Palestinians Divided Over Dismantling National Authority
Opponents: Israel Could Tell the World It Has No Palestinian Partner
Palestine Media Center - PMC [Official PA website]
The Israeli war on Gaza Strip since June 25, the international economic,
financial and diplomatic siege imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territory
(OPT) since January 25, the kidnapping of Palestinian cabinet ministers and
lawmakers and the ongoing Israeli destruction of Palestinian infrastructure,
all overshadowed by Israel's war on Lebanon, have raised the prospect of
dissolving the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).
Dismantling the PNA, which was established in 1994, would effectively mean
returning to the pre-Oslo Accords era, when the Israeli Occupying Power was
assuming the civil administration according to international law.
The donors froze aid to the PNA since Hamas won January 25 elections, which
left the PNA virtually penniless.
Following Israel's kidnapping of the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative
Council (PLC), Dr. Abdel Aziz al-Dweik, last week Palestinian Prime Minister
Ismail Haniyeh said:
"We need to debate the future of the Palestinian Authority following the
kidnapping of its second highest-ranking figure and an attempt to
assassinate its prime minister," Haniyya told the PLC on Wednesday.
"The question we have to ask ourselves is the following: Can the Palestinian
Authority continue to operate and function in these circumstances," Haniyeh
Haniyeh was referring to Dweik's kidnapping. The PLC Speaker assumes the
post of PNA presidency in case the post becomes vacant by death, resignation
or for other reasons, according to the Palestinian basic Law.
He also was referring to the hospitalization of seven employees of the
Palestinian Cabinet after opening an envelope postmarked in Tel Aviv,
destined for Haniyeh and contained a suspicious powder.
"We do not rule out the involvement of Israeli intelligence in the dangerous
and criminal act," Haniyeh said.
Haniyeh blamed "the Israeli and US policy of continuing to reject the
results of the elections," which saw his Hamas movement come to power in
The premier added that this policy "was aimed at undermining the structure
of the Palestinian Authority."
The Foreign Minister of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and
leader of the former ruling Fatah movement, Farouk Kaddoumi, a staunch
opponent of the Oslo Accords who is based in Tunis, had reportedly also
urged President Mahmoud Abbas this week to seriously contemplate the
possibility of dismantling the PNA.
Ghassan al-Masri, a spokesman for Kaddoumi, said the PNA should consider the
move unless Israel accepted three conditions: The withdrawal of the Israeli
Occupation Forces (IOF) to the positions it held before September 2000
positions, the release of frozen PNA tax and tariff revenues and the release
of all Hamas cabinet ministers and legislators who have been kidnapped since
the capture of Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit on June 25.
"It's inconceivable that the Palestinians should pay the cost of their
occupation by Israel," Masri said, adding: "Why shouldn't Israel, in its
capacity as an occupation force, bear the expenses of our education, health
and social welfare systems? Why should it be an inexpensive occupation for
Former PNA finance minister Salaam Fayad has also joined calls for
dismantling the PNA. "I think we have the right to question the
effectiveness of the continued existence of the Palestinian Authority as we
lose hope and as our cause is being marginalized by the international
community," he said.
"The Palestinian Authority has almost no role in the political process. The
existence of the Palestinian Authority frees Israel from its
responsibilities as an occupation force," Fayad added.
However opponents of the move argue that dismantling the PNA would only
serve Israel's interest in destroying the Palestinian regime and foiling
efforts to create an independent Palestinian state.
"Instead of talking about dissolving the Palestinian Authority, we should be
discussing ways of reactivating our institutions," said Palestinian chief
negotiator Saeb Erakat.
"The Palestinian public is fully aware of the fact that Israel's main goal
is to destroy the Palestinian Authority. We must act in line with the
interests of our people, not Israel," he said.
Similarly Qais Abdel Karim, a legislator and representative of the
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said he was
surprised to hear that some Palestinians were calling to dismantle the PNA:
"Israel is trying to destroy the Palestinian Authority so that it could tell
the world afterward that there is no partner for peace on the Palestinian
side," he said.
"This is the first step toward imposing unilateral solutions on the
Palestinians. The question, therefore, is not whether we should dissolve the
authority or not, but how to strengthen it so that it could continue to
assume its responsibilities," he said.
If the PNA disappears, Israel has the responsibility under international law
as the occupying power to administer and support the Palestinian people
under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"What logically follows from this is the concept of a single binational
state" which is, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Friday,
"gaining traction among Palestinians of many shades" -- including Hamas. As
the Journal notes, "the idea of dismantling the PA was once a marginal idea,
championed in the 1990s by left-wing intellectuals such as Edward Said, who
advocated civil disobedience against Israeli occupation and a campaign for
'one person, one vote'." The model was the antiapartheid protests in South
Africa that paved the way for black-majority rule there.