Europe and the Palestinian Authority’s Authoritarian Drift
At 82 years old, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is now one the oldest leaders in the Middle East. His advancing age, reported ill-health, and rising unpopularity have seen rival politicians positioning themselves in advance of a looming post-Abbas leadership struggle. Amidst deep political divisions, and with existing mechanisms for ensuring an orderly and relatively representative transition no longer functioning, many worry that the post-Abbas period will bring renewed instability and unpredictability in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Europe has engaged consistently in Palestinian state-building, pouring in some €6 billion in aid funding. These efforts have had some success in bringing short-term stability to the territories, reducing Palestinian attacks on Israelis and encouraging Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation. This has, however, not translated into security for Palestinians who are regularly exposed to Israeli settler attacks and military actions. The current political fragility also exposes a failure of European policy, in that the security imperative has taken precedence over issues of democratic participation and accountability. This has allowed Abbas to transform the nascent – and previously democratic – Palestinian state into an increasingly authoritarian regime.