Middle East Monitor / March 24, 2022
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and Finance Minister Shukri Bishara met with World Bank senior directors this week in Ramallah, urging that pressure should be placed on Israel to release the tax revenues that the occupation state is withholding. The PA’s financial crisis, despite diplomatic efforts by the US to ease the strain, is taking its toll on the leadership and rendering it even more subject to foreign aid.
The PA’s official news agency Wafa reported Shtayyeh as praising the World Bank’s intervention in terms of reducing unemployment, as well as in administrative and financial reform. It also insisted that “improving economic and living conditions requires a political horizon and solution to make them more effective.” No mention was made of the fact that the PA is chasing Israeli ministers for a political horizon, despite the fact that the government in Tel Aviv has made it clear that it will not seek any political negotiations with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas.
If the PA had any illusions left about its relevance, it must be dispelling them by now. The dwindling financial aid, according to a senior Palestinian official quoted in Arab News, has resulted in “a financial crisis that forms an existential threat to [the PA’s] survivability.”
During the meeting, Bishara told the World Bank officials that the PA is facing uniquely “exceptional conditions.” Which is true, although he carefully omitted the fact that the PA was created to fulfil a role that facilitated Israel’s colonial expansion across Palestinian territory. This means that calling for international support for Palestine translates more as the PA’s frantic begging for its own survival as opposed to embarking upon political negotiations that address the pressing need for decolonization and independence. Given that the PA is in such a weak position, by decreasing its funding the international community may well reflect a new phase in Israel’s colonial expansion. Palestinian state-building, as illusory as it was, played a major role in terms of securing funding for the PA, but not anymore, possibly reflecting the fact that the PA’s so-called partners are abandoning their purportedly pro-Palestine positions.
In a report published in January, the UN’s Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk rightly took issue with the World Bank’s description of the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza as “the external restrictions on Gaza [resulting] in a closed economy”. He noted that the institution linked the impediments to the occupied West Bank’s economic growth to the restrictions imposed by Israel on Palestinian freedom of movement in all aspects of life.
Lynk also called out the hypocrisy of the internationally-approved Israeli concessions, which he described as Israel “removing some existing irritants for the Palestinians.” He also pointed out how the two-state framework still benefits Israel’s settler-colonial enterprise; the rhetoric’s focus on hypothesizing two states is not halting settlement expansion.
So, while the PA is calling on the international community to engage in repetitive measures which only safeguard its own upper echelons, Lynk is openly calling out the international community’s culpability in maintaining Israel’s colonial enterprise, military occupation and apartheid system. The PA only speaks about these violations in the attempts to consolidate its status as the illegitimate and “sole” representative of the Palestinian people.
Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America