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The reconciliation graveyard

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) attends a meeting of Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Central Council in Ramallah, West Bank on February 6, 2022. [Palestinian Presidency - Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) attends a meeting of Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Central Council in Ramallah, West Bank on February 6, 2022. [Palestinian Presidency - Anadolu Agency]

The Palestinian Authority which arose out of the Oslo Accords with the aim of building Palestinian autonomy, continues to contribute directly and indirectly to the destruction of the idea of national liberation and unity on the foundations that all factions agree on. It is covered by the PLO, which was not satisfied with merely erasing "armed struggle" from its Charter. Instead, it strengthened the Arab division within the framework of independent Palestinian decision-making, which turned post-Oslo into independent PLO decision-making and then independent decision-making by Fatah, which controls the PA.

This is a difficult outcome after nearly 30 years of the illusory "two-state solution", which in any case only envisages a "State of Palestine" which is demilitarised, stripped of sovereignty, control over its borders, depth and water resources. Today, Palestinian decision-making is restricted to a small group within the Fatah movement. Thus, decision-making pertaining to the national interest is mired with security concerns and presented as a national project for liberation.

In light of the transition from a revolutionary liberation movement to a quasi-autonomous government, which was reflected in the corridors of the PLO, the matter became more complicated. The transition meant that staying on the path of a revolution was impossible given that armed struggle had been removed from the PLO Charter.

The Palestinians needed an elected government and an elected president. A legislative election was held in 1996, and the results came out before the ballot boxes were even sealed. The world recognised what it saw, but still believed that it could cooperate with the "elected" Palestinian government. When Al-Aqsa Intifada began in 2000, the US and Israel decided to besiege and assassinate the then Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. The formality of an election was held, which resulted in the current President Mahmoud Abbas, whose term of office and legitimacy, actually expired in 2009.

The EU conditioned its support for the PA on elections being held and elected bodies being in place before aid would flow. Local elections were followed by another legislative election in 2006, which shocked everyone when it was won by Hamas. The US and Israel, and their allies, immediately imposed sanctions on the Hamas-led PA. The siege of Hamas stronghold the Gaza Strip has been in place ever since.

READ: The PA is gradually being cornered by Palestinian society

Efforts were made to overthrow the elected government and ignore the democratic will of the Palestinian people. Measures were imposed by the so-called Middle East Quartet to prevent government salaries from being paid and restrict the democratic representation of the Palestinians.

All calls for elections were blocked from then until last year, when Abbas announced that legislative and presidential elections would be held. The opportunity for the people's voice to be heard through the ballot box was quashed when Abbas "postponed" the elections. Everyone knew that this was a euphemism for "cancelled". Shockingly, the so-called champions of democracy in the West have continued to support Abbas despite knowing that he has had no democratic, electoral legitimacy since 2009.

Efforts to address the differences between Fatah and its main rival Hamas have all failed. Reconciliation has been tried at meetings as far afield as Sanaa, Makkah, Algiers and Cairo, to no avail. There is a reconciliation graveyard somewhere which is filling up fast.

The US and Israel basically have a veto over who takes part in Palestinian politics; and they hold a gun to the PA's head to make sure that it complies with their wishes, with Israel's interests always being the priority. The PA remains weak because it is neither democratic in nature nor elected by the people. The leadership is being imposed on the Palestinians by the occupation state and its supporters.

This ensures that the security aspect of the connection between Israel and the PA remains dependent on political blackmail. The "sacred" (in the words of Mahmoud Abbas) security coordination between the PA and the occupation state must remain in place at all costs.

Fatah's refusal to hold elections and its justifications for postponing or cancelling them is reflected within Palestinian society, organisations and unions. This creates general distrust within the electorate and exposes the lack of morality and ethics in factional and government operations. A corrupt and inefficient administration cannot meet the daily needs of Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories. Nor can it fulfil the duty to build a national consensus for a Palestinian state, or at the very least to represent the interests of the Palestinian people rather than those of the occupying power which oppresses them. The people need a Palestinian Authority that will encourage them to channel their energy and resources towards resistance against the occupation so that state building and unity becomes the priority.

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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