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The self-implosion of the Palestinian Authority

Israel must reestablish its status as the victor and let the P.A. finally die.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh (left) and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas visit Odwan Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, Nov. 8, 2006. Photo by Ahmad Khateib/Flash90.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh (left) and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas visit Odwan Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, Nov. 8, 2006. Photo by Ahmad Khateib/Flash90.
Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch
Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch is the director of the Initiative for Palestinian Authority Accountability and Reform in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs; a senior legal analyst for Human Rights Voices; and a member of the Israel Defense and Security Forum.

It is time to recognize a simple reality: The Palestinian Authority has self-imploded and all attempts to resuscitate it are futile. Internally, the Palestinians are sick of the PLO-dominated P.A. Corruption is rampant, democracy has been crushed and most Palestinians see the P.A. as a burden, not an asset.

No faction of the Palestinian leadership recognizes Israel’s right to exist within any borders, let alone Israel’s right to exist as the national homeland of the Jewish people. The P.A.’s policies have sown hatred and division. Education for peace is completely nonexistent.

The Oslo peace paradigm, which started exactly 29 years ago today on Sept. 13, 1993, cost the lives of thousands of Israelis and even more Palestinians, and has proven completely ineffective.

While the Israeli architects of the Oslo Accords—a generic name for a series of Israeli-Palestinian agreements signed between Sept. 1993 and Sept. 1995—promised Israelis and the world a new and brighter chapter in Israeli-Palestinian relations, the Palestinian leadership remained loyal to the PLO’s ideal of destroying Israel.

Sugarcoating his malicious intentions, then-PLO leader Yasser Arafat promised to make peace and abandon terror. He did neither. From day one, Arafat explained that the Oslo Accords were a Trojan horse equivalent to Muhammad’s Hudaybiyyah agreement with his enemies. The Treaty of Hudaybiyyah called for peace for at least 10 years, but after two years Muhammad broke the truce and attacked and conquered Mecca. When Arafat decided the time was right, he abandoned the Accords he had signed and launched a terror war in Sept. 2000.

When Arafat died, there was cautious hope that his replacement Mahmoud Abbas would be different. Abandoning the military fatigues worn by Arafat and replacing them with Saville Row suits, Abbas’ silver forked-tongue spoke the language of moderation and reconciliation. But in reality, his actions were even more destructive than those of Arafat.

Under Abbas, the P.A. deepened its school system’s hate education, brainwashing and poisoning entire generations of Palestinian children. The P.A. continued its wild incitement to violence, and short of renewing the suicide bombings of the 2000-2005 terror war, breached every possible provision of the Oslo Accords. The “highlight,” from Abbas’s warped point of view, is the P.A.’s multi-billion-dollar terror-rewarding “pay-for-slay” policy, uncovered and exposed by Palestinian Media Watch in 2011.

While the destructive policies and actions of the P.A. were clear to all, Israel did its best to maintain the Oslo Accords and the murderous Authority itself. While Israel could have considered dismantling the terror-promoting P.A. years ago, it did not.

Today, despite Israel’s best efforts, the P.A. has almost totally imploded.

Instead of fighting the internationally-designated terror organization Hamas, Arafat and Abbas embraced its terrorists as just another “Palestinian faction.” This embrace was disastrous for both Israel and the P.A.

While Arafat and Abbas’s party Fatah was initially elected to run the P.A., in the 2006 elections Fatah lost to Hamas. Suddenly, Abbas was less accommodating. Shortly after the elections, Abbas deposed the Hamas government and replaced it with his Fatah loyalists. Hamas responded in June 2007 by seizing control of the Gaza Strip, from which Israel had completely withdrawn in 2005. Fifteen years on, Hamas continues to control the Gaza Strip while Abbas, who travels the world but has not set foot in Gaza since 2005, claims to control the areas under P.A. jurisdiction in Judea and Samaria.

While presenting the façade of a central government, the P.A. lost control of Hebron, the PA’s industrial capital, to Hamas and the Ja’abri clan many years ago. In Samaria, Shechem (Nablus) and Jenin have turned into lawless cities run by local gunmen. The first P.A. elections since 2006, which were called for May 2022, were indefinitely “postponed” by Abbas when it became clear that Hamas would win again.

A June 2022 survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) painted a bleak picture. According to the survey, a huge 86% of Palestinians see the P.A. as corrupt and 77% want Abbas to resign. 59% of Palestinians believe the P.A. has become a burden on the Palestinian people. Only 51% of Palestinians still see the PLO as their representative.

Abbas is now 87 years old and nearing the end of his sunset years. His replacement will be a PLO-Fatah crony who takes office by fiat. Elections will never be held and the divide between the Gaza Strip and the P.A.-controlled areas in Judea and Samaria will continue. None of this will promote peace.

To break the decades-old deadlock, Israel must find a new, peace-seeking Palestinian leadership. Forcing the Palestinians to find new leaders is easily done: Israel should close the tap on the billions of shekels it transfers to the P.A. every year, which account for 65-70% of the P.A.’s budget. Hopefully, the Palestinian people will realize that hate and terror have ruined their lives and seek different leaders.

The immediate question, of course, is what the alternative might be. While there are a number of potential answers to that question, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the P.A. has failed. Its continued existence contributes nothing to safety and security. Rather, it guarantees generation after generation of conflict. Almost anything would be better than the P.A. Furthermore, whether Israel likes it or not, the P.A. has already self-imploded and there is nothing Israel can do to change that reality.

Since the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the P.A., the PLO has erroneously seen itself as an equal partner with Israel that can make any demands it pleases, and not as a vanquished enemy that should appreciate any gesture from the Israeli victor. For Israel to prevail in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieve peace, it must reestablish that basic premise. The continued PLO-Fatah dominance of the P.A. does not serve that goal and is detrimental to peace.

IDF Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch is the Director of Legal Strategies for Palestinian Media Watch. He served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps. In his last position, he served as director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria. He is also a member of Israel’s Defense and Security Forum and an advisor to the Israel Victory Project.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.

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