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In dissolving the PLC, which enemy is the PA fighting?

First deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Ahmad Bahar (C) attends the opening ceremony of the maritime police building in Al Rimai region of Gaza City, Gaza on 22 December, 2016 [Mohammed Asad/Anadolu Agency]
First deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Ahmad Bahar (C) attends the opening ceremony of the maritime police building in Al Rimai region of Gaza City, Gaza on 22 December, 2016 [Mohammed Asad/Anadolu Agency]

Without detracting from the importance of the legal debate regarding President Mahmoud Abbas' announcement regarding the dissolution of the Palestinian Legislative Council by the Constitutional Court, as well as the importance of discussing the legitimacy of the Court itself, the move confirms what has long been suspected about the Palestinian Authority's approach and serious battles. It is something with which the PA has long threatened Hamas.

The truth is that not one of the decision-makers will put the PA and its leadership on the spot or deter them considering the legality of the whole scenario, not least the fact that the specified term of office of the Court expired 12 years ago. A legal debate would provoke pity given the bitter experience of the PA under occupation. It is as if our main problem lies in our legal will, not in our political choices. Despite this, excuses were made in the face of decisions that do not fall within the context of our required battle against the occupation.

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The announcement that the PLC is to be dissolved was aimed exclusively at Hamas, which has the majority of seats in the suspended legislative body. It came in the wake of an Israeli incursion into Ramallah during an ongoing blockade of the city by occupation security forces. The Israeli raid focused on the city's most sensitive security zones and followed a series of operations carried out by Hamas. This required a statement from the PA in the context of its political and legal struggle against the occupation, but none was made. Israel has, of course, basically turned the Oslo Accords into a security and political commitment from the PA, while ignoring its own obligations and commitments outlined in the agreement. The Israeli raid on Ramallah, which is in so-called Area A, is a violation of the Accords, but instead of pointing this out, the PA is continuing to fight against Hamas and managing internal affairs to exclude the movement and ensure that Fatah and the PA maintain their current political monopoly.

Oslo Accords, the 25th Anniversary – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The PA leadership has warned of enormous challenges ahead, including the "deal of the century" which intends to liquidate the Palestinian cause altogether, as well as the moves by Washington with regards to the status of Jerusalem. However, more important than all of this for the Palestinians is the inevitable failure of the "agreement" that created the PA itself and upon which the 2006 elections were based. This acknowledged failure calls for an end to the current process and an end to internal strife; we need new approaches leading to true national unity. If this is too difficult for the PA, it could at least try to manage its differences with Hamas in the way that it has since the political division arose, without escalating matters and taking legal measures that will only intensify the split.

The PLC may well be defunct in all but name, but it is symbolic, just as the creation of a state of Palestine with no real sovereignty would be a symbol for Palestinian unity. At the moment, though, we have a major political divide and an Authority that has become an end in itself rather than a means to an end, as it cannot hope for any wider political horizon and is monopolised by an elite whose interests conflict with any real struggle against the Israeli occupation, even if in the context of widespread and serious popular resistance. Despite being suspended and thus ineffective, the PLC has been the only body holding together the so-called Palestinian political system in the West Bank and Gaza.

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The problem here lies in the PA leadership's interpretation of the "deal of the century", seeing it as the establishment of a Palestinian mini-state in the Gaza Strip and separating the coastal enclave from the so-called national project. It is still assumed that the PA's own sanctions imposed on the Palestinians in Gaza and the attempt to impose a sweeping solution on Hamas that eliminates all of its interests is somehow going to lead to unity. If Trump's deal does indeed aim to remove Gaza from the equation, then dissolving the PLC helps to achieve this, because the PA will be declaring a battle and then announcing that it is fighting it from the wrong side using the wrong tools.

It may be said that what is happening is a settling of accounts with Hamas, in the ongoing battle to defeat the popular movement. However, this focus is completely mistaken, given that the PA President himself has declared Hamas to be part of the Palestinian nation. The real battle should be against the Israeli occupation. In dissolving the PLC, therefore, which enemy is the PA actually fighting?

This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 27 December 2018

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

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