Just one week after Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas declared that important decisions will be taken in 2018 there is already evidence that extending the political impasse for Israel’s benefit is high on the agenda. On Monday, Wafa news agency reported that the PLO’s central council will be holding a meeting on 14 January, ostensibly to “seek a new political perspective” on the consequences of US President Donald Trump’s announcement of his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The news brief refers to a statement by the President of the Palestinian National Council, Salim Zanoun, who gave additional details about the forthcoming meeting. Among the issues mentioned is a review of the political scenario since the Oslo Accords, national unity and the renewal of “non-violent popular resistance against the Israeli occupation”. The meeting, according to Zanoun, will be open to all Palestinian factions including Hamas.
Sustaining irreversible contrasts remains a priority for Ramallah. Israel, bolstered by the unilateral decision on Jerusalem by the US, has availed itself of the timing to enforce further encroachment upon Palestinian territory. Conversely, leaders within the PLO will be recapitulating a past that has been analysed and dissected since its inception, with unanimous insistence that the accords’ role is creating new levels of dependence and violence for Palestinians. Hence, the new political perspective alluded to by Zanoun is a practice of delayed diplomatic response. While the historical context is always important and should form part of any present analysis, exploiting history with the intent of shifting focus away from the current violations displays the politics of exclusion which characterise the PA.
The PA has been able to practice such politics due to providing benefits for Israel. In marginalising other Palestinian factions, notably Hamas, Abbas has carved a niche where the dissociation between leadership and people has escalated to perilous levels. To alienate from the present circumstances, including the protests over Jerusalem which the PA itself sought to capitalise upon without responsibility for civilians’ safety, the Oslo Accords will now hold a temporary pedestal as a metaphor for constructing further delays. While Israel colonises territory, the Palestinian leadership aids the process through different forms of misrepresentation. These tactics already render the meeting void, not to mention the available evidence of how the accords contributed to Palestine’s fragmentation under international approval.
In addition, inviting Hamas to participate in the meeting after the recent months of coercion constitutes another form of misrepresentation. The fluctuations on Gaza are harmful to the enclave – each wave of violations is swiftly forgotten to pave the way for its aftermath, whether it is a promise of reconstruction or a gradual restoration of electricity which is still inadequate. The same manipulation is applied when the humanitarian degradation is no longer a political concern of Abbas.
There are two main tactics employed in this regard. One is for Abbas to retain the façade of reconciliation and national unity. The other is to normalise the deprivation which catapulted Gaza into choosing between two disastrous scenarios. Attendance by Hamas in the forthcoming meeting will reinforce this dynamic in which marginalisation of the movement will occur either way. However, given the insistence upon discussing Oslo decades after the PA’s extension of colonial violence upon Palestinians, it is important to remember that the foundations for national unity cannot be articulated by Abbas, given his dependence upon the framework that sustains authoritarian politics at the expense of Palestinians.