Espanol / English

Middle East Near You

Mahmoud Abbas goes to Washington

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on 3 May, 2017 in Washington, DC. [Thaer Ganaim/Apaimages]
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on 3 May, 2017 in Washington, DC. [Thaer Ganaim/Apaimages]

Last week Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas was received at the White House by US President Donald Trump. The whole thing was an entirely pointless spectacle – a meeting between two “presidents” who are deeply unpopular in their respective countries.

Prominent Palestinian intellectual and former PLO advisor Diana Buttu called the meeting “a waste of time, at best”. She condemned Trump for leading the most pro-Israel US administration in history, and called on Abbas to cease this peace process charade and “start supporting the grassroots Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian freedom and mobilising widespread peaceful resistance to Israel’s occupation instead of continuing a failed negotiations process.”

The Palestinian Authority is an entity set up in the mid-1990s devoted almost entirely to protecting Israel.

The entire purpose of this irredeemably corrupt body from the very start of its existence has been to outsource the Israeli occupation to a collaborationist class of Palestinian “strong men”. The PA has lived up to this role over the years.

The PA jails and tortures its political opponents, and generally acts in a manner reminiscent of other regional dictators. But the main difference between Abbas and other regional “strong men” is that Abbas has only that authority which Israel deigns to give him.

The PA’s armed police forces work hand-in-hand with Israeli occupation soldiers to suppress Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation, in all its forms. This includes non-violent resistance and activism, as well as armed struggle against the violent armed racist thugs of the Israeli terror army that enforces its dictatorial regime in the West Bank, and performs periodical massacres against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

Some municipal responsibilities aside (such as collecting the rubbish) the PA is almost entirely devoted to this repressive role. The PA’s annual spending on its military and police forces equals its spending on agriculture, health and education combined. As a percentage of its budget (31 per cent) this outstrips the UK, India, Israel and even the US.

The PA’s role, then, is clear.

Especially since the US-led “reforms” of the PA’s armed forces of the mid-2000s led by General Keith Dayton, PA troops have had the doctrine of capitulation to the Israeli occupation drilled into them. But this was merely an acceleration of a process long under way – the PA has always fulfilled this role.

When Israeli troops invade areas of the West Bank which are nominally under Palestinian control according to the PA-approved Oslo Accords, PA forces are required to withdraw from the area entirely. In the early days of the second Palestinian intifada which began in 2000, some PA fighters disobeyed orders and began defending Palestinian protesters by firing on Israeli army thugs. But such incidents are largely a thing of the past. The PA acts very much as the old Bantustan leaders did in apartheid-era South Africa – petty thugs with minor fiefdoms and the illusion of control who were in fact enforcing a racist colonialist regime of oppression.

Abbas himself in 2014 notoriously declared that the hated PA policy of “security coordination” with Israel was “sacred” and would never be ended under his watch.

As Palestinian calls for Abbas to go have only increased over the last few years, so have voices raised against this collaborationist treachery. Palestinians in Palestine who condemn PA brutality literally risk their safety and even their very lives – as they do when criticising Israel. Prominent Palestinian activist Basel Al-Araj was killed by Israeli occupation soldiers in March. He was also a critic of the PA, and suffered accordingly for it, paying the price for his political bravery.

Israel had been after Al-Araj, after the PA has been forced to release him from jail due to a hunger strike led by him and his comrades. The PA had held him for five months without charge or trial in September last year. Al-Araj was said to have been held in isolation in a cell measuring one by 1.5 meters.

The brutal slaying of Al-Araj caused voices against PA collaboration with Israel to be raised louder than ever, as protesters felt the PA to be partially responsible.

Abbas has zero political credibility and less than zero democratic legitimacy. Elected once as “president” in 2005, his term expired years ago. He has not permitted elections ever since, ruling by decree in the West Bank.

Due to his enthusiasm for protecting Israel from Palestinian resistance, Abbas is fêted by the political classes in the West. He should instead be condemned by all.

The latest polls show that more than 60 per cent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip want Abbas to go. He should do the decent thing and step down now.

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

Categories
ArticleAsia & AmericasInquiryIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestineUS