A few weeks after Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz dangled the promise of a few concessions to strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s illegitimate rule, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has articulated – belatedly as usual – that Israel’s plan is to continue its colonisation of Palestinian territory. As if Palestinians don’t know that already, having lived through ongoing, systematic dispossession for decades.
The PA’s official news agency, Wafa, quoted Shtayyeh as saying that, “The Israeli government’s programme is only to expand settlements, seize more land, deprive our people of their natural resources and abolish the geographical base of the State of Palestine.”Shtayyeh refers to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s recent statements about his refusal to meet PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, as well as his opposition to a Palestinian state. “We all understand that at the moment it’s not relevant,” Bennett declared, with reference to the so-called peace negotiations. All that Bennett agreed to was keeping the PA on a tight rein in terms of how Israel can benefit through security coordination — collaboration — with Ramallah.
Bennett’s strategy to use the PA for Israel’s benefit is laid out so clearly that the PA cannot even avail itself of the illusion of having any political relevance. Unless, of course, such relevance is intended to encroach upon the Palestinian people through surveillance and security coordination, which is what Israel wants. Indeed, that is why the PA was created in the first place.
What little leverage the PA has is tied to this security coordination, which begs us to ask some important questions about Shtayyeh’s remarks given Bennett’s unequivocal refusal to communicate with PA officials. Has the PA, for example, just woken up to Israel’s systematic colonisation of Palestinian territory? Or is Bennett, having benefited from the groundwork laid by the Trump-Netanyahu lovefest, in a position to do whatever he wants with no risk whatsoever of international condemnation?
The Abraham Accords have silenced the little criticism which the international community once reserved for Israel. Last year, the UN was swift to interpret the normalisation agreements as the required kick start for diplomatic negotiations to commence, despite evidence that the Palestinians were being marginalised. The duplicitous standard employed by the UN against the Palestinians helps Bennett’s strategy to involve the PA only when it is in Israel’s interests to do so.
Meanwhile, Shtayyeh’s only concern is that Bennett’s rhetoric “requires a serious pause from all of us and the international community… and calls on us to review our present situation.” Does the PA not realise that Palestine has been “paused” since the very beginning of the Zionist colonisation of Palestine? When Bennett’s tenure is eventually over, will the next Israeli prime minister be described by the PA as the reason why colonial expansion in Palestine is ongoing? What happened to historical trajectories and the basic but overlooked recollection of the 1947 Partition Plan that laid the groundwork for international approval of colonialism in Palestine?
Israel must approve of Shtayyeh’s call for a “pause”. Such acquiescence from the PA makes colonialism so much easier and more effective. When even the political leaders of the colonised population have no other political demand but to “pause”, rather than demand a new approach based on decolonisation, what has Israel to fear? The PA’s shameful approach merely ties into what Bennett and Gantz envisage: Ramallah does the dirty work for Israel through security coordination, while Israel takes care of the politics, without any political opposition at home or abroad.
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