The PA’s quest for control at the expense of the Palestinian people

Ramona Wadi

Middle East Monitor  /  September 5, 2023

When the Abraham Accords became public knowledge in 2020, the Palestinian Authority temporarily made a spectacle out of itself pretending to oppose the normalization of relations of Arab countries with Israel. After all, didn’t Yasser Arafat himself normalize relations with the occupation state? And wasn’t Mahmoud Abbas a key figure in the Oslo talks which led to that result? Three years down the line, with its illegitimate rule opposed from within by Palestinians who have clearly spelled out the dynamics between colonialism and collaboration with colonialism, the PA is now seeking any meagre concession that it can garner from the “Abraham” deals which have sold the Palestinians down the river yet again.

According to Axios, the PA is seeking leverage in case a deal is reached for the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. US and Israeli sources speaking to Axios stated that the PA is requiring a change in status over parts of Area C in the occupied West Bank; the reopening of the US consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem; being admitted to the UN as a full member state; and a resumption of final status negotiations with Israel within a stipulated timeframe. The PA is also requesting financial support from Saudi Arabia.

While Israel and Saudi Arabia can potentially move ahead in their foreign policy, the PA’s constant groveling is making no inroads with the people of occupied Palestine. What the PA might view as political pragmatism is seen as treason by the Palestinian people. If the concessions the PA is seeking had to be summarized, it is obvious that Ramallah is desperate to keep itself afloat. Any semblance of control, no matter how conditioned it is, allows PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to retain power, postpone democratic elections indefinitely, and collaborate further with Israel to quell the current Palestinian resistance, which will eventually become a force to be reckoned with.

The PA’s engagement in terms of the Abraham Accords is done from such a weak position that talking about benefits only highlights Ramallah’s precarious political standing. Arab countries have long sold out on Palestinian liberation and anti-colonial resistance, preferring to consolidate their ties with Israel. Any concessions that the PA obtains from Arab countries will follow the same trajectory as that of other nations or international institutions whose priority is trade and economic relations with Israel. Choosing to engage, therefore, is of no significant benefit to the Palestinians. What the PA does to substantiate its standing and its role in diplomatic circles, notably promoting the two-state compromise and taking illusory action at the UN in terms of non-binding resolutions, will not generate any political change for Palestinians, other than further subjugation to Israel and the international community. 

The latter — surprise, surprise — welcomed the Abraham Accords. The PA’s engagement, therefore, is in line with international consensus over normalization of relations with Israel. As the weaker component in the equation, and one that depends on foreign funding to sustain its increasingly tyrannical rule, the PA is scrambling for help; indeed, it is scrambling for a role. The issue is not just what the PA can obtain from the Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization deal, but how it can utilize any concessions to retain the status quo of its illegitimate grip on power.

To suggest that the PA acts for the benefit of Palestinians would have been a lie even in the past. With Palestinians intent on altering their politics from within through anti-colonial resistance, the PA needs all the help it can get to grapple with the new reality and, in turn, facilitate Israel’s colonial expansion. 

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