Middle East Monitor / January 21, 2021
The Palestinian legislative and presidential elections are set to be held in May and July respectively, and the Palestinian Authority is following US President Joe Biden’s diplomatic path meticulously. A democratic veneer which seeks to reinstall current PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is in the offing, and Fatah is obliging.
Biden’s administration-in-waiting called upon the PA to hold elections. Not for a democratic and free representation of the Palestinian people, but “to renew the legitimacy in the Palestinian Authority”. Renew the legitimacy? Abbas’s term of office expired in 2009. He presides over a corrupt entity that has no issue with the two-state compromise which only guarantees further territorial loss for Palestinians to ensure that “an independent, viable Palestinian state” does not see the light of day. Legitimacy ? Seriously ?
According to reports, Abbas will be contesting the election as Fatah’s presidential candidate. He is 85 years old, but if Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh is to be believed, the decision for him to stand was agreed unanimously, although some Fatah officials have expressed their disapproval. It’s a far cry from 2011, when Abbas declared that he would not stand for re-election during one of the previous attempts at unity and reconciliation with Hamas.
Palestinians are used to Abbas’s predictability in terms of going back on his word. The Trump era showcased Abbas’s duplicity, as he used resistance rhetoric and “halted” security coordination with Israel, only to backtrack when the early results of the US presidential election were known.
His candidacy spells the normalisation of Palestinian loss. Under the PA president’s increasingly authoritarian rule, Palestinians have been silenced by diplomacy. The international community has funded the PA and the illusion of state-building to the point that Palestinian politics has become synonymous with Mahmoud Abbas, and not in a positive way. Without external funding, the PA is nothing. With money in the bank, it is merely an extension of international diplomacy in Palestine, a bonus for Israel and a disaster for the Palestinian people. Yet even in its “nothingness”, the PA still wreaks havoc, because it refuses to reimagine Palestine through a Palestinian lens.
Whatever Abbas takes credit for runs contrary to the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle. His political decisions have reflected US, Israeli and international policy, but never a single Palestinian demand. Of course, to highlight such demands would require an overhaul of Palestinian politics and the dissolution of the PA. Abbas stands to lose too much if a decision is made to, at the very least, try to counter the international narrative on Palestine, which is influenced by Israel and the US.
Furthermore, Biden’s presidency — which is likely to use Trump’s legacy when it comes to Palestine, albeit while insisting upon the two-state compromise — will complement Abbas’s approach. The PA leader, remember, has no real power or influence to insist upon a reversal of the policies that prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The elections, or at least their announcement (for who knows if they will ever be held), will please the international community. However, Palestine has slipped off the radar permanently with the normalisation agreements, and there will be little disapproval abroad if Abbas decides, yet again, to postpone them indefinitely.
The issue of a presidential decree calling for the elections to be held symbolises the democratic farce in Palestine. This illusion of democracy will be enough for the international community, however, which would not relish the thought of a new, democratically-elected president ready and willing to shake-up Palestinian politics and challenge those who do not want to see the will of the people represented in their leadership.
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