The PLO is better off without an office in Washington

It is time for the Palestinian leadership to wean itself off of the US.

by
    On November 25 the US State Department reversed its decision not to renew a certification for the PLO office in Washington [Reuters/Yuri Gripas]
    On November 25 the US State Department reversed its decision not to renew a certification for the PLO office in Washington [Reuters/Yuri Gripas]

    Without knowing or planning it, the Trump Administration may have given Palestinians a gift that they badly need. Last week, it announced that it would not renew the routine six-month waiver for the office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) delegation in Washington, DC. In response, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared that all talks with the US will be suspended.

    Although on November 24, the US State Department reversed the decision, the damage was done. This move was part of a series of anti-Palestinian policies the Trump administration has adopted demonstrating that it is fully supportive of Israel and like previous US administrations unlikely to support a just resolution for the Palestinian issue. It is trying with all possible means to push the Palestinians to concede to all Israeli demands.

    At this point, disengagement with the US is the only possible move for the Palestinian leadership. Given that the pressure from Washington will continue, the Palestinians have to get ready for major financial and political challenges.

    Having a semblance of a state with jobs, budgets and programmes have done more harm than good to Palestinians. It has created a dynamic of its own that has been so bound to the Oslo Process that it has been difficult to grow out of the dependence on it.

    This complacency has hurt the Palestinian cause because it has created an entire generation of Palestinians who benefit from the status quo. A shock was needed to shake Palestinians out of this complacency. The US action against the PLO mission could be precisely the push needed to shake up the system and break the status quo.

    The obvious antagonism Washington is displaying could push the Palestinian Authority (PA) to finally seek a complete overhaul of its strategy and political set-up. This means that the restraint on pursuing Israel on various international platforms will finally be lifted. The PLO should push forward with investigations of Israeli war crimes at the International Criminal Court disregarding US pressure and seek assistance from European and Arab allies.

    The Palestinians should also be prepared for increased financial pressure on the PA and all the civil servants that depend on it for their income. This means that they must cut back on spending, curb corruption practices that burden the budget and seek outside financial support from Arab states.

    More importantly, in order to have the support of the general population, the PA has to adopt a radically different approach of transparency and stop security coordination with Israel. At present a major part of the annual PA budget is spent on security. If coordination with Israel is no longer needed then it is possible to greatly reduce this line item in the budget.

    The PA should stop internals repressions and arbitrary political arrests and guarantee the basic rights of freedom of expression and assembly. This is also an opportunity for Palestinian reconciliation to be pushed through and democratic practices to be implemented.

    It is important to resolve the current disagreements with Hamas and Islamic Jihad and include them in the political process. This reconciliation process should not rely on outside sponsors and should be something that Palestinians are able to figure out themselves.

    The PA should seek direct support from the general population and re-legitimise itself by giving Palestinians political choice. It cannot continue being run by unelected officials. It should proceed with the plan to hold parliamentary and presidential elections before the end of 2018.

    In opening up the political scene, the PLO should also look to include the diaspora and request its backing both politically and financially. For far too long millions of Palestinians living around the world have been alienated and their voices ignored resulting in general apathy and disillusionment.

    This is also an opportunity for the PLO to stand in full support of the highly successful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by changing its current position which calls for boycott of Israeli settlements only. It should support the boycott of the state of Israel.

    Internal divisions and disagreements have plagued the Palestinian cause for decades now. It has worked in favour of Israel and its allies and has allowed it to encroach on Palestinian rights with impunity. With its current diplomatic offensive, Israel is trying to push the Palestinian issue out of the international political agenda and into oblivion.

    The only way this can be prevented is if Palestinians and their supporters around the world mobilise on all fronts. The PA has the chance to play a key role by pushing for a unified national strategy and rallying support from all sides for it. The recent rebuke by the US can give the needed momentum to do that.

    The need to unite Palestinians behind a national liberation strategy has never been as important as it is now.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy. 


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