Does the Palestinian Authority accept economic solutions at the expense of a political solution?

Ramallah- Recent weeks have witnessed political movement and Palestinian-American contacts, without resulting in progress in the political file by opening a political track that leads to ending the occupation, in return for significant progress in the economic file and the resumption of American aid.

In their meetings with US officials, the Palestinians adhere to several demands, which are tantamount to promises made by US President Joe Biden in his election campaign, including: practical steps and opening a political path to achieve the two-state solution, pressure on Israel to stop settlements, and reopening the US consulate east of Jerusalem that was closed by former President Donald Trump in 2018.

At a time when these files continue to be frozen, a joint economic meeting took place in mid-December, during which US projects were announced, some of which are under implementation and others to be implemented during the next five years, at a time when Israeli officials called for support to the Palestinian Authority for fear of its collapse.

From here, the question arises: Will the Palestinians accept economic and security solutions at the expense of a political solution? Despite the negative response from the official Palestinian level, analysts believe that what is happening on the ground does not suggest a political horizon, but rather only economic and security solutions, at a time when the Palestinians at the leadership level lack any option.

Palestinian demands

The last meeting was last Wednesday, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received – at the presidential residence in Ramallah – US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his accompanying delegation, according to the official Palestinian News Agency.

Abbas spoke to his guest about “the necessity of ending the Israeli occupation of the land of the State of Palestine, stopping settlement activities, stopping settlers’ attacks and terror, the importance of respecting the historical situation in the Noble Sanctuary, stopping the expulsion of Palestinian residents from Jerusalem neighborhoods, stopping tax cuts and stifling the Palestinian economy.”

While Sullivan reiterated his country’s commitment to “the two-state solution, and the importance of joint action by all parties to move forward to achieve peace and stability in the region.”

On Tuesday, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Limbert met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and discussed with him US-Palestinian relations and support for the two-state solution.

For his part, the spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said – yesterday, Thursday, to the official Voice of Palestine radio – that the position of the Palestinian president was “very clear”, and that he is waiting for the US president to fulfill what he promised.

He pointed out that Abbas indicated to his guests that the Palestinians are facing major political entitlements, including the convening of the Central Council soon (late next January), and therefore political matters must be clear.

Although he described the US administration’s position as positive, none of its promises were implemented, according to Abu Rudeineh.

On January 20, US President Joe Biden will complete a year in the White House.

joint meeting

On December 14, the United States and the Palestinian Authority announced – in a joint statement – the renewal of the American-Palestinian economic dialogue, through an online meeting of officials from both sides.

The statement stated that the meeting – the first of its kind in 5 years – was attended by ministers and high-level officials from both sides, and discussed “current and future areas of economic cooperation.”

At the time, Palestinian Economy Minister Khaled al-Aseeli told the official Voice of Palestine radio that the United States had resumed aid to the Palestinian Authority, implementing projects in the occupied territories worth $75 million, and announced a plan for other projects worth $250 million annually, for a period of 5 years, starting in 2022.

Support for fear of collapse

The economic meeting came at a time when Israeli officials are calling for support for the Palestinian Authority; fear of its collapse.

In mid-November, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that “Israel” asked the Biden administration to pressure Arab and European countries to increase financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, due to the economic crisis it is experiencing, for fear of its collapse and in an attempt to prevent a security deterioration in the West Bank later.

The same call was repeated by Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar. On December 11, Maariv newspaper quoted him as saying that the Palestinian Authority is in a difficult economic and governmental situation, and that there are fears of its collapse.

He added, “Israel must work to consolidate and strengthen the authority,” because strengthening it is important for stability in the West Bank and for weakening the “Hamas” movement.

The same fears were repeated by Minister of Regional Development Issawi Frej of the Meretz party, who spoke several times about the fear of the collapse of the authority.

not a substitute

Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Wasel Abu Yousef, denies that the economic track is an alternative to the political track of the Palestinian leadership.

He added in his speech to Al Jazeera Net: “Talking about an economic path cannot be a substitute for the political path.”

He added that former US President Donald Trump tried to promote an economic solution, talked about billions, and held a conference for this purpose in Bahrain, but failed, as he put it.

A member of the Central Committee of the Liberation Organization denied that the economic path is an alternative to the political path of the Palestinian leadership

He said: “What is required is to open a political horizon to end the occupation and settler colonialism, and to stop the various forms of crimes against the Palestinian people.”

Abu Yousef considered promoting solutions such as easing the conflict, as the occupation Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wants, or managing the conflict, as the US administration wants, “it cannot rise to the level of what is required in order to end the occupation.”

“The successive visits and talk of an economic solution are a waste of time and cannot lead to stability in the region,” he said.

No horizon, no options

Faced with this reality, Bilal Al-Shobaki, a professor of political science at Hebron University, says that the United States has – since the failure of the Camp David talks in 2000 – to a vision that adopts only two tracks: security and economic.

While the security option depends on “creating a functional body for the authority that integrates with the Israeli vision of security aspects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” the economic track “means creating economic patterns that are incompatible with any liberation project in the region.”

He referred to Israel’s demand for some countries in the region to assign the authority financially, at a time when the Israeli government announced that it could not communicate with the Palestinian Authority except in a security or economic context.

Al-Shobaki does not see any value for the United States to talk about its commitment to the two-state solution and East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state, due to the continued settlement and bringing the most extremist settlers to the West Bank, so that the next conflict will be between settlers and Palestinians.

The Palestinian academic says that “there is nothing to compel the United States to implement its obligations towards the Palestinians.”

Al-Shobaki blames the Palestinian leadership for its lack of any options, and says, “The current Palestinian leadership of the PLO and the Authority does not adopt any alternative path to the current path.”

He said that the threat to sever the relationship with Israel or the meeting of the Central Council of the Liberation Organization late next month is “repetitive and useless, and there will be nothing new about it, and it cannot constitute a tool of pressure, unless it is preceded by a Palestinian consensus proposal.” Al-Shobaki called for “presenting a unified Palestinian vision for the world to realize that we have options.”

trying to occupy

For his part, political analyst Noman Amr believes that the US moves in the region do not go beyond the economic dimension, while trying to keep the situation as it is and not to exert real pressure on the occupation to stop its violations, including settlements.

He added that the political dimension will not go beyond the current situation, given that “the current Israeli government is fragile and right-wing extremists unable to pass any law related to any political agreement whatsoever.”

Accordingly, Amr says: “They are distracting the Palestinians with economic support from the political demands that have to do with stopping settlements and the announced constants.”

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