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Will The PA Collapse?

Al-Bayan, UAE, February 20

The Israeli government decided to deduct half a billion shekels (about $138 million) from the payments made to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in order to offset the stipends given to families of Palestinian prisoners. In the past, the PA refused to accept the payments unless they consisted of the full amount owed to the Palestinians by Israel. Therefore, it will be interesting to see what happens this time around. There have already been rumors that the PA will accept the Israeli sanctions but chose to “retaliate” at a different time. This is a dangerous move. In order to make up for the lost money stolen by Israel, the PA will likely increase taxes in the West Bank. This will put increased pressure on an already strained population that is discontent with its leadership. Most importantly, the Palestinian leadership must reinvent itself. The PA is an antiquated body that longer represents the interests of the Palestinian people. The Israelis have been the first to take advantage of this situation. By growing and expanding the Israeli civil administration, the Israeli government has been de facto increasing its control over the Palestinian population while turning the PA into a mere security apparatus that guards the occupation. The Americans have also exploited this situation. U.S. diplomats have encouraged Palestinian civil society organizations and political activists to circumvent the PA and establish direct ties with the U.S. through its embassy. By cultivating a new tier of U.S. allies within the Palestinian public, the Americans hope to prepare the ground for the day after PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ rule will end. Granted, the Israeli sanctions could be merely temporary and related to the upcoming elections, which is witnessing a fierce competition between the far right and the right over who is more hostile and extreme against the Palestinians. But all of this doesn’t matter. This is a wake-up call. The Palestinian people must revive their institutions to fight for their goal of self-determination rather than to serve as an empty bureaucracy that serves the Israeli occupation. While Israel and America are trying to divide and conquer, the Palestinian people must coalesce. The first step in doing so is by pumping new blood into the Palestinian leadership and revamping its institutions. Unless it wants to collapse and go down in the pages of history as an utter disaster, the PA must reform itself today. –Hani al-Masry