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The ‘Palestinian emirates’ will shatter any notion of unity

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wearing a mask as a precaution against coronavirus (Covid-19) attends a leadership meeting in Ramallah, West Bank on 20 May 2020. [Issam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a leadership meeting in Ramallah, West Bank on 20 May 2020. [Issam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency]

In the aftermath of the Palestinian Authority’s decision to “split” from the agreements reached with Israel, a large number of Israeli political analysts have presented their thoughts. What are the chances of it actually happening? What are the implications and potential repercussions for the future of the PA itself? And what would Israel do in the event that the PA falls into the abyss?

I will skip over the intense Israeli scepticism about the PA’s decision and its ability to pull out of agreements with the occupation state. Instead, I will look at the repercussions and consequences. Some have suggested a return to the pre-Oslo, pre-PA “civil administration”. More dangerously, others have talked about the “Palestinian emirates” project.

Cities and their surrounding areas to be designated as “emirates” under this scheme include Ramallah, Al-Bireh, Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem, Jenin, Tulkarm and Jericho, as well as — of course — the existing “Emirate of Gaza” under the leadership of Hamas and the de-facto authority that exists there. The Israeli fragmentation of Palestine may go even further. It is worth noting that mention has been made about possible “clan emirates” built around the major Palestinian families. This is the kind of fragmentation of the Palestinian national project that is lurking in the dark recesses of some Israeli minds.

READ: Political ambiguity or a doomsday weapon: Why Abbas abandoned Oslo 

Avigdor Lieberman has spoken arrogantly about the “city emirates”, and proposed the bypassing of the “central” Palestinian Authority in Ramallah to deal directly with local Palestinian leaders and facilitate citizens’ access to basic services through them rather than the civil and security coordination channels used between Israel and the PA.

From the point of view of those with such dark thoughts, these “emirates” would serve Israel’s deepest interests in two ways: for a start, they eliminate the concept of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, as well the refugees’ right of return. They also create even more scope for divisions between the Palestinians which would make the rift between Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas and Fatah pale into relative insignificance.

Palestine president Abbas ends ‘all agreements’ with Israel, US - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Palestinian president Abbas ends ‘all agreements’ with Israel, US – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

In any case, the “emirates” project will help Israel to get rid of the Palestinian “demographic surplus” and make it easier for it to make a major land grab in the West Bank. The Palestinians’ energy will be switch from resistance to the occupation and be directed more towards internal conflicts.

We can assume that there will be a “lead emirate” with the responsibility for issuing passports and a seat representing “Palestine” at international forums and suchlike. It would no doubt have the status of the “Palestinian state” that Donald Trump’s “peace plan” promised. This would also be in Israel’s interest, as it wants more Palestinian territory. The idea of a lead emirate would not prevent any competition developing between what would definitely be “disunited Palestinian emirates”. Indeed, disunity would be the aim of the occupation state and its supporters.

READ: Will the PA really end security coordination with Israel?

When Ariel Sharon withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip, he planted the seed of the “Gaza Emirate”, since when Palestinian national unity has basically ceased to exist. This malicious model, which was greeted by Palestinian cries of victory and liberation celebrations, looks as if it may be reproduced in the West Bank as official Israeli policy. Our experience with Israel has taught us that what usually begins as an idea on the extreme political fringes of Israel’s politics turns eventually into mainstream policy, indicating the extent of the dangerous shift to the right across all of its political parties.

As for the “infrastructure” of the “disunited Palestinian emirates”, it is there with the settlement belts, bypass roads, permanent barriers and checkpoints; each Palestinian city is already an isolated island. The “deal of the century” maps establish the idea of the Palestinian “state/archipelago”, the borders of which are nearly 1,600 km in length due to the degree of fragmentation. This exceeds Israel’s existing (but non-declared) maritime and land borders with its neighbours. This plan, if implemented, will shatter the notion of Palestinian unity in any meaningful sense.

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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