How does dual Palestinian rule harm the Palestinian cause?

The frequently proposed resolution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the “two-state solution” grounded in the 1967 borders. However, relying on its military strength, Israel is not eager to embrace this approach. Instead, it prefers to annex Palestine as a whole, seeking to eradicate both its physical existence and sovereignty. Given that international great powers are pro-Israeli and their support for the co-existence of two states is only verbal, if nobody impedes Israel’s plan, there may be only one state in Palestine, namely Israel, sooner or later.

Unfortunately, not only Israel and its Western supporters but also some Arab regimes, particularly the Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled by Fatah, facilitate Israel’s illegitimate invasion and ethnic cleansing. We should recall that Hamas won democratic elections in 2006, which entitled the group to rule Palestine. However, since it was not allowed to rule the country by Fatah and international donors, the Fatah movement continued to hold power and Gaza was left under the control of Hamas. Since then, the PA, based in Ramallah, is the official government of Palestine, ruling Palestine except for Gaza. Currently, there are two Palestinian authorities/states in less than 15% of the whole Palestinian territory.

However, time has shown that the PA has done nothing but harm the Palestinian cause. Dana El Kurd, a Palestinian scholar, explains the damage well in her book titled “Polarized and Demobilized: Legacies of Authoritarianism in Palestine.” El Kurd argues that the United States uses aid as a “carrot and stick” against the PA and adds that the U.S. donated $8 billion between 1993 and the time of writing her book (2019).

Given the U.S. interference in the PA, she suggests several hypotheses. First, she asserts that international involvement leads to a divergence between elite and public preferences, as foreign powers (patrons) ally with authoritarian regimes at the expense of democracy. Complementary to the first hypothesis, she also argues that people have divergent preferences for democracy and accountability that correlate to their (non-)affiliation with the regime. Their degree of affiliation affects polarization and demobilization as well. As she explains in the book, those Palestinians close to the PA, and the PA itself, practice exclusionary behaviors against critics of the government. As for the third and the fourth hypotheses, she argues that authoritarian strategies such as cooptation and repression generate polarization that causes stagnation in political mobilization.

El Kurd also makes an empirical analysis by laying down the results of her survey with 35 police officers and 1,270 ordinary people. Based on her survey, she contends that those people supporting the PA are less likely to embrace democracy. In addition to Fatah members, El Kurd reveals that secular Palestinians also do not prefer democracy because of the Hamas experience. On the other hand, the majority of elites (bureaucrats) interviewed say that U.S. involvement in the PA’s policies is crucial, while few of them see the PA as a hostage of the U.S. Some elites argue that the U.S. aims to reorient the PA from focusing on the threat of Israeli occupation to focusing on internal opposition through training programs that are allegedly activities of indoctrination. She adds that as the PA depends on the U.S. in many respects, the former has to be more authoritarian to appease the latter.

Labeling the PA as an authoritarian government, she argues that the PA follows the steps of other authoritarian regimes to create polarization through inclusionary cooptation and exclusionary repression. For example, the surveyed PA elites say that Hamas is a traitor group, having similarities with Daesh. She contends that such views and exclusionary attitudes have led to a decline in cooperation and social cohesion. As a result, she says, polarized people will not unite and mobilize against Israel. Further, El Kurd accuses the PA of being a subcontractor of repression for Israel, facilitating the job of the Israelis.

Less mobilization in PA-controlled area

Moreover, she claims that the more an area is under the control of the PA, the less mobilization of the people is possible, as the Fatah-controlled authority impedes any upheavals and protests by force or deprivation. El Kurd argues that since most people in the West Bank live on salaries given by the PA, they avoid losing their revenues and prefer not to clash with the PA or resist any unfair treatment. But where there is no PA impediment, Palestinians get what they want from the Israelis, meaning that the PA is the agent of principals (the U.S. and Israel) to stop Palestinians from seeking their rights. She gives a few success stories achieved because there was no PA pressure on people.

Overall, El Kurd developed the formula that international involvement, or let’s say, U.S. involvement, has made the PA dependent on the patron, the U.S. This dependency forces the PA to silence opposition groups like Hamas. When those Palestinian groups do not accept the terms forced by patrons onto the PA, they are repressed. Repression causes polarization, which eventually results in demobilization. Since various factions see each other as traitors, they do not cooperate and mobilize against Israel. El Kurd’s argument that the PA is the main obstacle to the unity and mobilization of the Palestinians is quite valuable and deserves more attention. On the other hand, as a reminder, the foundation of the PA led to its demobilization as well. In the 1990s, it was claimed Yasser Arafat would have contributed more to Palestine had he not replaced his military uniform with a suit.

Based on the arguments El Kurd lays down, it can be said that Palestine is weaker against Israel because of the PA, which negatively indoctrinates people about Hamas and prefers to live in peace with Israel, a policy that only led to more illegal settlements, and could not stop oppression and murders of Israel in West Bank. Thus, Palestine’s biggest problem is disunity and the PA is the main cause for it. Therefore, as long as the PA continues to remain idle, not only the West Bank it controls but also Gaza will disappear from the map soon.

Source: Daily Sabah

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