The Palestinian leadership did not conceal its concern over leaked reports that the Americans had renounced their support for establishing a Palestinian state. In fact, that wasn’t the unequivocal message Donald Trump’s statements conveyed at the press conference on Wedensday. Every side could find signs in them to strengthen his position.
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Even if the United States does renounce its backing for a Palestinian state, what will actually change? The U.S. administrations before Trump spoke about some two-state solution and did nothing to carry it out. That is, they did nothing to stop Israel from thwarting it. But their declarations and promises enabled the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to lie to itself and to its people that this was the solution the great power supported.
This ongoing lie – backed by massive American financial assistance – was one of the tools with which the leadership of the PLO, Fatah and Palestinian Authority marketed the rationale for its existence. This lie helped it to justify keeping its agreements with Israel, including the security coordination. No wonder the U.S. contributes considerable sums of money to the Palestinian security forces.
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The different music now coming from the White House raises the question of whether the changes in the United States could weaken the Palestinian leadership’s status even further in the Palestinians’ eyes, and whether, therefore, its existence is in danger.
Trump came and Trump will go, while the Palestinians remain with their demand to be freed of Israeli rule, which for them means military occupation, colonialism, apartheid. For the Palestinian people here and the diaspora these are not slogans but everyday reality.
Twenty-four years ago this nation had a popular leadership that gave Israel and the Jews a generous gift – the two-state solution. That’s how the Palestinians interpreted the Oslo agreement. But Israel rejected the gift.
The Palestinian leadership could understand even before Yitzhak Rabin’s murder that Israel was bluffing. That it may be saying “two states” but building enclaves. The PLO stuck to the negotiation policy in the hope that the West would pressure Israel, that there would be positive political changes in Israel and that the Arab states would act. But there’s another reason, too. The Palestinian leadership converted the bureaucracy of a national liberation organization to a ruling bureaucracy, complete with self-preservation and clinging on to one’s standing.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues’ fear of a military deterioration that would harm their people (like the second intifada) is real and justified. But it is mixed with his and the ruling circle’s personal interests.
At the same time the illusion of limited sovereignty within the Palestinian enclaves took shape. The PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza provide basic services to their public and enable public activity that weren’t allowed under the direct Israeli occupation.
With all the criticism against the PA for corruption, dictatorial tactics, inefficiency, social gaps, etc., it still services the public’s immediate fundamental needs.
Trump’s presidency is not a sufficient reason to break up the PA and plunge Palestinian society into chaos and turmoil. The Palestinian leadership has received another time out.
A Palestinian security official told Palestinian media on Wednesday about the CIA chief’s meeting with Abbas. The message behind the leak was clear. “Don’t worry, the Palestinian Authority’s existence is important to the United States. The Washington institutions understand that maintaining the enclave regime promises a fragile kind of security stability.”
They are probably telling the new president the same thing. The main thing undermining this precarious stability is not Trump, but an escalation in Israel’s oppression and settlement policy.