Palestinian Authority facing year of critical challenges
The Palestinian Authority is facing critical challenges and existential threats that could endanger its existence, Palestinian officials and experts have claimed to Arab News.
They pointed to the most worrying threat as the new Israeli government, which includes extreme right-wing ministers and a prime minister whose policies deny Palestinian rights and weaken an already fragile PA.
The authority was established in 1994 after the signing of the Oslo Accords between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. It was tasked with responsibility for about 5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and with limited civil service responsibility for 350,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and its district.
But in recent years it has lost Gaza to Hamas, canceled elections and become riven by local and factional rivalries. Weak leadership, including from President Mahmoud Abbas, now 87, has done little to aid the Palestinian people, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
No one knows how to deal legally, constitutionally and politically with such a situation in the absence of a Palestinian parliament or elections, leading to fears of a violent transition of power as Fatah faction leaders jostle to replace the aging Abbas.
Ghassan Khatib, a political analyst and former minister, told Arab News that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich might deduct more Palestinian tax money that Israel collected on its behalf.
Such actions will weaken the PA’s ability to pay, preventing in fulfilling its obligations toward its citizens and the payment of 80 percent of the value of the salaries of its 170,000 civil and military employees, he said.
Khatib added that he believed the PA's weakness and its inability to fulfill its financial obligations locally will exacerbate the security deterioration in the West Bank.
An Israeli escalation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the incursions into Al-Aqsa, and the rush to build settlements constitute another factor in weakening authority.
The PA’s role is no more than that of a spectator during the clashes that take place. Its security services are unable to do anything.
Khatib said he believed that the authority’s power and influence have greatly diminished during the last two years.
It is unable to complete any development projects, new infrastructure, or paving roads — weakening its popularity with the Palestinian public.
Khatib previously worked as minister of planning and labor in the PA.
The weak material capabilities of the PA have limited it from paying its financial obligations to Palestinian private hospitals in the east of Al-Dass and the West Bank and contractors and private sector companies in return for their services to the Authority.
It is also unable to absorb new employees from Palestinian graduates annually.
Meanwhile, some PA officials believe that it is not in the interest of Israel, the US or the EU to allow the collapse of the PA given that the alternative would be a state of total security chaos from which Israel might also suffer.
Palestinian Social Development Minister Ahmed Majdalani told Arab News that the PA would “take the necessary steps in the next stage to face most of the challenges while Israel is fighting us financially, politically, security and economically.”
Majdalani said the most important challenge that the PA faces “is the change in regional and international priorities concerning the Palestinian cause.”
Israel meanwhile plans to impose sanctions on the Palestinians following a UN General Assembly resolution that asked the International Court of Justice in The Hague to rule on the legal issue of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
According to Israeli sources, Israel is drafting a list of sanctions against the leadership of the PA, including withdrawing 70 VIP permits from officials.
These will be part of the basket of sanctions prepared in the recent period against the PA, the sources added.
The decision is expected to be made at the political level, with Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen consulting with relevant security officials.