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Financial and political deadlock

January 25, 2014 at 1:51 am

The crisis did not begin when Israel decided to transfer the tax revenue owed to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to the Israeli Electricity Company instead, to pay for its arrears. Nor did it begin when the PA leadership decided to go to the United Nations to obtain non-member observer status. In fact, it began when we Palestinians believed that it was possible to build a state while being occupied; and that prosperity, development and success with state institutions were attainable before liberation. The crisis began when we believed that all other national priorities could be deferred in order to reform the internal administrative system, expand the civil service sector and strengthen the security agencies with ever more personnel and apparatus.

Why did the authority turn a blind eye to the accumulated consequences of placing its life-line and means of revenue in the hands of the Israeli Occupier? Why did they embark on this adventure knowing full well that they would be obliged to conduct their policies in accord with the whims of the Occupier, in such a way that does not surpass the ceiling set by Israel? Why has the PA’s discourse continued to revolve around an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital and of its adherence to the national principles when it knew that it was a mere client entity that has no right to speak more than necessary about the options and margins for manoeuvre?

Today the PA is facing the consequences of Israel’s refusal to pay the tax revenue. It is now incapable of paying salaries to civil employees, unless it resorts to taking loans. So why did it bloat its administrative and security agencies? And why did it ignore the fact that the trappings of prosperity were ever only going to be temporary? The supposed affluence was based on the theory of economic peace that was peddled by Netanyahu. Were the Palestinians ever in need of believing in an imaginary system of honest administration and the construction of a strong security, to the degree that they believed the lie of building a state and turning their backs on the option of resistance?

We don’t know if the PA prepared itself for this day or if there are alternatives to forward or even allude to. Indeed, we don’t know if it is intent on perpetuating the climate of crisis in the Palestinian territories to distract the people from thinking beyond the boundaries of the culture of collecting salaries. Are they really affected by the current escalation, tension and anger in the West Bank, especially among the ranks of the civil servants? It is unclear whether it has considered the coming months, when the crisis will deepen and become more complicated. Then the responsibility of the PA will grow, and it will become incapable of performing its duties.

In any case, the Authority is in an unenviable position. It has not achieved anything politically and it has not fulfilled the promises of affluence and prosperity. It does not seem capable of climbing down from the tree of the peace process, on which it has been perched. Its only accomplishment has been confined to the realm of security. That is to say, providing security for the Israeli Occupation and aborting all attempts at resistance in the West Bank. Anyone who walks in the streets of the occupied West Bank will hear what the public are talking to each other about, their queries about the benefit of going to the UN and about the state foundations that the Authority’s leadership claim they have brought. Nothing has changed on the ground. Instead of Palestinians enjoying a period of respite, even momentarily, their conditions have worsened. They are forced to preoccupy themselves in discussions about salaries and the crisis facing the PA.

With the onset of every crisis the PA’s leadership seems ill-prepared to make a bold move to extricate itself. The leaders are, it seems, fully aware that that they are not allowed to go beyond the parameters laid down for them, even in the context of finding a solution to the crisis. Thus the PA is still banking on international intervention to deliver it from its predicament or that the occupier will change its financial policies. In fact, the Authority knows that its collapse is not sought after by the Israelis or the international community. Hence it does not feel any sense of danger. And it is not concerned about the civil servants who bear the brunt of this crisis; they must continue and be convinced that their future is tied to the Authority first and foremost, with all that that entails.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.