Thursday, February 12, 2009

Opinion: The End for the Palestinian Authority? - George Giacaman

Daily Star (Lebanon), February 13, 2009 - As usual, the future Israeli government will be a coalition, either a right-wing one composed of Kadima, Likud, and Labor, or an extreme right-wing one, including Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, and others. Either way, this does not bode well for the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is entering the third stage of its turbulent life, and perhaps its last.

The first stage began with the Gaza-Jericho agreement of 1994, followed in late 1995 with expansion of the PA's authority over parts of the West Bank. This stage ended with Yasser Arafat's death in November 2004.

The promise of the Oslo process, as far as Palestinians were concerned, was that it would lead to a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. That was the meaning of the "interim stage" which was supposed to last for four years but is now entering its 14th year. Limited "self-autonomy" was never supposed to be a final stage, nor was it envisioned that the PA's raison d'etre was to function indefinitely as a large municipality to administer local Palestinian affairs. This remains true today.

The second stage ushered in Mahmoud Abbas, with his election as president of the PA in January 2005. From the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000 until his election, Abbas was consistent in his opposition to the armed struggle and had the courage to say so in public. Negotiations were at the heart of his political, and the Palestinian public clearly wanted to give him a chance. However, for a whole year, until the elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in January 2006, in which Hamas won a majority, there were no negotiations to speak of. Instead, Israeli officials derided Abbas for being "weak", oblivious to the fact that they were responsible. Ultimately, the undoing of the PA, no matter who is in power, will come from a lack of political progress....

Dr. George Giacaman is co-founder and director of Muwatin, the Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy in Ramallah. He is also a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies, and in the MA Program in Democracy and Human Rights at Birzeit University. He writes frequently on public affairs in the Palestinian and Arab press, and is a regular political commentator for international TV and radio programs.

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