Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a ceremony marking the 54th anniversary of Fatah's founding, in Ramallah on December 31.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Trump administration is likely to unveil its long-awaited Middle East peace plan in June, after a new government is formed in Jerusalem and the Ramadan celebrations finish in Ramallah.
While the plan’s contents remain secret, one can only hope it contains a clause about the restructuring of the Palestinian Authority’s national institutions. Their complicated setup contributes to the anarchy, corruption and ineffectiveness that have plagued the PA since its establishment in 1994.
Leading in redundancy is the Palestine Liberation Organization, abbreviated as the PLO, which was established in 1964 to liberate Palestine through “armed struggle.”
The PLO has 12 departments: a Political Department, Military Department, Palestine National Fund (basically the Treasury), Refugee Affairs Department, Occupied Homeland Department, Education Department, National Relations Department, Information and Culture Department, Popular Mobilization Department, Social Affairs Department, Administrative Affairs Department, and Negotiations Affairs Department.
As well, the PLO has a military wing, called the Palestinian Liberation Army. The PLO further includes the following institutions: The Palestine National Council (the parliament), Executive Committee (the government), Palestinian Central Council (the body responsible for formulating policies), Palestinian news agency WAFA, the Health Insurance Institution, and the Supreme National Security Council.
The Palestinian National Liberation Movement, better known by its Arabic abbreviation Fatah, is the largest PLO faction. Today headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, it was established in 1965. Fatah is comprised of the Fatah Revolutionary Council (the legislative body) and the Fatah Central Committee (the executive body).
The Palestinian Authority, created after the signing of the Oslo Accords a quarter century ago, is today facing a financial crisis resulting from Israel’s decision to withhold tax revenues it collects on the PA’s behalf equivalent to the payments the PA makes to the families of jailed terrorists. Due to the reduced transfer, in the past two months the PA has paid its employees only about half of their salary.
Yet the salaries and budgets assigned to the PLO and Fatah are unaffected by the cutbacks. Each member of the PLO Executive Committee reportedly is continuing to receive a monthly budget of NIS 100,000 - NIS 130,000 for salaries, secretaries, drivers and bodyguards. Similarly, members of Fatah’s two institutions continue to receive their full salary.
Notwithstanding that regular Palestinians view the PLO and Fatah as unnecessary institutions which do not provide any needed civil service, they continue to function as shadow governments. While the PA is responsible for providing services to and managing the day-to-day affairs of the Palestinians, the PLO and Fatah do almost nothing.
Why then does Ramallah need three bloated ruling bodies: the PLO, Fatah and the PA government? Why do the Palestinians need a “governor” and “deputy governor” in each city – appointments of Fatah and PLO - in addition to a mayor? Why do some of the PA ministries have scores of deputy ministers and general directors?
We further wonder why the Palestinians need anachronistic national liberation groups that were formed more than half a century ago to “liberate Palestine” when there is a government in Ramallah which has signed agreements and held countless rounds of negotiations with Israel.
While revolutionary movements may have been legitimate when the two sides were engaged in ongoing armed conflict, their raison d’être is no longer relevant.
What benefit do the Palestinians receive from their chaotic and redundant ruling system? How do these institutions improve the quality of life for the residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip? The answer is that they don’t.
This system of cronyism in Palestine has resulted in fauda (unrest and disorder), fasad (corruption), fitna (inciting strife) and falatan (being licentious). And this must stop. For true peace to be possible, the Palestinians need to get their affairs in order. For the Palestinian people to experience the economic prosperity that peace will bring, they need to establish a united and honest government in Ramallah. The Palestinian people deserve good government. The continued bureaucratic nightmare needs to end.
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