When the Trump administration decided to relocate the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, a critical juncture in the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom, the Palestinian Authority leadership failed to respond in any meaningful way. It also failed to prevent the murder of civilians in Gaza and instead continued its punitive policies toward the 2 million besieged Palestinians living in the strip — including by withholding public servants’ salaries.
After waiting for 22 years since its last meeting, the Palestinian National Council convened recently in Ramallah to choose the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its chairman. The four-day meeting that took place between April 30 and May 3 was a painful reminder of how Palestinian democracy is being undermined by Palestinian leaders.
The meeting ended with the announcement of a new Palestinian leadership based on patronage and narrow factional politics. The so-called elections missed the most crucial element in any functioning political system: the people, who were dismissed, marginalized, and silenced in a dreadful illustration of the growing disconnect between the political elites and those they govern. Though this is not a particularly new phenomenon, the level of the leadership’s arrogance was astonishing.
In addition to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territory, Palestinians suffer from the absence of legitimate leadership and the lack of accountable and inclusive political structures and democratic, effective, and transparent governance. All of this prevents Palestinians from confronting the multiple levels of oppression and repression they face. Reversing this sad state of affairs is an unattainable objective in the existing Palestinian political system. Yet it is a prerequisite if upcoming generations of Palestinians are to have brighter prospects.
If they hope to reinvent the current political system, the Palestinian people and a new generation of leaders must expose the current political elites as they continue to divide, disempower, and marginalize the population. This process of reinvention goes beyond the question of dissolving the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Fatah-Hamas binary, and the frameworks dictated by the Oslo Accords 25 years ago. It will require greater political representation, a more inclusive approach to national planning, and the imagination to transcend the antiquated ideas and blinkered worldview that currently dominate the Palestinian leadership’s political thinking.