There are very powerful forces moving with a speed that is very likely to lead to a collision course of destructive dimensions.
The internal deterioration of the Palestinian Authority with its decreasing legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinian people is appearing increasingly more like a car with no steering wheel and failing breaks.
While the Palestinian governmental roles such as education and health care continue to work, the leadership at the top seems to have less control over increasing areas of the West Bank.
According to many Palestinians all around the West Bank, the leadership seems to be out of touch with the reality of their daily existence.
The delegitimization of the Palestinian Authority and its leaders have long been propelled into motion by the constant delegitimizing process spurred by continued Israeli governments refusals to negotiate any kind of political horizon while at the same time increasing and deepening every aspect of occupation and control.
Israeli settlement building has increased dramatically and will soon be expanded even more by the authorization of over 100 outposts as recognized settlements. Israeli infrastructure such as the road network for Israeli settlers moves forward rapidly every day.
Diminishment of the Palestinian Authority
But in all honesty, the diminishment of the Palestinian Authority is also self-inflicted by the shrinking of democratic space under its control, the policy of holding onto and consolidating power by refusing to hold elections.
The continued divide in leadership between Fatah and Hamas – the West Bank and Gaza, and the inability of the Palestinian Authority to provide any representation for the more than 350,000 Palestinians in Palestine’s largest city – East Jerusalem.
Many believe that the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to conduct elections stems from the fears of a Hamas victory. But Hamas’s power and support in Palestine are on the rise because of the dysfunctionality of the Palestinian Authority and the constant delegitimization by Israel which emanates from the ongoing violations by Israel of the Palestinian Authority’s authority within the Palestinian cities.
Additionally, Israeli politicians from the center and the right have labeled President Abbas as a supporter of terrorism and a holocaust denier at the same time that Abbas continues to enforce a policy of ongoing security coordination and cooperation with the Israeli occupying army and the Shabak (Shin Bet – Israeli Security Agency).
Every time the IDF and Shin Bet carry out arrests and attacks within the Palestinian cities and the Palestinian security forces do not fight back to protect Palestinian citizens, the Palestinian Authority loses more support from its own people.
Increasing support for groups like Hamas is the result of the inefficacy of the Palestinian Authority and the refusal of Israel to negotiate with the leaders of the Palestinian national movement.
Increasing settler violence against Palestinian civilians taking place under the eyes, and often with the support of Israeli soldiers do not leave the Palestinians with any option other than understanding that this is the official policy of Israel.
Palestinian violent resistance, attacks against soldiers and settlers, most often unorganized and very individualized are on the rise as well as newly organized groups of young Palestinians who are no longer willing to acquiesce to the fate of not living as free people in their own homeland.
With the demise of the Palestinian Authority, it is not unreasonable to expect that members of the PA security forces will join with other Palestinian resisters in using violence against the occupation.
Unofficial forum of senior experts
I met with a former senior Israeli intelligence and operations officer this week who I asked to join me in creating an unofficial forum of senior experts from the region to see how we could possibly work together to prevent disaster and even get us back on track toward negotiations. I know senior experts from all around the region who I am quite sure will be ready and willing to participate.
In the absence of any positive work being done at the official level regarding how we will be able to share this land and enable both peoples here – the Israelis and the Palestinians to have a territorial expression of their identity, it is necessary to create the platform for renewing strategic brainstorming at a common table.
We will, without doubt, be working against the trends on the ground propagated by a very right-wing anti-Palestinian new Israeli government.
No one knows how long President Abbas will hold onto power. No one knows what will happen the day after Abbas is no longer able to serve. What I hear from almost every Palestinian I meet, from the West Bank, east Jerusalem, Gaza and the Palestinian diaspora is that they want elections.
The Palestinian leadership has used the excuse that Israel will not allow Palestinian elections to be held in Jerusalem as the reason for not convening them. It is true that in 2021 the Palestinian Authority requested Israeli approval for elections in Jerusalem. It is also true that Israel never responded.
I don’t understand why the Palestinians requested Israeli approval to hold Palestinian elections, asides for having an excuse not to hold them. Foreign consulates in Jerusalem offered to allow Palestinians to vote there. Palestinians from Jerusalem could also vote beyond the separation barrier, or even vote online – there are secure enough ways to conduct online voting. Eventually, Palestinians will hold open, free and fair elections.
The current leadership both in Gaza and the West Bank will have to face whatever the Palestinian public decides. Israel and the rest of the world should accept the decision of the majority of Palestinians, just as the world is expected the respect the outcome of the recent Israeli elections.
My hope is that when those elections finally do take place the conditions on the ground will enable potential Palestinian leaders who present realistic and pragmatic solutions to the Palestinian people will be those who will win the elections and lead their people.
I also hope that whoever is in power or is trying to be in power in Israel will extend a hand of peace with the genuine desire to get back to the table to figure out how we will all share this land.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and its neighbors. He is now directing The Holy Land Bond.