Coming to the PA’s rescue

Only Israel gains from propping up the discredited Palestinian leadership

If the Palestinian Authority’s senior officials had an iota of shame, they would announce its dissolution and resign their posts in protest at the Israeli assault on Jenin refugee camp — especially after its inhabitants threw out their representatives who tried to attend the funerals of the people killed in the attack. But they don’t, and they won’t. They are too attached to their privileges, and imagine they are back in the Beirut days when they could claim credit for the heroic acts of resistance carried out against the occupation.

The PA’s 60,000-strong security forces did not only maintain security cooperation with Israel throughout the assault and stand idly by as it proceeded. They even arrested some of their own members along with members of various armed groups who tried to join in the defence of the camp. The behaviour of the PA leadership has taken its standing among the people — and within the Fateh movement — to an all-time low.

It was dealt a further blow when the Israeli security cabinet announced it would take steps to rescue the PA and prevent its collapse, including the release of the necessary funds and some superficial material incentives such as increasing the number of VIP permits and some economic measures designed to consolidate the occupation rather than ease the Palestinian people’s suffering. In exchange, the PA would have to comply with a host of conditions: chiefly to resume spying on, arresting, and if necessary eliminating resistance fighters, and also to alter education curricula, end ‘incitement’ against the occupation, and terminate all international legal proceedings against Israel.

Hussein ash-Sheikh, Mahmoud Abbas’ uncrowned heir apparent as PA president, set the stage when he announced that the Authority was on the verge of financial bankruptcy (not to mention its political bankruptcy) and was considering handing its keys back to Netanyahu. The latter promptly convened his security cabinet to formulate this ‘rescue package’. Statements by PA officials rejecting the attached conditions are most likely a smokescreen to conceal its real position: total capitulation to Israel’s demands, as ever.

I urge the Palestinian factions that have armed wings actively engaged in resisting the occupation — especially Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front the Liberation of Palestine — not to yield to Egyptian pressure to accept Abbas’ invitation to a meeting of faction leaders in Cairo. The aim of that gathering is to prop up the PA, endorse its leadership, legitimacy, and representative status, burnish its image, re-market it to the Palestinian people, and cover up its many abuses — especially its unceasing security cooperation in the service of the occupation.

I made a similar appeal in August 2020 when Abbas convened a similar meeting of faction leaders in Ramallah (and by video conference from Beirut), ostensibly to counter the ‘Deal of the Century’, foil Israel’s annexation plans, and achieve national reconciliation. My call went unheeded, and the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad duly attended. They warmly applauded Abbas’ speech in which he promised to intensify resistance to the occupation, rebuild the institutions of the PLO, and form a unified collective leadership. None of those undertakings was honoured, and Abbas reverted to the business-as-usual of cooperation with occupation.

The brave young people of Jenin achieved a major victory by standing fast and fighting off the Israeli army. It must not be sullied by holding gatherings with figures who have for the most come to personify collusion with the occupation, under the fake guise of protecting the Palestinian national project. This project is about resistance and liberation, not sub-contracting for the occupying power.

Israeli forces only managed to occupy a few parts of Jenin camp, which is only half a square kilometre in area, and for a mere 48 hours. They turned tail and fled as soon as they began taking casualties. With its deterrent power diminishing and armed resistance mounting, Netanyahu wants to hand the task to the PA and get it to do his dirty work in exchange for a fistful of ill-gotten shekels. The resistance brigades must stand up to and foil this treacherous scheme. I have every confidence that they will.

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