The swiftness with which the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced its resumption of security coordination with Israel is both astounding and predictable.
After six months of suspended ties with Israel, which were rife with speculation that security coordination was discretely ongoing, Hussein Al Sheikh, Head of the General Authority of Civil Affairs and Member of the Fatah Central Committee, tweeted that following written reassurances received by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, “the relationship with Israel will return to how it was.”
Talk about a “stab in the back for the Palestinian people,” as the PA described the Arab countries’ normalization of relations with Israel. Security coordination is “sacred,” after all, as Abbas often declared.
There was some cautious optimism, derided by many, over Abbas’ statement in May this year, when he declared the PA no longer bound by previous agreements, in response to the US-Israeli annexation scheming. The tone was indeed different while not lacking discrepancies, yet the PA lacked both political will and autonomy to execute its hyperbole.
When the US cut funding for the PA’s security services as a result of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018, the PA attempted to portray the development as an act of principle, rather than the US pushing the Palestinian leadership to a non-negotiable position. The 2018 legislation puts the Palestinian government under US jurisdiction and liable to lawsuits by American citizens who were victims of “acts of war,” if the PA remains a recipient of US financial aid. Through this stipulation, the US under President Donald Trump froze financial aid to Palestine, creating a deficit both for the PA and for the humanitarian projects, many of which were carried out under the auspices of USAID.
The PA’s decision to restore security coordination with Israel is directly tied to the US electoral result.
The PA’s decision to restore security coordination with Israel is directly tied to the US electoral result, although Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh attempted, unsuccessfully, to frame the decision in terms of the coronavirus pandemic.
Throughout the US electoral campaigns, the PA was openly championing Joe Biden’s candidacy as the solution to Trump’s belligerence. While Israel may have been hoping for another Trump victory, Israel also knows it has nothing to lose regardless of who won the elections. With Biden’s victory secured, Israel started to voice hopes that security coordination would be restored in due course, and the PA eagerly moved to accommodate the expressed colonial concerns, exhibiting its non-existent negotiating position.
Biden’s presidency, in PA terms, is a return to normalcy. So normal, in fact, that the Palestinian leadership has conveniently ignored its contentions during the Obama administration and earlier. In particular, with regard to settlement expansion, which ties directly into the annexation plans that are now shelved while Israel expands its presence, creating a de-facto annexation of Palestinian land.
Let us not forget that the former US President Barack Obama waited until the very end of his tenure to refrain from using the veto power at the UNSC over Resolution 2334, which stipulated Israeli settlements a violation of international law and possessing no legal validity. Even then, it was merely a symbolic abstention – much in line with the attitude taken by the US and the international community when it comes to holding Israel accountable for its perpetration of disregarding international law.
Trump ushered in a series of US concessions in rapid succession, while leaving the PA on the brink of financial collapse. Instead of turning to the Palestinians to draft a new political agenda, the PA used the Palestinian people’s anti-colonial struggle as it waited out the end of Trump’s presidency.
Before talk of security coordination and the money that flows into the PA’s coffers becomes the premise of the humanitarian argument, it is important to assert that security coordination and humanitarian aid are not synonymous, and the PA does not constitute a leadership that protects its people.
Now that the PA has no need to identify with the Palestinian people’s resilience and resistance, it has abandoned its earlier rhetoric of principles and steadfastness.
Now that the PA has no need to identify with the Palestinian people’s resilience and resistance, it has abandoned its earlier rhetoric of principles and steadfastness. It has moved from siding with the international community against Trump – a farce which sustained itself well to the detriment of the Palestinian people, as world leaders created an imaginary rift between the politics of the two-state compromise and the “Deal of the Century.”
The international community is once again united under the earlier charade of protecting Palestinians’ rights and the creation of “an independent and viable Palestinian state.” Without Trump, politics has purportedly returned back to “normal.”
Only there never was any normal, just a status quo which Trump used as his platform to bring about changes which Israel required, and which Biden will not necessarily revoke.
Biden succinctly expressed his view on Israel in 1986. “If there weren’t an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region.” This is a leader who the PA has hailed as a better alternative to Trump, instead of assessing both leaders’ strategies in advancing Israel’s settler-colonial project.
However, this absence of analysis is also coming from a leadership that is resuming security coordination on account of a written letter that Israel will honor all previous agreements, upon pressure from the European Union.
Behind this headline news lies the usual debauched politics of business as usual with Israel, notably the condemnation of Israeli settlement expansion while home demolitions, settler attacks, and confiscation of Palestinian land to build segregated roads are normalized.
The PA will go back to security coordination, but it cannot return to the Obama-era of two-state stalemates and gradual expansion.
The PA will go back to security coordination, but it cannot return to the Obama-era of two-state stalemates and gradual expansion. Its return to security coordination marks an entry into more violent politics as a colonial collaborator of Israel. The move normalizes the Trump-Netanyahu achievements against the Palestinian people and the PA will, once again, turn its might against the citizens it exploited during its treacherous waiting game.
With security coordination now eclipsing annexation in terms of visibility, the Oslo Accords have been revived against a backdrop of Trump’s legacy, which is a bonus for the incoming Biden administration, under which the normalization agreements between Arab countries and Israel will continue.
As the PA assumes a role in which it will mete out violence against the Palestinian people, let us keep an eye on the shelved annexation plans and how the PA will now move to protect what it expects to be bestowed with in terms of finance and power. How long will it take for the PA’s narrative to change from opposing annexation to opposing anti-colonial struggle, which is what security coordination is primarily about in the first place? With Trump out of the way, and the two-state compromise back on the agenda, the PA will not want Palestinian resistance opposing its newly-found complicit relevance.