Suffering an Identity Crisis
Mahmoud Abbas finds himself at a dead end. Since the end of September, peace negotiations have stalled, because Israel still refuses to halt the construction of settlements in the Palestinian territories. A distressed Abbas recently announced that should Israel not alter its position, he would dissolve the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).
Appearing on Palestinian state television, he said that he could not remain president of an authority that has practically no power. "We should be under no illusions. Even I, as president of the PNA, always require permission from the Israelis to leave Ramallah or return again!"
Alternatives to the Palestinian National Authority
Yet, what would replace the PNA? Abbas did not offer any alternatives to the autonomy authority. Upon closer examination, any alternative seems either unrealistic or undesirable. The dissolution of the Palestinian National Authority would first of all present the possibility of Israel assuming complete responsibility for the 2.2 million Palestinians.
This would be a return to the situation that existed before the creation of the autonomy authority in 1994. Whether Israel is prepared to take such a step appears highly doubtful.
A second possibility is a confederation with Jordan. Although this option is conceivable, it is presently not open for discussion. Another variation would be "to declare a Palestinian state on Jordanian territory," says Mohammad Khalid, editor-in-chief at Palestine News Network (PNN). He adds the qualification, however, that Jordan's King Abdullah II strictly rejects this option.
Many open questions
Another option is the "one state solution," a common state for Israelis and Palestinians. According to Khalid, this could work, as Arabs and Jews in Israel have managed to get along together in the past. Yet, this solution is unthinkable for the current right-wing Israeli government says the editor. "The Israelis are now focused on a single option – one state for one people – the Israeli people."
Khalid therefore considers an actual dissolution of the National Authority as unrealistic. In addition, it would leave Abbas to face many unresolved questions. Who would fill the political vacuum? Would an international force assume these tasks? What happens to the tens of thousands of PNA employees in civil and military institutions? And what would become of the dream of many Palestinians to have their own independent state?
These unresolved questions are perhaps the reason why the Palestinians are attempting to have their state recognized by the UN General Assembly before dissolving their autonomy authority. Martin Beck, head of the Jordan Office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, doesn't view this alternative as particularly promising either "as the USA has already stated that it won't support the move."
Abbas' threat to dissolve the Palestinian Authority should therefore be seen as an expression of desperation, continues Beck. Moreover, the PNA's democratic legitimacy has long since expired.
"For all that, Mahmoud Abbas and the rest of the political elite that he represents are very much interested in maintaining political power, as limited as it may be. This is why I don't believe they would be prepared to take this step if they saw another alternative," says Beck.
Mohammad Khalid also believes that there is currently no other serious alternative for Abbas' administration. The peace process has reached a dead end and this is why Abbas hopes his threat will increase the pressure on the USA and Israel, surmises Khalid.
Although Brazil and Argentina have recently officially recognized the Palestinian state, this brings few tangible benefits for the Palestinians. Even Abbas' attempt to convince other countries to recognizes Palestine won't accomplish much.
"Such recognition means practically nothing to us as long as there are no structures for a Palestinian state." According to Khalid, this gesture of recognition remains merely symbolic.
© Deutsche Welle/Qantara.de 2010
Translated from the German by John Bergeron
Editor: Ina Rottscheidt, Lewis Gropp