Middle East Monitor / August 8, 2019
The decision of the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to stop implementing the agreements signed with the Israeli side, has made its way to the front pages. President Abbas announced the decision on 25 July 2019, and said that a committee would be formed to work out how to implement it.
The strong language used by President Abbas expressed his team’s frustration at the peace process, the US administration and the Israelis. It asserts the seriousness of the official Palestinian leadership in rejecting of the “deal of the century”, Israeli and US dictates, the de facto policy, and the fait accompli on the ground, which have led to the collapse of the “two-state solution”, and to emptying it of its main contents.
Abbas’ speech asserts also that the Palestinian position cannot be bypassed by normalising relations with others or by trying to isolate and single out the Palestinians. It affirms the ability of Palestinians to thwart any plan to “settle” or “liquidate” their cause at their own expense, or in a way that is less than their aspirations, even if the “contractors” were Arab governments and regimes.
According to Abbas “Palestine and Jerusalem are not for sale”, “we will not succumb to the dictates”, and “there will be no peace and no stability in our region and the whole world without our Palestinian people acquiring their full rights.”
As for our comments on the decision, they can be summed up in the following points:
First: The official Palestinian decisions to suspend security coordination and freeze the recognition of Israel are numerous. According to Mu‘in Al-Tahir, some researchers have recorded 58 official statements and decisions in this regard over the past few years. The first of which was a decision by the Palestinian Central Council (PCC), which convened in March 2015 and decided to suspend security coordination. Another important milestone is when the Palestinian National Council (PNC) convened on 30 April – 3 May 2018 in Ramallah, and ordered the PLO Executive Committee to suspend its recognition of Israel pending the latter’s recognition of the State of Palestine, halt security coordination, to end its economic dependency on Israel established under the Paris Protocol. Therefore, Abbas’ decision is not new, rather it can be added to the huge “archives” of similar decisions, that did not find their way to implementation, and were temporarily employed politically and by the media.
Second: The decision lacks a specific implementation mechanism, and the president, members, powers, or duration of the committee were not specified.
Third: This decision and all previous ones, were not followed by actual procedures on the ground. For despite the fact that the decision of halting security coordination goes back more than four years, and that it was taken several times, it was never implemented. Israel still enjoys a “five star” security coordination service, and keeps announcing that the coordination with the PA in chasing down resistance members, has thwarted dozens of operations and led to the arrest of many cells… Furthermore, the PLO and PA leadership, to which such “binding” decisions are referred, do not even explain why they has been ignoring them for the past four years. Hence, they can be held accountable for the shortcomings, weakness, hesitation and overriding the decisions of the “sovereign legislative institutions”, rather than being in a position where it can promote “national conduct” after everything was ruined!
Fourth: In his speech, Abbas called once again to end the schism among Palestinians, and demanded the implementation of the Cairo Agreement signed in October 2017. It is a call that must be encouraged, as long as it seriously serves the reconstruction of the Palestinian national unity against the Zionist project. However, this call was not without fallacies or negative insinuation about Hamas; Abbas claimed that in February in a meeting in Moscow, Hamas refused to recognise the PLO, which put it in line with Israel and the United States in this matter!!
On one hand, Abbas knows that the reason Hamas did not sign the final statement in Moscow was mainly due to the change of text made by Fatah representatives, without consulting other delegations. On the other hand, he knows that Hamas has agreed for many years to enter the PLO and participate in its institutions in a “democratic representative” manner that reflects the will of the Palestinian people.
He knows also that since the Cairo Declaration in March 2005, then the Document of National Accord in June 2006, and the Reconciliation Agreement on May 2011, the ball is in his and Fatah’s court. He didn’t even take any serious measure to have an effective partnership with Hamas, Islamic Jihad (IJ) and others in the PLO and its institutions. He does know those “in line” with the Israelis and the Americans, are those who went through the peace process, admitted Israel’s right to have most of Palestine, stopped resistance activity and chased it, and abolished the Palestinian National Charter. It is not the armed resistance, which “has evoked anger”, has been “besieged” and is described as a “terrorist” by the Israelis, the Americans and their allies. The main reason to disrupt the active participation of IJ and Hamas in the PLO, is that their ceiling of demands is much higher than that of the PA and Fatah, and that there is a US-Israeli veto on it.
Fifth: If Abbas, the PLO and the PA are serious in facing the “deal of the century”, and in achieving effective Palestinian national unity, they are required (as long as the official leadership is in their own hands) to take a number of measures. First, to stop the decisions and actions taken over the past two years, which increased the tension and division in the Palestinian arena, and even led some PLO factions to leave Fatah and its policies. Among these decisions are: The siege on the Gaza Strip (GS), the dissolution of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the formation of a Fatah government, in addition to pursuing the policy of hegemony and control of Palestinian decision-making, continuing to control the legislative and executive institutions, and using the Palestinian National Fund for political pressure and extortion.
President Abbas and the PA must stop “managing” the reconciliation and stop being “selective” in choosing what they want to implement and what they don’t. The reconciliation, signed in 2011, is not just the resistance handing over the Gaza Strip; rather it is much broader and more comprehensive, it has many parallel lines of work that must be implemented as one package… First and foremost the PLO track, whose legitimacy and representation Abbas insists on, but without seeing the serious state it has reached, caused by him and his leadership. This includes its frail institutions, being unpopular, absent and in an “intensive care” room, while any real procedures to rebuild it and activate its institutions are disrupted.
If the talk about halting the agreements with Israel, suspending security coordination, and freezing the recognition of Israel is serious; this means that there are a series of major procedures, most notably the redefinition (or termination) of the PA, and building a new Palestinian strategy based on a new political platform, which bypasses the peace process and previous Oslo Accords. This may be a great chance to put the Palestinian political house in order, and for Hamas, the IJ and the resistance forces to join the PLO, rebuilding it on the basis of returning to the fundamentals. However, due to the potential new positioning, challenges and risks loom, thus experts and competent specialists must hold workshops and make plans, to develop alternatives and suitable ways for managing the new phase and continuing with the strategy of resistance and liberation.
As for continuing to make statements, expressing being “oppressed, ,voicing suppressed feelings and making verbal threats… It is only useful in causing more frustration… more loss of confidence in the Palestinian political leadership, feeling its incompetence and that it is not up to the tasks required at this stage. It will also make the Americans and Zionists feel indifferent towards such a Palestinian leadership, ridiculing and disregarding it.
Mohsen M. Saleh is an associate professor of Modern and Contemporary Arab History, former head of Department of History and Civilization at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), and currently the general-manager of al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations