After Mahmoud Abbas’s speech about Donald Trump’s “deal of the century”, there was optimism that it would lead to something new on the ground from the PA. At the very least, that it would help to manage the relationship between the Palestinian factions.
Several days have now passed and nothing has happened to match the seriousness of the situation. Abbas’s speech at the Arab League summit in Cairo was weak, suggesting that we can expect more of the same tweaked slightly to suit the PA leader’s media performance. None of this has any impact on the political world, nor does it set the stage for action to face the risks arising from the deal if Israel starts to implement it unilaterally.
There is no point in threatening to cut off the security relationship with Israel while the PA prisons are still filled with young Palestinians on charges of forming cells to resist the occupation. Nor is there any point in announcing a boycott of America while the Director of the CIA was in Ramallah for a meeting with senior PA security officials Majed Faraj and Hussein Al-Sheikh.
What more does the Trump administration and Israel want from the PA for it to maintain security cooperation? Regardless of how serious any political estrangement and boycott is, will Trump or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu care about the insults and condemnation voiced by the PA against their plans? They know exactly what they want from the PA and they know that the authority will not give up its security role in the West Bank, where most of the effects of the deal will be felt. The PA is not only continuing its security role to please the US and Israel, which may result in its toppling, but also because this is in total alignment with Abbas’s approach, to which he still clings despite all that has happened. He still thinks that armed resistance to the Israeli occupation is “terrorism” and a future “State of Palestine” must be demilitarised. Does any sane person dream of a demilitarised state in a troubled world, believing it to be worthy of the efforts needed for its creation, and that it will be both viable and sustainable?
The details of the deal make it clear that the two-state solution is an illusion, and that there is no place for a Palestinian state inside historic Palestine or alongside Israel; the facts imposed on the ground by the occupation made this obvious many years ago. However, in exposing it clearly, Trump has put the ball firmly in the PA-Fatah court; the Fatah leadership is now required to take a progressive stand when its anger dies down. So far, it has done nothing in terms of internal reconciliation or ending the monopoly over Palestinian decision-making; it is not ready to back down from its catastrophic mistakes against the national cause and Palestinian people. Is it that hard to admit that the path followed by Fatah has led us to this position? If we concede that it was a political endeavour that was justified at the time, why do we continue to stick to it now in our current position, and make statements about ending security cooperation with Israel, which we know to be a lie?
With such hesitation, weakness and failure to implement even a single bold measure, what does the PA believe will prevent the deal from being implemented, especially as many of its stipulations already exist in practice? There is no doubt that the PA’s fruitless efforts will not stop this from happening, because what is needed at this moment are practical decisions that surprise the Israelis and go beyond formalities, public relations and speeches.
The move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018 was a test to see what the Palestinian response would be to the deal when announced in full. The official response was muted, with no significant changes to security cooperation or anything like that. Israel and the US are now well aware that whatever they do, no red lines will be crossed, simply because the PA is so weak in enforcing them. We can expect the deal to be implemented, unilaterally or otherwise, following which the future will be more dangerous for the people of Palestine.
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