The Palestinian Authority (PA), based in Ramallah (West Bank), earlier this month, decided to join forces with Israel once again, renewing ‘Security Coordination’ between the two sides in the wake of Joe Biden having been announced as US President elect. So, now that the PA has again re-established ties with Israel, why are they still opposed to Arab Regime Normalisation?
On Tuesday the 17th of November, the Palestinian Authority announced it would renew ties with Israel, sparking outrage amongst Palestinians. In May, the PA announced it would stop security and civil coordination with Israel, abandoning the Oslo Agreements, in the wake of the Israeli government announcing it planned to imminently annex large portions of the illegally occupied West Bank.
The PA decision to cut ties with Israel, sparked a glimmer of hope for some that unity between rivalling Palestinian factions could be achieved, which would ideally lead to national Presidential elections. This possibility seemed even greater when, in September, all Palestinian political factions convened in Beirut for a joint conference on how to approach their national cause. These meetings were originally supposed to happen regularly, as of a signed Unity Agreement, however had not taken place since 2012 and this joint conference was largely seen as a step in the right direction.
Palestinian factions also met in Istanbul and later Cairo, to decide on how to proceed forward on the issue of elections, multi-faction unity and a joint plan to confront Israeli-US plots against the Palestinian cause. However, shortly after the PA’s delegation had left Cairo, against the will of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the PA’s General of Civil Affairs, Hussain al-Sheikh, announced the decision to renew ties with Israel officially and betrayed its commitments to fellow Palestinian political party’s.
The sudden decision was criticised by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP and others, even including some from within Fateh itself, the Party that leads the Palestinian Authority. Amongst widespread criticism from Palestinians who saw this as the Palestinian Authority, yet again, betraying their cause for US aid money, Abul-Hatif al-Qanou, the official spokesperson for Hamas stated that “…this party [Fateh], which does not respect the decisions of the PNC and ignores the institutional political action sends a message to the Palestinians that their institutions are marginalised and are unable to protect its decisions.”.
Why Is Re-Establishing Security Coordination Wrong?
The Palestinian Authority was created in 1994, as a result of the Oslo Accords, and was set up under the guise of being an interim government – which would operate in the West Bank and Gaza – paving the way to a Palestinian government, which was to come about as a result of a final comprehensive peace deal.
However, that peace deal never came and the PA never achieved a two-State solution, in which they could operate as the government of an autonomous entity. Instead, the West Bank – and Gaza until 2007 – had remained, directly, under majority Israeli control, as the PA managed the most densely populated city areas. The PA then began to enshrine its position as the police forces and handlers of the majority of issues taking place in the major Palestinian cities, whilst the Israeli occupation army continued to control the vast majority of the occupied territories.
The situation became such that the PA would come to primarily operate off of the tax money, held often as a bargaining chip by Israel, and foreign aid assistance. The work of the PA would be to quell popular uprisings which were out of its control, crackdown on opposing political forces, hand sensitive information to the Israelis and to silence any criticism of their role.
Back in the 1990’s, there were still hopes of two-State solution being a possibility, but now there is neither the will from Israel or the United States to create a Palestinian State, nor are there even enough contiguous areas in the West Bank to form a State from. After the second Intifada, which officially ended in 2005, the PA went to elections, which resulted in Hamas coming to power in the Gaza Strip. Under the command of PA strongman Mohammed Dahlan, a US funded coup was attempted in 2006-7, which ultimately failed to out Hamas and resulted in the expulsion of the PA from power. Following this, the situation has been in gridlock, with several failed attempts at National Unity and constant failed attempts from the PA to enter into negotiations with Israel, which the current Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has stated he has no interest in.
For most Palestinains at this point, the PA’s elite, many of which are multi-millionaire’s whose families operate businesses throughout the West Bank, are essentially sellouts to their cause and represent businessmen rather than freedom fighters. A West Bank resident of village West of Ramallah, who can’t be named for fear of punishment, told me that he was ashamed of what the PA has done, “the same Fateh which fought the morale inspiring guerrilla battle against Israeli forces at al-Karameh [in 1968], has turned into the single biggest collaborator with Israel’s occupation in the world”.
The Palestinian Preventative Security Services are essentially the reason why Israel can operate the first ever cost free occupation on the planet. PA-Israel security coordination means for Palestinians, living in the West Bank, being spied on by your own people, tortured by your own people, shot at, arrested and killed by your own people. The PA, through security coordination, is essentially an organisation through which Palestinians become spies for the Israeli occupation. These statements may seem like hyperbole to some, but it is unfortunately the reality in the West Bank. Many Palestinians have been killed and imprisoned due to the information handed to Israel by the Palestinian Authority’s Security Services.
Security Coordination Makes A Peace Deal Less Likely
With ever expanding illegal Israeli settlements in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank, in which roughly 750,000 settlers live, as well as the illegally built separation wall which hasusurped 10% of the West Bank, it is nearly impossible to have a functioning Palestinian State.
As the Palestinian Authority renewed its Security Coordination, Israel began acting to expand the illegal East Jerusalem based settlements of Atarot, Ramat Shlomo and Givat Hamatos, which will ,when expanded, encircle East Jerusalem from the West Bank. This settlement loop will create an effective barrier around East Jerusalem, just like the wall that cuts through it, making a Palestinian Capital in the area virtually impossible without tearing down the settlements.
Such a slap in the face coming, with the rapid expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem and the announcement of thousands of new settler units to be expanded in the West Bank, still has not prompted the PA to reconsider normalising ties with Israel. In fact, Israel in its first pay back of taxes to the PA, which it is obligated to do under Oslo, has decided to deduct 600 million NIS’s from the grand total, in order to stop money being paid to the families of Palestinian prisoners.
On top of this, the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen], has completely ignored the decision of the PNC to abandon Security Coordination. This decision to disobey an official Palestinian institution poses questions as to whether – in the case that a two-State solution was actually possible – the PA leadership would even be able to operate as a just leadership, because these sort of unrepresentative decisions look more like the moves of a dictatorship than a democracy. Also the lack of desire to go ahead with Presidential elections, has drawn criticism to Mahmoud Abbas, who has been compared to a dictator.
The Palestinian Authority is evidently in a weak negotiating position and in the eyes of the Israeli regime has nothing to offer it, so why would Israel negotiate for peace? Do the PA really believe that Israel will offer them a just solution, based upon a fair two-State model, out of the goodness of their own hearts? That Israeli politicians would unanimously commit political suicide, with no gain for their own constituents? If so, this is a very naive belief.
If the PA was truly motivated by the desire to liberate their people and solve their problems, they would have chosen resistance, using the power of all Palestinian political factions and their armed groups as a bargaining chip. They can also use Security Coordination as a bargaining chip to get things out of Israel and can use armed factions as well as regional alliances to pressure the Israelis. Another tool they could have used was the ICC investigation into Israeli war crimes, which, according to the prominent scholar Norman Finkelstein, “they [the PA] killed when they refused to say they abandoned Oslo”. Norman also stated to me in an interview on Arab normalisation with Israel, that he saw the PA as consisting of “a tinpot dictator [Abu Mazen], surrounded by sub-mediocrities”, later indicating that he saw no chances for them to achieve a peace deal at this point.
The PA have been given every reason in the world to abandon ties with Israel, yet continue to choose Israeli and US funds over the interests of their own people. Something that makes you wonder how they summon the audacity to question the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan on their decisions to normalise ties with Israel, when the PLO did the same thing themselves 27 years ago, in 1993.
If money wasn’t an issue, the path ahead of the PA would now be clear, they would transform themselves into a representative beacon of Palestinian National liberation. Instead, no matter how much land is taken, how many Palestinians are killed and how many times they are humiliated by Israel, as long as the money keeps coming, they keep capitulating.