The Palestinian Authority’s current financial crisis may be blamed on the coronavirus pandemic, yet the international community itself designed and maintained its dependence upon external financial aid as the means to prevent state building and Palestinian autonomy. A recent statement by the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, divulges the reasons behind international concern for a scenario in which the PA is depleted further in terms of power. “Preserving the functioning and stability of the PA is vital to the security and well-being of both Palestinians and Israelis alike,” he declared.
Mladenov also called upon Israel to “help” the PA during this crisis. Yet again, the “both sides” rhetoric removes the political urgency and the burden of responsibility from the colonial power: “Both parties must work quickly to resolve barriers standing in the way of regular transfers, including withheld clearance revenues.”
PA Finance Minister Shukri Bishara has indicated that dire times lie ahead, with an estimated decline of 60 to 70 per cent in revenue. The PA’s planning for the current economic downfall is largely dependent upon Israel’s agreement to transfer funds equal to the revenue which Israel collects on behalf of the PA in respect of taxes and tariffs.
The coronavirus pandemic is indeed an emergency, yet it must not eclipse the fact that Palestinians have lived in emergency situations since the 1948 Nakba. It is troubling to see political actors normalising the previous and ongoing Israeli violence to create a single emergency, and one that is temporary, albeit lengthy, as opposed to a colonial project which the international community is determined to support until its completion.
In the background, meanwhile, state and settler violence continues unhindered. The coronavirus and its associated crisis has created a vacuum for the violations that are likely to become a permanent fixture in Palestinian daily life. The preoccupation with the PA’s survival, which is essential for international diplomacy and for Israel’s “security” until there is no longer any need for its existence, will usher in a new period of human rights violations.
Providing financial aid for the PA, which will also likely dwindle in the circumstances, will become a priority in terms of diplomacy. This will also increase international collaboration with Israel, which will in return expect the UN to turn an even blinder eye when it comes to state and settler violence against Palestinians. Both the international community and Israel will be exploiting the pandemic in the long term, relying upon the most recent and pressing emergencies to divert global attention away from the underlying and permanent violations of Palestinian rights.
Israel has all the resources necessary to survive the pandemic, unlike the Palestinians whose survival depends upon the international community’s politically-charged humanitarian aid and financial assistance. Furthermore, the international community provides aid based upon the premise that Palestinians refrain from politicising both aid and their rights. It also requires Palestinians to assimilate to the rhetoric of state building within the two-state framework. Coronavirus pandemic aside, though, through controlling every aspect of Palestinian politics and life, the international community is now warning against the collapse of its own creation in Ramallah which is, as Mladenov said, “vital to the security and well-being of both Palestinians and Israelis alike”. Who, we are entitled to ask, actually benefits from the PA’s financial crisis?
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.