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. In effect, the Palestinian Authority served as a subcontractor for the occupying Israeli military. The overwhelming focus on security, we were told, was necessary for the duration of peace talks. Today, fully a third of the authority’s roughly $4 billion budget goes to policing, more than for health and education combined.
These security forces do not provide a normal police service to Palestinians, but instead aid the Israeli Army in maintaining the occupation and Israel’s ever-expanding settlements. The internationally lauded “security cooperation” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has resulted only in the arrest and imprisonment of Palestinians, including nonviolent human rights activists, while armed and violent Israeli settlers are allowed to terrorize Palestinians with impunity. The Palestinian Authority has no jurisdiction over the settlers, and the Israeli Army almost always looks the other way.
The raison d’être of the Palestinian Authority today is not to liberate Palestine; it is to keep Palestinians silent and quash dissent while Israel steals land, demolishes Palestinian homes, and builds and expands settlements. 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.
Look at its leader. Eighty-two years old, Mr. Abbas has now controlled the authority for more than 12 years, ruling by presidential decree for most of that time, with no electoral mandate. He has presided over some of the worst days in Palestinian history, including the disastrous, decade-long split between his Fatah party and Hamas, the other major player in Palestinian politics, and three devastating Israeli military assaults on Gaza.
Under his presidency, the Palestinian Parliament has become moribund and irrelevant. Many Palestinians have never voted in presidential or parliamentary elections because Mr. Abbas has failed to hold them, even though they are called for in the Basic Law governing the Palestinian Authority. The latest opinion polls show that his popularity is at its lowest ever, with two-thirds of Palestinians so discontent that they want him to resign.
An equally high number no longer believe that negotiations will secure their freedom. The Palestinian Authority institutionalizes dependency on international donors, which tie the authority’s hands with political conditions. As a result, even using the International Criminal Court to hold Israel accountable for its illegal settlement-building has to be weighed against the likely financial repercussions of such a simple act.
Diana Buttu, “The Deplorable State of Palestine”, The New York Times (27 May 2017), A21.