Despite last year’s outrage at its attendance, the Palestinian Authority is once again participating in the Herzliya Conference in Tel Aviv. In the current climate of Mahmoud Abbas aligning himself overtly with the oppressor, the move should not come as a surprise.
The 17th annual “security” conference — which is themed “Israel’s strategic balance ahead of the 70th year of Independence: opportunities and risks” — focuses on three main aspects: the Middle East, the global landscape and the domestic arena. Palestine’s visibility in this conference exhibits compatibility with Abbas’s vision of a non-existent Palestine, in which Palestinians are constructed as an alien abstract, completely dissociated from history. One item on the agenda is: “Peace or no peace with the Palestinians? Implications for Israel’s national security.” It is a farcical heading, but necessary nonetheless in order to promote a veneer of preoccupation with the issue in order to maintain the two-state rhetoric and enable Israel’s colonial expansion.
Speaking on behalf of the PA, according to the conference programme, is PA advisor on Foreign Affairs Nabil Shaath, who earlier this month asserted the Palestinian right to armed struggle while “at the same time engaging in political and diplomatic efforts in support of your cause.” Shaath’s participation at Herzliya does not fit with his premise, although it is a manifestation of what Abbas continues to intend for Palestine. PalInfo has also reported the participation of the Chairman of the PA Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, Elias Zananiri, and Nedaa Jadlani, who will be participating in a closed session on water security.
Other than excelling in its collaborative role, the PA cannot be aiming for any positive achievements for Palestine by taking part. Security themes, which are evident throughout the programme, portray Israel’s obsession with power and the promulgation of imaginary threats alongside subjects such regional peace initiatives, demography “between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River”, shifting global power and US-Israeli relations. The fact that Palestinians are so rarely mentioned speaks volumes about how the colonial system has rendered the indigenous population irrelevant, aided by the international community and the PA. Last year, Abbas justified the PA’s presence in Herzliya by citing the opportunity to confront the colonial state rather than remain isolated. This year, the PA will be celebrating Palestinians’ increasing isolation with a congregation of enthusiastic colonisers.
The PA’s participation in the Herzliya Conference is an affirmation that it has basically abandoned Palestine, at a time when Israel is revelling in being asked by the internationally-recognised leadership to plunge the Gaza Strip into darkness by cutting electricity supplies. At an international level, the US and Israel are stepping up their efforts at the UN to influence a perception which eliminates “the occupation” from diplomatic discourse and have Hamas designated as a terror organisation. None of this is coincidental. With the PA insisting on biding its time to see how US President Donald Trump will proceed with the negotiations, as well as its own overtures to Israel, the aim is to bring about a situation in which there is no alternative leadership to its own corrupt administration. However, Abbas is miscalculating if he thinks that weakening Hamas will result in a switch of allegiance to the Fatah-run PA, not least because he and his lackeys have never been more reviled and abhorred as they are now.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.