Monday, 4 March. 2024
Your Key to Palestine
The Palestinian Initiatives for The Promotoion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

Success like that enjoyed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in mid-September, when the Israeli government authorized his removal, does not come often. After surviving nearly two years confined in his bombed-out Muqataa in Ramallah, he is now seemingly back on top of the Palestinian pile.

Again Arafat has confounded and defeated Israeli and tacit US attempts to isolate and remove him. After the Israeli expulsion decision, he rallied the support of thousands of Palestinians, forced Israel to publicly step back from its resolution, and showed that he can still end and create political careers for Palestinian Authority (PA) prime ministers. By so doing, he has proven that he is the indispensable player in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet this success begs a paradoxical question: Should the PA dissolve itself?

The idea of dissolving the PA has already been broached. Noted Gazan commentator Eyad al-Sarraj said as much on Aug. 24 when he maintained that the PA should abdicate power and acknowledge that it is no longer a useful entity for achieving Palestinian national rights. Dissolution indeed makes sense when framed in this way.

Dissolving the PA means that the prime minister and his Cabinet resign and relinquish their authority to the PLO and to the Palestinian people, admitting the PA was unsuccessful in achieving significant gains on Palestinians rights. This would not be an admission of defeat, but a forward progression. In taking this action, the PA would formally hand Israel back its occupation, with its checkpoints, illegal settlements, land thefts, home demolitions and killings. This is crucial, as it would publicize the true nature of Israeli control, which negotiations between the PA and Israel have tended to hide from the eyes of the international community.

By dissolving itself, the PA would effectively remove itself as a “partner” in Israel’s continued usurping of Palestinian rights, carried out under the pretext that negotiations are leading to a resolution of the conflict. In doing so, the Palestinians would likely reinvigorate their strongest political cards, namely UN involvement, relevant UN resolutions and greater international support.

The idea of the PA dissolving itself needs to be seen in light of its failures. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the PA has achieved limited gains for Palestinians. Admitting this does not mean letting Israel, the US and the international community off the hook for allowing the occupation and dispossession of Palestinians to continue. During the 10 years since the implementation of Oslo began, Palestinians have suffered an increasing number of fatalities, had more prisoners taken by Israel, faced a declining GDP and seen greater restrictions on movement, including entry into Jerusalem.

The two positive things the PA had provided are themselves waning. The achievement of liberated Palestinian areas is now largely gone. And the PA’s much-needed employment of thousands of Palestinian civil servants, though it continues, is being undermined by declining economic conditions. An assessment from on the ground adds to the credibility of the dissolution idea.

With the PA in its present form, Palestinians can logically expect only more of the same treatment they have received in the last decade. After eight months of the “road map,” it is clear in what direction it or any other US-sponsored “peace” plan is going. The bottom line for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and presumably any other Israeli government that would enjoy near unbridled US support, is to brutalize the Palestinians to such an extent that they would acquiesce to a state in 42 percent of the West Bank and Gaza.

Admittedly, at first glance self-dissolution of the PA may seem drastic. Indeed it is a bad idea if success in solving the conflict is measured by fulfilling the US and Israeli goal of initially achieving a Palestinian state without specified borders. If, however, resolving the conflict means satisfying Palestinian rights, then it is imperative that the whole system of negotiations, in which the PA role is central, be changed. Based on recent developments, it is fairly clear that the US and Israel have never seen a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as primarily equivalent to achieving Palestinian rights. If the PA dissolved itself, it could change the method of dealing with Israel by playing to Palestinian strengths, the unity of Palestinian society and its political pluralism.

For the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to end, Israel must not be allowed to create a rump Palestinian state. This would neither enhance Palestinian rights nor secure lasting peace for the Israelis. The PA, with its present powerlessness, seems well suited to becoming caretaker of an unviable state. Maintaining the PA in its present form presents the real possibility that Palestinian rights will continue to deteriorate.

Ironically, Arafat’s recent successes speak to the importance of dissolving the PA. During the crisis with Israel over his expulsion, he was saved not by the influence of the PA, but by the strength of the PLO and the solidity of the Palestinian people. This society, despite 55 years of dispossession and 36 years of military occupation, has survived and been strengthened. It is likely to continue on this path with or without the presence of the PA.

Paul Beran is a PhD candidate in political science at Northeastern University. From 1997-2001 he worked in the Occupied Territories and Israel with relief and development agencies.

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