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The unenviable position of the Palestinian Authority

April 11, 2024 at 8:30 am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends the swearing-in ceremony for the newly formed cabinet in Ramallah, West Bank on 31 March, 2024 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

The position of the Palestinian National Authority, known as the PA, has really been very awkward, to say the least. Here, the top Palestinian Authority, supposedly representing all the people inside and outside Palestine, is standing helpless and hopeless, while Israel, its “partner in peace”, slaughters, maims and jails thousands of innocent people.

After the Hamas attack on Israel last 7 October, the PA has all but been watching from the sidelines of the entire war as it enters its sixth month, and counting. Six months, and Ramallah, the seat of the PA and its ever young President, Mahmoud Abbas, who celebrated his 88 birthday when the war entered its second month, could not do anything for Gaza.

Not a single thing from the long list of things Gaza needs, from food, to water, to medicine, to safe grounds to bury the dead, which Ramallah could provide. Ramallah could not deliver even the least of things within its capacity, like suspend security coordination with the Israeli security establishment terrorising Gazans with its army, literally, ploughing every road, street and alley it comes across, bulldozing every building in its way— remember that the Gaza Strip, more accurately, is supposed to be the second half of the future Palestinian State, which the same PA was actually set up to govern and still hopes to do so, despite all that has been happening since 1994, when it first came into being.

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As if it is on the moon, not miles away from the most modern, AI-fed and technology-driven genocide, the PA still dares to talk about how it could be, again, Israel’s only “certified” partner in what will remain of Gaza. Someone has to wake up Mr. Abbas and tell him that he could never be cloned. The current PA will never be the same, if it continues to exist at all, and security coordination with Israel will only happen on the basis of mutual security or no security to anyone.

Indeed, the PLO should be preserved as an important umbrella for the Palestinian struggle, but the PLO is not Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah is not his cronies and loyal servants. Mr. Abbas has failed to deliver and, at the moment, he is in the same hole as his “once-peace partner”, Benjamin Netanyahu. Both men have been around too long and both have become divisive figures in their respective societies because they have overstayed and are fearful of a tomorrow that will not be the same as yesterday. Both benefit, in varying degrees, from the war and every day it goes on, it saves them another day in power. Netanyahu fears jail, while Abbas fears redundancy, despite passing the retirement age already! Both men cannot stop what is coming and both can never be part of whatever is coming.

Humbly, and in the most dignified way, Mr. Abbas should have realised this fact long ago and stepped aside, allowing the same people in whose name he has carried on for years to determine their future, determine their own process and they will find a way. Generation after generation of Palestinians have managed their affairs in the best of ways and the struggle has never depended on any individual, however huge his contribution has been. The way the Resistance has been leading the struggle now, and before, in Gaza is a very real life example of this fact. The great Mandela himself refused to stay when his time was up. Mr. Abbas is no Mandela and, as the Israelis have long been calling for Netanyahu to go, the Palestinians could come after him, too.

Palestinians are now united against the genocide and the entire world supports them. It might not be the time for leadership change and I am not, in any way, supporting further fragmentation.

The PLO should be reborn, restructured and revitalised, not by recycling the same top leaders whose political life span has long since expired, but by handing over the leadership to the new generation of young Palestinians who have been under the PA for the last 30 years. The kind of people willing to sacrifice for Palestine and some such people are in Israeli jails, PA jails and fighting in Jenin and Gaza and in every West Bank town and village, while the PA’s security apparatus is unable to protect them.

By any standards and measure, Mr. Abbas is very old compared to the average Palestinian in any village or town near you in Ramallah.

Al-Aqsa Flood will not succeed politically, to match its brilliant military successes, if the PA and Mahmoud Abbas, personally, continued as if 7 October never happened.

A long time ago, the PLO, including all its factions, was the best available structure to energise the Palestinian struggle, but that era has passed. Today, the era itself requires a more inclusive leadership, more open-minded young leaders and more imaginative initiatives to build on the support Palestine has gained all over the world. This cannot happen under the current leadership, just as Israel cannot continue under Netanyahu.

Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem are not the same people as they were 30 or 40 year ago. This new generation has its own ways and ways to generate means and, most importantly, to channel all means towards one goal: independence, which has been echoing across the world. Mr. Abbas, sorry to say, is just like Netanyahu, has no place and whatever he has done, good or bad, is part of history.

Anyone believing the repercussions of the Israeli genocide war in Gaza will not change the status quo for Palestine is wrong and does not understand the dynamics of people seeking their freedom. Worse still, is the idea that “historical” leaders cannot be replaced. Again, Hamas’s Yahya Sinwar, who is leading the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation, spent over two decades in Israeli jails and a new PA leader could also come from such jails.

One of the top goals of the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation is to revitalise the entire PA and rebuild it in more suitable way that is capable of truly carrying the torch forward. Most Palestinians today do not like the PA and, in any case, Mr. Abbas will never have a chance in any free election.

Above all else: revolutionaries are immortalised in history, but in real life they retire also.

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