Another crisis in Palestine: the PA

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Another crisis in Palestine: the PA

By Raff Piccolo


Palestinians protest against Israel’s bombing of Gaza. (© Mohammed Al-Azza)

There is one crisis in Gaza. And another one which is never in the world news. No-one talks about it outside Palestine, because it does not have immediate effects. It is the daily crisis of how the Palestinian people see the Palestinian Authority (PA), run by Fatah.

The PA was created in the 1993 Oslo Peace Process (responsible for organising the Palestinian state). They gave the PA limited, autonomous responsibility to govern Palestinians living in the West Bank.

There were a lot of positive feelings then, but now, 20 years later, the Palestinian people are still waiting. They have seen that the authority and autonomy of the Palestinian Authority was a false promise.

Many Palestinians see the PA as just a powerless group run by the international community and the Israeli state (but saying it has brought Palestinian independence and sovereignty). Some people still hope that the PA will lead the way towards a Palestinian state. But they do not have courage to speak too loud.

What is happening now in Palestine also shows the crisis of how the Palestinian people see the PA. The Oslo Accords made Israel legally superior in the West Bank when it divided it up into three different areas, mostly under Israeli control. It allowed the PA to control the urban 18 per cent. But Israel has not always followed this agreement of areas of responsibility.

Three young Israeli boys were taken near Hebron on 12 June, so the Israeli government sent in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to carry out Operation Brother’s Keeper. The military entered the cities of Nablus, Bethlehem, Ramallah, al-Bireh and Jericho – all cities under full Palestinian control – with the agremment of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority. The PA might look like a government, but the Palestinian people could clearly see that the PA has no power.

The IDF attack of Ramallah probably best shows how angry many Palestinians are with the PA. Early on 22 June the IDF entered the city. There was a lot of fighting. Hours later, after several arrests and buildings broken into, the military left the city. But then, the locals attacked the Palestinian Authority police station. They were very angry that the police had not helped in the fighting with the IDF, so locals threw rocks at the police station. And, ironically, the IDF returned to Ramallah soon after to protect the station.

The attacks on the PA have been on social media and in newspaper reports. Palestinians are sad about what they see as the failure of the PA and, in particular, how President Abbas has not protected Palestinian interests.

But the PA has been in a difficult position for a long time. It did not create the situation and it does not have much control over it. There are three different groups trying to control it – and they often cannot agree: the Palestinian people, the international community and Israel.

The Palestinian people want a government that is strong, and can and will fight for their interests. They want a government that does not give in to pressure from the international community and Israel. As Palestine is still not a state, they want a PA which is independent, and has a revolutionary heart and being. But the international community wants a PA that wants to engage with the peace negotiation process. They want a leadership that can control both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Finally, they want a PA that will not start acting as if it were a state before the conclusion of a peace process.

Finally, Israel wants a weak Palestinian Authority, a PA that will not propose anything (as part of the peace process) that would be bad for Israel. They want to be able to keep control of the PA.

This means it is almost impossible for the leadership. But we cannot ignore this crisis. More and more people are getting angry. They are angry that Abbas said he will not demand that Israel end the attack on Gaza. PA police are still trying to stop protests in West Bank cities. This is getting more important and dangerous. In the chaos, the question is: what now?