In the last few years, Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) institutions and Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders have issued many statements or decisions with regards to their relationship with Israel, but never dared to exceed simple lip service.
The latest such decision from the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) in October 2018 was to suspend its recognition of Israel, end security coordination and suspend economic agreements, known as the Paris Protocol.
However, as far as Palestinians are concerned, this decision is not breaking news.
A similar decision was announced at the closing statement of the PCC meeting in August 2018.
Also, in March 2018, the PA announced that it was considering suspending its recognition of Israel.
Earlier this year, in January 2018, the PCC instructed its Executive Committee to suspend recognition of Israel until it recognises the State of Palestine, based on the 1967 borders, and revokes the decision to annex East Jerusalem and expand settlements.
The decision stated: “The Central Council reaffirms its decision to stop security coordination in all its forms and to break away from the relationship of economic dependence established by the Paris Economic Agreement, to achieve the independence of the national economy.”
In fact, the decision to end security coordination with Israel originates from a decision made at a PCC meeting in early March 2015.
However, despite these announcements, there seems to be a lack of interest in implementing them.
Such decisions are not necessarily binding, in most cases they are treated as recommendations to the PLO Executive Committee and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the chair of the PLO and the PA.
And this is where the problem lies. Both the PA and PLO are intertwined as they are controlled by the same people.
Since the Oslo agreements, the PA has hijacked the PLO and weakened it. The PLO used to be at the forefront of resistance and confrontation with Israel, but has become no more than a shadow organisation which the PA uses to advance its interests.
Everyone at the PCC knows that they have no teeth, and therefore it is easy for them to make such dramatic decisions knowing that they will not see the light of day. This is exactly the reason why the PLO has lost its stature among Palestinians.
However, there are reasons why these decisions are still being made. On the local front, the Palestinian leadership wants to regain declining credibility.
The PA wants to maintain the pretense of diplomatic and strategic power, but what it actually does is maintain a state of denial. Leaders know they have no power to implement such decisions, but they keep insisting on their failed politics and tactics, to convince Palestinians of their relevance.
On the international front, the Trump administration’s decisions to move the American embassy, halt United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) funding and close the Palestinian diplomatic delegation’s operation in Washington, plus the massive changes in the Middle East where counter revolutions are winning and power dynamics are shifting, the map of interests is changing.
This obviously means that Arab leaders are willing to sacrifice the Palestinian cause for their own interests. The Arab world’s relationship and normalisation with Israel has never been as open as today.
Only in the last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was welcomed in Oman, the Israeli sports minister and the Israeli Judo team were welcomed in Abu Dhabi and the Israeli gymnastic team was welcomed in Qatar. These are not random incidents. Something is cooking and it is not in the interest of the Palestinians.
Amid all this, the Palestinian leadership wants to remain relevant and use these decisions as diplomatic leverage.
However, its dependence on financial aid from these Gulf countries, and in general on donor aid and collected taxes from Israel (a method enshrined by Oslo economic agreements), has deprived the leadership of free political will.
If they are so powerless to challenge any of the above, one should question their ability to uphold any decisions to withdraw their recognition of Israel, end security coordination and suspend any agreement.
Throughout all sorts of debates with the leadership regarding ending Oslo agreements, or security coordination, it has always claimed that these were unrealistic demands, that one can’t end security coordination or Oslo “just like that”, without alternatives.
Ironically for three years now, they have been telling us they will end it “just like that”.
If it were serious, the leadership should tell the public what that really means. How will it be implemented? What will that entail? How does it intend to face international pressure? What will be the consequences? And how will the leaders practically face these consequences? It needs to convince us with an honest intention and a serious plan.
Until then no one will have faith in any of the decisions made by the PLO and Abbass.
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