A failed economy, corruption and dysfunctional mechanisms. Palestinian autonomy exists only in the imagination
We’ll start with the historical facts: “Palestinian” nationalism never existed. It only began to define itself around one thing, and that too in a dubious manner: resistance to the building of the Jewish national home in the Land of Israel.
The British mandate began giving the Arabs of Eretz Israel separate consideration, but even the Jordanian and Egyptian authorities in “Palestine” (1948-1967) never encountered any Palestinian national liberation struggle whatsoever. The whole issue was described as “the refugee problem” and was used in the struggle against the existence of the State of Israel.
The reality changed with the victory of Israel in the Six-Day War and the liberation of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The Arabs understood that they were not in a zero sum situation and began to use the tactics of the phase strategy. The aspiration for a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders was a convenient gimmick. In addition, the Arab struggle is perceived as a struggle for national anti-colonial liberation. Concepts that were catchy in the West and among some in Israel.
Israel stood before two options: One was the Torah approach, which advises Jews by cautioning them – “‘But if you do not inherit the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.” (Numbers 33:55).
The second was the left-wing approach, which was supported by most of the world, and argues that we must accept the logic of the enemy, withdraw, and allow them to establish a state.
A several year long propaganda effort stressing that “You cannot control another people” tilted the scales in favor of the second approach. The Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 and implemented in the years that followed, fulfilled this ideology.
The Oslo quandary came to an end not because of a deep ideological disillusionment, but simply by its collision with reality: the new “state in the making” continued with its de-legitimization of Israel campaign, radicalized its positions (choosing Hamas in democratic elections) to the point of denying Israel’s right to exist, failed to create a unified and responsible structure, and failed to stand on its own financially.
Economy in Collapse
The facts and figures are the best indicator as to the total failure of the Palestinian Authority. The per capita GDP of the average Palestinian (between Judea and Samaria and Gaza) is $4,700 per year. That is about a tenth of that of Israel, placing them 172nd in the world, even though they are the largest recepients of foreign aid per capita in the world.
Growth is virtually non-existant. 80% of the labor force earns their living from service industries and the remainder in the husbandry agriculture branches (olives, wheat) and quarrying. Almost unchanged for decades.
The unemployment rate is 28%, with the largest employer being the State of Israel and the Jewish settlements. Behind them is the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas apparatus in Gaza.
Despite the absurd claims of a “siege on Gaza,” thousands of trucks enter the Gaza Strip from Israel and deliver food supplies and construction materials. The electricity, water and medical supplies are mostly free, courtesy of Israeli citizens. Symbolic amounts are deducted from customs and VAT collection.
The PA budget deficit stands at an inconceivable rate of 64% of the budget, and this after receiving generous foreign aid.
All this takes place at a time when the US Congress decides to prevent foreign aid from the PA because of its support for terrorism and terror activists, but Israeli bodies like the Coordinator of Activities in the Territories are absurdly “concerned” about it.
The Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria fulfills policing functions only. In some cases, it supports terrorist activity against Israel, and in other cases it cooperates with the security services of the State of Israel. The concept that security can be entrusted to a sovereign Palestinian body collapsed in 2002 with the Park Hotel bombing and Operation Defensive Shield. In the Gaza Strip, with the transfer of power to Hamas, a hostile military force was formed, the size of a division, in addition to a number of smaller terrorist organizations.
As for foreign policy, the PA has about 60 embassies and diplomatic missions around the world, full relations with more than 100 countries, and the status of observer country in the UN. Since its establishment, the PA has maintained a foreign policy that opposes the State of Israel and succeeds in leading decisions against it in UN institutions.
International opposition to Israel is the only area in which the PA has made significant achievements, despite the fact that the Oslo Accords – by virtue of which the PA was established – prohibit anti-Israeli diplomatic activity.
With regard to the form of government, there is no need to expand, when it is clear to all that the PA and Hamas conduct an anti-democratic and corrupt dictatorship.
These figures are but a small example, but they show a substantial trend: 25 years after the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is a fiction. It does not exist in its own right, and survives only because of the support of the State of Israel. Without funding and maintenance from Israel, the PA would deteriorate into anarchy. Hundreds of thousands would be starved, reading by candlelight, drowning in sewage, attacking fences and begging for Israeli citizenship.
Time to Wake Up
The British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said that the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. The Palestinian Authority can similarly be written as a footnote to the mental structure of Israeli galut mentatlity.
Israel’s mental inability to formulate an authentic position, the inability to withstand the situation of reconquering a homeland, the inability to stand up against hostile propaganda and control a hostile population has all led to the failed concept of “let the malady manage itself.” It is all of these and not some authentic struggle of indigenous people which created the “Palestinian Authority” and all these are now an obstacle to dismantling this fiction.
The future seems possible on two tracks. One track is the continuation of the trend that led to Oslo, which will lead to further escalation and extremism. Progressive circles in the world, with the cooperation of the Israeli bureaucracy, will help build the Palestinian state, while demolishing Israeli settlements. Such a move will intensify until an eruption takes place.
The second option is to push reset, like with Operation Defensive Shield or Trump’s transformation in the United States, which will lead to a rational examination of the situation, a willingness to stand up for our opinions and an independent Israeli position.
As always, there is also the possibility of missing out on both – allowing the perpetual cycle of terror attacks and counter-reactions to dictate policy.
*(Translated from Mida.org.il Hebrew)
Igal Canaan is a retired Lt. Colonel who served as a navigator in the Israel Air Force
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