Disbanding the Palestinian Authority Back on the Table

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Palestinian prisoners gesture as they enter Gaza via the Rafah crossing from Egypt 18 October 2011. (Photo: REUTERS - Andrew Winning)

By: Fadi Abu-Saada

Published Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Calls to disband the Palestinian Authority are gaining ground amid the projected failure of the PA’s bid for statehood recognition at the UN.

Ramallah — Over the years, many have called for the disbandment of the Palestinian Authority (PA), whose legitimacy and sovereignty can be revoked at any time by the Israeli state. This arrangement grants Israel amnesty from the responsibility of managing the daily life and welfare of Palestinians.

Calls for disbanding the PA are being revived after plans to obtain full recognition for a Palestinian state from the UN lost steam. Notably, threats to take such a radical step of disbanding are coming from the very heart of the PA. It was none other than PA President Mahmoud Abbas who recently said, “There is no need for an authority that does not possess real authority over its territory.”

Al-Akhbar toured the cities of the West Bank and asked Palestinians about disbanding the PA. We began in Salfit, where we met Mohammad Abu Allan. He says he is in favor of disbanding the PA, but not immediately. He bases his opinion on the announcement by Abbas, which said that over a six-month period, Abbas will call on the international community to recognize the Palestinian state. If and when they fail to do so, the PA will be disbanded, which will include the cancellation of agreements signed with the Israeli side.

But Ali Draghme from Nablus thinks that the PA, for all its weaknesses, has managed to accomplish a few things. He says, “I can’t give a yes or no answer. I’m for disbanding the PA if things remain as they are now, because it is absolutely impossible to accept the present situation.”

Amid Duwaikat, also from Nablus, thinks that disbanding the PA would create a power vacuum, resulting in grave consequences. He said, “The state of chaos that prevailed previously in the Palestinian Territories could return again in full form if the PA is disbanded. So disbanding the PA would have a catastrophic impact from the perspective of security. Meanwhile, we speak about an unstable and fragile economy,” and he wonders, “what will be its fate if the PA is disbanded?”

Ahmed al-Barghouti from Ramallah did not hesitate to say that he supports dismantling the PA in response to Israeli stubbornness and unconditional American support for the occupation, but only as a final option.

He adds that such a step should be thoroughly discussed so that all factions can agree, suggesting that the Palestinian leadership should also listen to popular opinion before taking action. He recommends that the PA follow up dissolution with a protest campaign demanding liberation and not just run from its responsibilities.

Rumors about the Palestinian leadership’s detailed plan to disband the PA have been circulating recently in the Israeli press. Fatah denies these rumors, according to its spokesperson Fayez Abu Aita, who thinks that these media rumors are a political and psychological tactic, and an attempt to confuse the Palestinian community, diverting attention away from the furious battles going on in the halls of the UN.

Abu Aita says that Fatah views the PA as the product of a national struggle and the fruit of sacrifices made by the Palestinian people, not to mention that the institutions of the PA are seen as the nucleus of a full-fledged independent and sovereign Palestinian state.

But despite Fatah’s initial denial — issued to counter what was published in the Israeli press — there is certainly discussion taking place regarding the future of the PA within Fatah and other PLO factions.

The revolutionary council of Fatah has issued a decision to form a committee to discuss the next stage and determine the future of the PA “in light of continued Israeli aggression and occupation.” The executive committee of the PLO has formed a similar body, thus confirming what has been said by Israeli media.

After meetings in Ramallah that lasted several days, the revolutionary council issued an official statement saying that it has “discussed at great length the situation of the Palestinian government and the PLO, and affirmed the necessity of carrying out a comprehensive review of the tasks, roles, and institutional activities that will determine the strategy for the next stage.”

Palestinian political analyst Abdul Sattar Qasim, a former Palestinian presidential candidate, spoke to al-Akhbar about the subject, saying he thinks that neither Abbas nor anyone else within the Palestinian leadership is capable of disbanding the PA, because of exceedingly complicated domestic and foreign considerations.

Qasim added that “on the domestic side, we’re stuck with tens of thousands of employees, and their numbers have reached 180,000, so if the PA were to be disbanded, how would we manage our affairs?” There is also a question of who will manage the PA’s many institutions, such as hospitals and schools, if it is disbanded.

There are also concerns related to Palestine’s foreign relations. Over the years, a number of links between the PA, on one side, and the US and Israel, on the other, have developed. These links are hard to break. In Qasim’s opinion, Israel cannot reoccupy Palestine as before, “as over the years the occupation has been searching for someone to manage the lives of Palestinian citizens for what it considers a low price.” Some see this “management” as the primary function of the PA.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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