Former PLO negotiator calls to shut Palestinian Authority

A former Palestinian negotiator has called for the Palestinian Authority to be shut down, saying that it is no longer geared toward achieving independence, but has become a tool for Israel to control the Palestinians.

Writing in an op-ed in the New York Times on Friday, Diana Buttu said that US President Donald Trump’s attempts to relaunch the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians will fail because the Palestinian Authority is no longer an effective representative of the Palestinian people and their aspirations. If the PA is dismantled, she argued, the Palestinians could “once again confront Israel’s occupation in a strategic way.”

“Many now question whether the Palestinian Authority plays any positive role or is simply a tool of control for Israel and the international community. The inescapable logic is that it’s time for the authority to go,” wrote Buttu, a former legal adviser to the PA and a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Buttu argued that the Palestinian Authority, which was established as part of the 1990’s Oslo Peace process and which was meant to be an intermediate body until the establishment of a Palestinian state, has become solely intent on preserving its own existence.

To do this, she said, the Palestinian security forces are focused on putting down Palestinian dissent, both against the PA and Israel.

Members of the Palestinian security forces patrol in the West Bank city of Nablus on August 19,2016 during ongoing clashes between the security forces and Palestinian gunmen. (AFP PHOTO / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH)

“As time went on, it became clear that the authority’s budget and its priorities were primarily geared toward ensuring that Palestinians remained one of the most surveilled and controlled people on earth,” she wrote, noting that “a third of the authority’s roughly $4 billion budget goes to policing, more than for health and education combined.”

“In effect, the Palestinian Authority served as a subcontractor for the occupying Israeli military,” Buttu argued.

Palestinian security cooperation with Israel in the West Bank has been hailed by the international community as a major success and an indication of the Palestinians’ desire to avoid further conflict with Israel.

“Instead of becoming a sovereign state, the Palestinian Authority has become a proto-police state, a virtual dictatorship, endorsed and funded by the international community,” she wrote.

As an example of the PA’s lack of legitimacy, Buttu pointed to the fact that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has not held elections in recent years and has long-exceeded his original term.

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

She also noted the split among the Palestinians, with the Hamas terror group wresting control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas in 2007.

Buttu argued that the Palestinians need to return to a popular leadership like the Palestine Liberation Organization and called for groups like Hamas, which calls for Israel’s destruction, to be included.

“To some, this may sound like giving up on the national dream of self-rule. It is not. By dismantling the authority, Palestinians can once again confront Israel’s occupation in a strategic way, as opposed to Mr. Abbas’s merely symbolic bids for statehood,” she said.

While not explicitly rejecting violence as a means for confronting Israel, Buttu said resistance should focus on “supporting the community-based initiatives that organize nonviolent mass protests and press for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, like those that helped to end apartheid in South Africa.”

She also said the Palestinians should explore the option of one state with equal rights for all. Most Israelis oppose this, arguing that it would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

“By dismantling the Palestinian Authority and reforming the PLO, the real will of Palestinians will be heard. Whether the endgame is two states or one state, it is up to this generation of Palestinians to decide,” she wrote.

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