not be satisfied with anything less than this step in the wake of the Jenin massacre and all the crimes the Israeli government has committed or is preparing to commit. This step is demanded by a broad range of forces and sectors of the Palestinian people. Since 2015, the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) and Palestinian National Council (PNC) have taken resolutions on this matter and others that have not been implemented. Or if some were implemented, it was not in full. For example, the 2020 resolution to suspend security coordination was retracted after several months in November of that year, under the pretext that the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) of the Israeli Ministry of Defense sent a message to the PA Coordinator of Civil Affairs that the PA interpreted as confirmation of Israel's commitment to the agreements signed between the two sides.

The decision also sends a message to the world in general and the U.S. administration in particular to spur them to take action before it is too late to stop the Israeli escalation that began when the Israeli government took power, escalation that is likely to increase given that government's program, measures, and many of its ministers' statements. In the process, this escalation will sweep away the PA along with any remaining hopes of preserving the status quo and the illusions of reviving the so-called 'peace process' and 'two-state solution'.

According to a study conducted by distinguished future studies scholar Dr. Walid 'Abdelhay, the PA has suspended security coordination 63 times since its inception. But every time, it quickly returned to it, because maintaining the suspension would lead to an all-out confrontation – in other words, mounting Israeli sanctions leading to the dissolution of the current PA. The Israeli government would not continue civil coordination, which encompasses all aspects of life, including providing facilities, transferring tax funds, issuing work permits, and so on, if security coordination were to remain suspended. It could lead to mounting resistance, of which coordination was a key deterrent, as well as impose huge military, financial and economic burdens on the occupation state. As we have noted before, the number of military brigades operating in the West Bank has increased following the Palestinian decision.

Based on this, if the leadership wants to maintain the suspension of security coordination, it must not suffice with this decision. Rather, it must reconsider all the political approaches it has adopted since the Oslo Accords were signed and pursue a new approach based on the assumption that there will be no solution and no negotiations in the foreseeable future. It must be based on unity, steadfastness, and comprehensive resistance as the main driver, to which many others are added so as to change the balance of power to enable the end of the occupation and the achievement of Palestinian rights and goals. It must especially reconsider the PA's nature, form, functions, obligations, and balance of power. There is definitely the need for an authority to manage the people's affairs, but it must be of a new kind.

The PA of the phase of clinging to negotiations and the political process cannot be the same as the PA of the phase of open confrontation with the occupation. It is necessary to delegate the PA's political functions to the PLO, which must be urgently revived so it can resume its role of representing the Palestinian people at this moment in which the cause, people, and land face existential challenges and threats. This means reconsidering the security doctrine, the security services' role, powers, and budget, their personnel numbers, and their relations with the occupation security services. It also means establishing a national doctrine and turning the PA into a national, democratic establishment that upholds the separation and autonomy of powers, respects the rule of law, guarantees public and individual freedoms, combats corruption, inflation and nepotism, and ceases human rights violations. It is also necessary to rebuild and activate the PLO's institutions so it can play the role of the sole, legitimate representative, the supreme political authority, and an alternative to the PA should it dissolve or collapse. This requires it to be built on national, liberatory, and democratic foundations. The PLO must be inclusive and open its doors to all political and social stripes based on common denominators, the modus operandi of the phase of liberation, and commitment to the natural, political, legal and historical rights of the Palestinian people.

In other words, it is imperative to build an alternative to the current PA, whether by establishing a new one or changing the old one to become a tool that serves the national program alongside the resistance. I am not talking about a PA that engages in resistance, because it is impossible in the current Palestinian circumstances to combine armed resistance in particular with the PA. Or, if the PA is dissolved or collapses in the thick of the conflict, it will be necessary to build new institutions to manage the people's affairs. No one imagines that the PA's demise without an alternative in place would be a blessing under any circumstances. It is most likely to be a curse. The return of direct occupation and the launch of resistance is not the only possibility should the PA collapse. Rather, given the structure that has developed after decades of occupation and almost twenty years of division and great destruction affecting everything, there is a strong possibility that it would encourage the formation of local authorities and foment chaos, insecurity, and the proliferation of decision-makers.

It must be known that maintaining the suspension of security coordination would eliminate Israel's main reason for supporting the PA's survival. This will necessarily lead to the transformation or collapse of the PA – at least as we knew it during the first phase, from the Oslo Accords' signing to Yasser Arafat's assassination, when there existed a political process, mutual commitments, and final status negotiations.

True, successive Israeli governments have breached their commitments, even during the tenure of Yitzhak Rabin, who famously said 'there are no sacred appointments'. But this took on new forms during the three phases of President Mahmoud 'Abbas' tenure. The first phase was from his presidential inauguration to 2010, during which the Israeli security establishment was the arbiter of negotiations without regard for past accords and commitments. The accords were gradually completely abandoned, and security coordination in itself came to be 'sacred', to 'represent Palestinian interest', and to be 'necessary', even if compliance with the accords was unilateral. At this phase, the demand for the recognition of the Jewish state was added as a condition to resume negotiations. The International Quartet's unjust terms were also added as a condition for obtaining the Israeli, U.S. and even international green light to form a national unity government.

The second stage extends from 2010 until the formation of the current Kahanist government. In this phase, what is known as 'economic peace' was enforced instead of the 'peace process', and economic security devoid of political substance became the parameters and focus of the Palestinian/Israeli relationship. This went as far as Binyamin Netanyahu refusing to agree to even meet the Palestinian president for ten years, and his successors Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid followed his example.

The third phase of 'Abbas's tenure began at the start of this year. In this phase, the Israeli government will try to weaken the PA and force it to submit to Israeli conditions that it stop its internationalization strategy, cease its pursuit of full membership for the State of Palestine and the recognition of individual states, and desist from prosecuting Israel at the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. Otherwise, it will proceed to dissolve the PA and strive to replace it with local administrations (or authorities without a single national political establishment or framework). This approach is in line with the government's program to gradually annex the West Bank and concentrate the population in crowded ghettos isolated from each other until the right opportunity arrives to annex them in full. This directly entails or will consequently result in the mass exodus of a million or millions, 'voluntarily' or by force, to Jordan, Sinai, and any countries that may agree, or be compelled to agree, to take them. All Palestinians are targeted for displacement, on both sides of the Green Line. In other words, the Israelis' proposition is for the PA to continue to exist as a single structure devoid of political substance or weight as a final solution, or for it to be deconstructed into local administrations or authorities without a unifying bond that fight, compete with each other, and all seek the occupation's favor.

The suspension of security coordination faces the PA with its most difficult dilemma yet. The intention was most likely for this to be a temporary, tactical measure, But if the U.S. administration, in the course or aftermath of Antony Blinken's visit, proves unable to reach a deal that would allow the PA to descend from the tree-top, it would be because the decision would be reactive. It would not be taken with a holistic vision or plan in place or a serious approach to end the split and restore unity, or as part of developing a unified strategy of resistance, until proven otherwise. Unless the PA is prepared to bear the consequences, it will be impossible to maintain it. To be able to move forward, it is necessary to completely change the adopted path and expand the scope of participation in decision-making to ensure everyone bears responsibility, from individuals everywhere, to various forces, institutions, movements, committees, and initiatives, especially powerful and wealthy classes and groups. It is also imperative to develop a broad, far-reaching austerity plan and streamline and unify the PA. Therefore, the PA is facing a moment of truth. Will it complete its transformation into a diminished PA or flee from the dark tunnel it has walked into?

Although it is one of Oslo's products and is as dangerous as the latter, the inter-Palestinian split cannot endure in spite of the existential dangers, with the continued existence of two rival establishments under occupation and blockade in a phase of open confrontation in which Israeli schemes target everyone. So where will the settlers reside, when the plan is to transplant 200,000 to the West Bank within two years and a half million within ten? The remedy cannot start with the PA, by first forming a national unity government whose primary mission is to end the split and transform the PA and PLO. Rather, it must be implemented simultaneously and in parallel, as part of a comprehensive package solution based on national, democratic principles, national interests, and the balance of power free of factional quotas.

Do we expect the Palestinian leadership and forces to make the necessary choices? No; but the alternative is not maintaining the status quo. Rather, it is possible to devote our best and utmost efforts, starting with joint coordination to face the existential threats endangering everyone. No person or area is safe from targeting. The demand put to the Gaza Strip will be to maintain the calm-for-facilities equation and stop building power and supporting the resistance in the West Bank; otherwise, it will be subjected to a military campaign equal to or greater than past operations. PCIs will be expected to be completely loyal and accept to be treated as isolated individuals. Palestinians in the West Bank will be expected to accept annexation, al-Aqsa's status changing, and living in ghettos. Palestinians in the diaspora will have to remain deprived of national rights, the right of return, or compensation.

It is possible to embark on an inclusive national dialogue that does not reproduce previous talks and agreements. Indeed, it is necessary to develop new foundations and a national agenda that involves a program of common denominators, reviving and reformulating the national project, recourse to the people through elections (under a unified framework) at all levels and in all districts, and expanding the scope of dialogue participants to include representatives of various groups, especially women, youth, and refugee and diaspora communities. This includes PCIs, because the enemy program targets our people's unity, cause, land, national identity, and historical narrative, by falsifying the past and seeking to co-opt the present and the future. Therefore, unity is imperative through confrontation, movements, civil society, and legal personalities.

"The models of unity in the field in Jenin, Nablus, and elsewhere, in the joint operations room in Gaza, and in some fields and intersectoral and vertical partnerships provide an example that must be further developed and promoted, until we attain political and popular pressure capable of enforcing unity from the bottom up and forming an interim transitional leadership on the path to reviving and activating the inclusive national establishment based on a national program of struggle, and not factional quotas," concludes Masri.