The Palestinian Authority is on the verge of collapse, and collapse it should

Israel/Palestine
on 14 Comments

The Palestinian Authority, a historically toothless government operating within the confines of Israeli control and authority in the entirety of historic Palestine, may not be long for the world. Created in conjunction with the absurd geographical and political prescriptions that comprise the Oslo Accords in 1993, the PA was meant to embody a political pivot for the PLO, the secular, nationalist movement seeking to liberate Palestinian communities from the yoke of Israeli domination by any means necessary, including through the use of public acts of political violence. From robust, international fighting force to civil and political authority, the PLO cum PA (and the majority party within it, Fatah) slowly came to be internationally recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. But over the last 25 years, the PA has grown fat from international donations and become complacent in its position of political dominance within the occupied Palestinian territory. It exists today largely for its own benefit and can be seen to be accomplishing little within its area of political influence other than extending its already unnaturally long life.

But change may well be in the air as regards the stultified and ineffective government. Public confidence in the integrity and efficacy of the Palestinian Authority amongst the Palestinians in the West Bank is at an all-time low and faith in the ability (or even desire) of PA officials to steer Palestine into an improved economic and political future is all but nonexistent. Years of bureaucratic bloat, nepotistic policy, and corruption have turned Palestinians against their elected leadership. Harsh crackdowns on free speech (to include the policing of social media sites), the enrichment of the elites at the expense of the public good, and complicity in Israeli occupation policies are to blame. As a result, references to “Palestinian Democracy” are laughed off by the public at large. The PA is understood to exist for its own benefit and longevity, having long ago abandoned true representation of the will of the Palestinian people either at home, in the highly fraught occupied territory, or on the international stage, as the condition of Palestine quietly slips in the ranking of global political priorities behind the crises in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

Today, the PA retains its legitimacy amongst 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians largely on the basis of its ability to fund its own bloated bureaucracy (responsible for employing large numbers of citizens in and around the cultural capital of the West Bank, Ramallah), to provide a bare minimum of health, education, and sanitation services to West Bankers and, perhaps most importantly, based upon its continued claim to represent the Palestinian people. But, 13 years after the suspicious death of the face of the Palestinian national movement, Yasser Arafat, the gloss has long since worn off of his octogenarian successor Mahmoud Abbas, and the tradition of political leadership and civil development in the face of Israeli occupation that Abbas was meant to embrace after Arafat’s passing now seems nearly completely defunct.

Public services continue to deteriorate to deplorable levels in the West Bank while the business portfolios of PA leadership continue to swell. All tobacco and alcohol sales in the West Bank are coordinated and distributed through businesses operated by PA officials including the cigarette monopoly managed by The Falcon Company, an outfit under the control of Mahmoud Abbas’ own sons, Yasser and Tareq. Indeed, the Abbas family is rumored to have a net worth totaling more than $100 million dollars including an unknown sum of misappropriated international donations originally intended for civil and/or social development within Palestinian communities. The Arabic term for this practice, fasaa’id, or “corruption” is on the tip of the tongue of most Palestinians you might speak to, provided of course you are not suspected of being an employee of the Palestinian security services.

As well, public schools in the West Bank now enroll only the poorest children in Palestine; virtually every family who can afford it sends their child to a private or parochial school, paying up to thousands in tuition annually to ensure a comprehensive arts and sciences education through the secondary level. Public hospitals and clinics are likewise openly lampooned by the public at large as dilapidated, outdated, and downright dangerous. Few in the West Bank will struggle to recount an anecdote about a surgery or procedure that went tragically wrong in the public health care system resulting in injury or death from otherwise completely curable maladies. Almost certainly, facilities are to blame. Private hospitals in the West Bank continue to run circles around the public options with many or most doctors and nurses in Palestinian communities spending time in both sectors of the health system. Highly educated and fantastically capable nurses and doctors perform admirably with adequate resources at their disposal. Without them, quite naturally, they do not.

Finally and most visibly, West Bank roads, fields, parks, and open spaces are in a deplorable state. Road construction within Palestine drags on interminably and cars age unnaturally quickly owed to the abuse they take on what might otherwise be serviceable roads and by-ways connecting Palestinian neighborhoods and towns. Rubbish litters the streets of many otherwise attractive and ancient communities. Historic buildings are neither serviced nor maintained. Rumor is that the nicest parks and cleanest streets are all in Ramallah and are maintained in exquisite condition everywhere where PA officials are likely to live or work. As with any number of other issues within the purview of the PA, the illusion of public service seems most important; the provision of actual aid to Palestine is secondary.

Palestinian police block protesters from marching toward the Palestinian Presidential compound the West Bank town of Ramallah, 02 October 2012, as they hold slogans against the Palestinian Authority security forces. Demonstrators protest calling for the end of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Rule, Oslo agreement, the security coordination with the Israelis and the end of the Political arrests. (Photo; Issam Rimawi/ APA Images)

More damning still, all of the above seems most directly to benefit Israel itself as the existence of a pliable and compromised Palestinian Authority allows Israeli designs on Judea and Samaria (in their terminology) to proceed unabated. The separation wall (now ubiquitous in and along the western corridor of the West Bank), continued resource and land confiscation, and increasingly fascistic designs for the growing Palestinian community in the West Bank are rarely contested by the Palestinian leadership. Instead so-called “security coordination” between Israeli and Palestinian governments and police forces is the order of the day resulting in Palestinian officials carrying out Israeli geographic and political designs in the occupied territory. An effective strategy to oppose these designs has not been implemented because such a strategy simply does not exist. In this complicity, the PA seems to have abandoned their people’s interest in favor of their own. Fifty years on from the beginning of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, it is apparently better to rule indefinitely in name only than to make an honest, legitimate attempt at representative government.

In an informal discussion with a group of Palestinian Scouts in the Bethlehem District this summer, this author asked the assembled young people, a group of about 30 intelligent and service-oriented students aged 12 to 18, who among them had confidence that the PA had their best interests at heart. Among the spate of laughter and eye rolls, I scanned the crowd for a single raised hand. There were none. When asked whether they thought their future would be better or worse than the present, none replied in the positive. Israel, the continuing pressure of occupation, and the ongoing American support for it were quickly provided as reasons why. In equal measure, the corruption, callousness, and self-interest of their own government were cited as well.

Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” If this is true, and history certainly bears it out to be so, the next Palestinian uprising (in as much as one can be anticipated), might well be directed at PA leadership rather than at the increasingly secure and robust Israeli military and administrative machine that controls the Palestinian territory. A new government in Palestine might well bring about the change within West Bank communities required to alter the bleak political trajectory of this national group. At the least, it might bring a wave of hope and confidence so badly needed amongst this youngest generation of Palestinians. Such a change might actually result in the raising of a few hands when next a group of young people are asked to evaluate the performance of their own leadership.

 

 

 

About Luke Peterson

Luke Peterson has a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Cambridge. His latest book, Palestine-Israel in the Print News Media: Contending Discourses is available through Routledge Publishers, London. Dr. Peterson currently lives and works in Pittsburgh.

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14 Responses

  1. a blah chick
    July 17, 2017, 3:39 pm

    I don’t know, the PA’s demise has been predicted several times. I can’t wait for it because the sooner they kill this misbegotten entity the sooner we’ll see some movement on the Israeli front. I’m pretty sure they won’t like having to reoccupy the place.

    What I want to know is why the anti-Palestinian types in Congress won’t just turn off the spigot? They’ve threatened to enough times.

    • DaBakr
      July 17, 2017, 6:30 pm

      @abc

      . I think you are confused. How can we reoccupy a place we already occupy? Gaza could theoretically be ‘reoccupied’ however I don’t see that happening even if Hamas were to fall. If the PA is taken down there are billions it receives from the zzz UN and European nations as well as the USA. It should be sufficient to not only govern but improve the lives of 1000s of average Palestinians who want nothing to do with violence or fighting Israel and have been cut off from the billions that go to support PLO cronies. So, in effect, yes, there is much agreement that the PA should go but little consensus that Hamas will be embraced by the majority populace. Not that they will have a choice. Hamas doesn’t roll that way. Yet.

      • Talkback
        July 17, 2017, 9:18 pm

        DaBakr: “I think you are confused. How can we reoccupy a place we already occupy? Gaza could theoretically be ‘reoccupied’” …”

        I think you are confused. Gaza’s status is “occupied”. And a blah chick is simply saying is that JSIL would have to do even more of its dirty work.

      • DaBakr
        July 18, 2017, 3:26 am

        Thanks for your generous attempt to think and interpret for ABC because you no doubt feel she can’t explain her/himself but I didn’t mean it as a slight. She was writing about the PA which last I checked is not in control of Gaza wether you consider Gaza occupied or not. ( If you personally don’t consider Israel removing every single Jewish Israeli a de-occupation of Gaza that is your opinion and personal interpretation of in international law)

        Other then correcting her slip I think she is correct and we will not want to re-occupy any area that is currently under PA, Fatah, or tribal (yup, tribal) control. And Gaza is stuck with Hamas, wether anyone there likes it or not. in fact, they voted them into power.

      • Talkback
        July 18, 2017, 9:43 am

        DaBakr: “She was writing about the PA which last I checked is not in control of Gaza wether you consider Gaza occupied or not.”

        What’s your point? She was writing about the areas that are under PA autonomy (allthough Israel has ultimate control). She wrote “reoccupy” to indicate that Israel would have to do the dirty work of the PA.

        DaBakr: “If you personally don’t consider Israel removing every single Jewish Israeli a de-occupation of Gaza that is your opinion and personal interpretation of in international law.”

        This may be the case in the Kahane Continuum. In our universe it’s your opinion and personal interpretation of international law because the UN holds the position that Gaza is still occupied and that only the Security Council can determine a change of this status. And trust me, it’s a complete waste of time to explain the underlying legallity (starting twith the ruling of the Hostages Trial) to educationally impaired Zionists. They just repeat their nonsense or react with heavy “this is Jew hatred” flatulence.

    • echinococcus
      July 17, 2017, 8:48 pm

      Why Congress beasts don’t turn off the spigot? They can’t, unless told to by their principals the Zionists, on behalf of whom they’re paying puppet money from my taxes.

  2. echinococcus
    July 17, 2017, 4:43 pm

    the PA was meant to embody a political pivot for the PLO

    No, it was explicitly set up as the Zionist entity’s Bantu police. A role that Arafat was a bit slow in understanding: he hadn’t read the small print, or did it too slow to save his life.

    It exists today largely for its own benefit and can be seen to be accomplishing little within its area of political influence other than extending its already unnaturally long life.

    It surely exists to the sole benefit of the post-67 Zionist occupation and seems to be performing tolerably well to help the local Kommandantur. It even manages to seem on the Palestinian side at times (although the Pétain “government” made a better job of it.)

    their own government

    BS.

  3. Nathan
    July 17, 2017, 7:58 pm

    “…Palestinian Authority allows Israeli designs on Judea and Samaria (in their terminology) to proceed unabated”. It’s true that “Judea and Samaria” is the common terminology in Israel, however it is interesting to note that this was the common terminology of the British Mandate for Palestine. All the maps published by the British government used such terms as “Galilee”, “Sharon”, “Judea”, “Samaria” and “Negev”. It is even more interesting to note that the UN Partition Plan of Nov 1947 uses “their terminology” as well. The Partition Plan gives the details of the territory of the proposed Arab state in “PART 2 – Boundaries – the Arab State”: “The boundary of the hill country of SAMARIA and JUDEA starts on the Jordan River at the Wadi Malih south-east of Beisan and runs due west to meet the Beisan-Jericho road….” Anyway, the Palestine Authority is not on the verge of collapse as the title of the article would have us believe. It seems to me to be wishful thinking of the anti-Israel crowd that the PA would disappear. The anti-Israel crowd regards the Oslo Agreement to be a big mistake on the part of the Palestinians, and so they wish it away.

    • echinococcus
      July 17, 2017, 9:04 pm

      It seems to me to be wishful thinking of the anti-Israel crowd that the PA would disappear.

      Believe me, they’re already drafting orders to pull down all lampposts and telegraph poles.

    • Talkback
      July 17, 2017, 9:27 pm

      Nathan: “It seems to me to be wishful thinking of the anti-Israel crowd that the PA would disappear. The anti-Israel crowd regards the Oslo Agreement to be a big mistake on the part of the Palestinians, and so they wish it away.”

      ROFL. Of course. Only the anti-Israel crowd wishes it away. It’s all about being anti Israel. What pathological narcissism.

    • oldgeezer
      July 17, 2017, 9:29 pm

      @Nathan

      Left? Last I heard a very typical right wing Israeli nutter assasinated the sitting Prime Minister over Oslo. And the current right wing nutter Prime Minister publicly bragged about killing it.

      My major complaint with Oslo is that Israel has made no attempt to implement any part of it whether it is the 2SS or the status of areas which were to be passed to PA control and are not droolingly eyed by Israel for annexation.

      The only parts Israel as allowed to proceed is those parts which facilitate the PA acting as their kapos on the captive population. Truly disgusting. On the part of the PA for cooperating. On Israel for the vile and inhuman lust for ethnic dominance and territory no matter how many human lives it costs. Include Jewish Israeli lives of civilians which it notes are on the front lines of the conflict in the illegal settlements it creates, condones and supports.

      Oslo was never the optimal solution. It’s probable no totally optimal solution could be implemented at this time.

      I personally will continue to advocate BDS to ensure Israel pays a steep price for it’s crimes against humanity and it’s failure to implement UNSC resolutions.

      As an Israeli supporter I am sure you would agree criminals and terrorists need to pay a price. And while you won’t agree most likely Israel is a state founded and maintained thru terrorism. Without terrrorism there would be no Israel. A price is required for this rogue and pariah state.

      As a ps… The recent lawsuit against the Palestinian family for the death of an armed officer of the Israeli state in occupied territory is valid to the extent that it should have been directed against the GoI for using it’s citizens in illegal activities as they have been advised by the GoI legal counsel. Every Israeli death is solely on the GoI and it’s supporters.

      • DaBakr
        July 18, 2017, 3:47 am

        Except that only a tiny percentage of the developing and developed world consider Israel a “pariah rogue state” . This is what some Arab states think, some Muslim states, definitely the Muslim republic of Iran thinks and the miniscule number of left wing fringe Israel haters like Phil, his crew and most of his commenters.

        Russia, USA, Canada, China, India, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, much of Europe, Japan, Philippines and dozens of other nations who trade in the millions and billions and receive very little I value from most of Israel’s enemies. Iran is an exception but Persia has always been a force. But whatever your cockamamie interpretation on yet to be argued law, the vast majority of the world rolls its eyes when the left fanatic fringe start yelling pariah rogue state.

  4. echinococcus
    July 17, 2017, 8:59 pm

    . A new government in Palestine might well bring about the change within West Bank communities required to alter the bleak political trajectory of this national group. At the least, it might bring a wave of hope and confidence so badly needed amongst this youngest generation of Palestinians. Such a change might actually result in…

    Stop it, fercrissakes. I’m not supposed to laugh so much, I got a slipped disk.
    Some of what you wrote makes sense but someone should have told you that all Palestine is under Zionist military occupation. Zionist. Control.

  5. HarryLaw
    July 18, 2017, 2:59 pm

    Abbas reluctantly made a complaint to the ICC in early 2015, it is possible, on past experience that the office of the Prosecutor could take 10 years to come up with something, this is disgraceful, surely the Palestinian leadership could put pressure on the court to expedite this case urgently, if only on the issue of settlements? A slam dunk.

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