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Abbas’ commitment to the status quo and international legitimacy has failed Palestinians

April 2, 2019 at 1:35 pm

Palestinians carry posters depicting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a red cross during a protest against him, 22 March 2018 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the Arab League Summit in Tunisia last month only accentuated the usual grovelling to external actors, while speaking of “decisive steps and decisions.” Yet, instead of specifying a way forward, Abbas embarked upon a recapitulation of Israel’s violations and repercussions, while insisting upon implementing proposals which have either been rejected or put on hold interminably.

Since US President Donald Trump’s unilateral declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Abbas has been calling for an international peace conference. At the summit, Abbas reiterated the call – this time to compensate for “the absence of a political solution that is based on international legitimacy.”

Palestinians, he said, “can no longer bear or exist with the status quo.” Yet the PA is doing its utmost to maintain adherence to an approach that has only yielded further fragmentation of Palestine and Palestinians. International legitimacy, which Abbas refers to consistently, has created and maintained the status quo. As long as the PA presents Palestine as a subject for referral to the international community, Palestinian independence will not be achieved.

By now, the Palestinian people have been so ruthlessly marginalised from the political process that there is hardly any recognition of the fact that Palestine is almost always promoted or denigrated in terms of international interests and motivations. International legitimacy, so lauded by Abbas, is a conglomeration of individual and vested interests in power, disguised under the veneer of peace-building. The PA is clinging to the latter and disrupting the Palestinian political quest for liberation; hence there is no opportunity for peace to be decided through the Palestinian people’s narratives.

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Gaining international legitimacy has long been touted as an achievement, despite the fact that none of the symbolic gestures or UN appointments – the latest being Abbas’ appointment at the helm of the G77 – have reaped any political benefits for Palestinians. It is impossible to conflate symbols and prestige with prospects for Palestinians; the rift between political representation and the people is exacerbated by the fact that Abbas and the PA echelons have no qualms about exploiting Palestinian deprivation if this means gaining further diplomatic visibility.

However, the only political strategy promoted by the PA is undeterred acquiescence to what the international community decides for Palestine. Beneath the postulating, the PA is concerned with its survival, which is only an inconspicuous fragment of international concern compared to safeguarding relations with Israel. The Arab League, for example, has pledged financial aid to Palestine to help the PA overcome its financial restrictions due to Israel’s withholding of a percentage of tax revenues. On the other hand, Arab countries are prioritising the normalisation of relations with Israel, which makes clear that a sliver of financial aid does not translate to supporting Palestinian liberation, which Abbas and the PA do not demand, anyway.

The status quo is harming Palestinians, yet Abbas persists in accepting temporary alleviation that is compromised and does not contribute towards a political solution. It is, after all, what the PA was created to accomplish – to serve Israeli and international interests while masquerading as representatives of a population deprived of their political and human rights.

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