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Dissolving the Palestinian National Authority or considering a new strategic direction

Sameer Abu Eisheh

First, we have to ask ourselves about the role of the Palestinian National Authority. Is the PNA a vehicle for independence and the establishment of a sovereign state, or is it limited to running an autonomous area and, in parallel, relieving the Israelis from the burdens of their occupation?

Articles in this edition
Why we are closing - Yossi Alpher
The arc of the pendulum - Ghassan Khatib
If the answer is yes, it is a vehicle for independence and the establishment of a sovereign state, then we have to stick with it. The overall path since the establishment of the PNA should be reviewed and we must learn from our experience and our mistakes. We also should ask ourselves, are we on the right path? How much does the PNA deserve to be considered a vehicle for freedom and independence?

The Oslo accords affirmed the Palestinians' right to govern themselves within specific areas of the Palestinian territories through the creation of an interim authority. Palestinian self-rule was slated to last for a period of five years, during which permanent status negotiations were supposed to commence to reach a final agreement.

But, after years of negotiations that did not lead to a solution, and after stating that negotiations should be based on international law and United Nations resolutions, and where the facts on the ground show that the Israelis (who are supported by the US without limits) intend and are doing everything possible to have a long-lasting self-government authority with Palestinian economic dependence and Israeli security arrangements, we have to rethink and reassess our strategy. Do we need to have such an authority? In fact, many have questioned why Palestinians accepted such an authority in such a manner from the start, or why they should continue on now that it is understood what is intended.

For the past few years, a debate has been underway about dissolving or reconstituting the PNA. Three years ago, the Palestinian Strategy Group stated that, after nearly two decades of Palestinian peaceful discourse and negotiations leading to nowhere, Palestinians should regain the initiative and consider strategic options that can lead to the realization of their legitimate aspirations. With the expected failure to secure the needed votes in the UN Security Council for Palestine to become a state at the UN, there are more voices calling for dissolving the PNA.

The facts on the ground, especially the accomplishments in building institutions that aim to serve the Palestinians socially and economically and form the basis for an independent and sovereign state, along with the high costs of dissolving the PNA (where close to 200,000 are employed), raise a serious question about the consequences of dissolving the PNA.

What is needed now from Palestinians, especially after their intent to seek UN recognition against Israeli and US will and their announcement of the failure of the negotiations approach, is to consider and adopt a new strategic option with a clear vision and goals. This strategy should emerge based on collective discussions and a sort of consensus, engaging not only Fateh and Hamas but also other Palestinian factions, independents, intellectuals and strategists.

The new strategy should consider national reconciliation as its first priority, thus strengthening the Palestinian position, rebuilding the Palestine Liberation Organization, learning from previous mistakes, and benefiting from the changes in the world and the region. A strategic assessment should be performed, strategic options should be studied, and the most appropriate strategy should be agreed upon. One possible outcome of this would be to reconstitute the Palestinian Authority so that it no longer serves Israeli interests by legitimizing an indefinite occupation and protecting Israel from bearing the full costs of occupation. This, again, was advised by the Palestinian Strategy Group in their 2008 study entitled, "Regaining the Initiative". If the Palestinians choose such a course, based on the considerations of national reconciliation and unity, then the world will have to listen to Palestinians more carefully and satisfy their legitimate demands.-Published 14/11/2011 bitterlemons.org

Sameer Abu Eisheh is professor of engineering and planning at An-Najah National University. He also served as Palestinian minister of planning and as a member of the Palestinian Strategy Group.
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