Palestinians have remained glaringly absent throughout the grand unveiling of President Trump’s “deal of the century.” As Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel — one facing impeachment, the other indictment — laid out the conditions for Palestinian submission last Tuesday in Washington, the Palestinian leadership, in the form of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, rejected the plan with “a thousand no’s.”
Mr. Abbas, who had not even been consulted during the drafting of the plan, declared on Saturday that his government would end all relations with the United States and Israel. This included a decision to end the authority’s security coordination with Israel. Outwardly, it might seem like a tough stand, but it’s not the first time Mr. Abbas has made this promise. And for many Palestinians, these threats ring hollow given the authority’s repeated failure to halt Israel’s de facto annexation of Palestinian land.
Mr. Trump’s plan again exposes the power asymmetry between the Palestinians and the Israelis — an imbalance evidenced by the systematic denial of Palestinian rights and the enabling of Israeli expansionism. But it may nonetheless be a turning point: It will mark the end of the charade of Palestinian leadership and autonomy by proving that even when Palestinians capitulate to and collaborate with their occupiers for decades, they remain shut out.
The signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 — intended as a five-year interim agreement — gave Palestinians partial autonomy over fragments of their land in the form of the Palestinian Authority, which was to replace the Palestine Liberation Organization as the official representative of the Palestinian people. With the help of the United States, Israel manufactured and endorsed a “moderate” Palestinian leadership in the form of the authority, for whom liberation was premised upon statehood — and the nation-building and bureaucracy it entails — on 22 percent of historic Palestine.
Rather than working to end the Israeli occupation, the Palestinian leadership has become a key component of it. Security coordination with the Israeli military, which was written into the Oslo Accords, has become the Palestinian Authority’s core duty: It takes up more of its budget than the education, health and agriculture sectors combined. That eroded Palestinians’ trust in the authority, and incentivized corruption and surveillance in Palestinian communities. Twenty-five years later, the authority has failed to deliver peace, justice and self-determination for the Palestinians.
Under the guise of pursuing peace, security coordination has enabled Israel to continue encroaching into occupied Palestinian land on the one hand and entrenching the one-state reality on the other. Over half a century after the occupation began and a quarter of a century after the signing of the Oslo Accords, it should come as no surprise that Israel is now primed to formally annex almost all of its settlements and the Jordan Valley (altogether constituting up to 30 percent of the West Bank).