Last Saturday, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas made the distinction between political corruption and the Palestinian people, albeit unwittingly. What remains to be done is articulate the dissociation between the PA and the Palestinians it claims to represent, to ensure that there is no opportunistic appropriation of the struggle by the former.
During a meeting with Arab delegates in Ramallah, Abbas declared that Palestinians “will continue to fight Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.” Undoubtedly, Palestinians will continue their anti-colonial resistance, not just for Jerusalem, but also for all of historic Palestine.However, Abbas has exploited the issue of Jerusalem’s status for the wrong reasons. It is worth reminding ourselves, yet again, that the PA has already made significant concessions over the city, as was revealed in the leaked “Palestine Papers”. As the US prepares for the official opening of its embassy in Jerusalem, Abbas’s rhetoric is stale and in opposition to Palestinian aspirations. In the context of the Great Return March, which does not compromise on historic Palestine, contrary to Abbas’s persistence about the two-state paradigm, his words emphasise further that, for the PA, Jerusalem is little more than a diplomatic bone of contention.
With his popularity dwindling, Jerusalem has provided Abbas with a platform from which to articulate a semblance of leadership, although his words are in line with the international consensus rather than Palestinian demands. However, it is from a perspective of acquiescence that Abbas speaks of Jerusalem, rather than from a platform that unifies the struggle for the city with the rest of historic Palestine.
According to the Times of Israel, Abbas stated that following a “peace settlement” with Israel, “East Jerusalem will be ours and West Jerusalem theirs.” Anadolu Agency also reported Abbas as saying, “The administration of Palestine will not allow US President Donald Trump or anyone else to call Jerusalem Israel’s capital.”
Abbas, though, is in no position to dictate what Trump calls Jerusalem, not only because of the power imbalance, but also as a result of the PA’s pandering to Israeli, US and international demands. In line with the two-state compromise, Abbas is promoting the fragmentation of Jerusalem, which runs contrary to the overall Palestinian anti-colonial struggle. The PA’s failure to define Jerusalem from a Palestinian perspective makes Abbas’s rhetoric deeply flawed. Fragmenting Jerusalem into East and West, within a colonial and military occupation framework, only benefits Israel, which has appropriated Palestinian territory in the same manner. For Abbas to utilise an internationally-accepted imposition which gives Israel guarantees for further appropriation does not constitute a fight against Trump and the other countries which are expected to follow suit with embassy moves.
The PA’s approach is one that will only elicit warnings against violations of Palestinian rights. It is an outdated strategy from which only Israel stands to gain. Palestinians are not only fighting Trump’s decision; they are also fighting the colonial process. For Abbas, however, selecting Jerusalem as a priority has nothing to do with Palestinian rights. It is merely a means of clinging to a visible violation within safe parameters, with the obvious outcome of having the international community dictate proceedings through its silence.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.