Restructuring the Palestinian Authority: It’s Now or Never


The Palestinian Authority (PA) has perhaps never been so embattled, polarizing, or internally fragmented.

In the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the PA has cut itself off from Gaza, and reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah continues to be elusive. Regionally, the PA has never been as alienated from its Arab allies. New leadership in key states, such as Saudi Arabia, eager to kowtow to the Trump Administration and find common ground with Israel on the issue of Iran, has led to disastrous shifts in Arab policy and discourse on Palestine. The rush to normalize with Israel is on, emboldening the Israeli occupation forces. Increased repression in these normalizing states also means a near systematic state-level campaign of repression aimed at curtailing pro-Palestinian voices.

Internationally, the rise of right-wing fascistic elements in a number of countries has narrowed the opportunities available to the PA to apply pressure on Israel. Moreover, the frequent charge of anti-Semitism, so often a disingenuous red herring, has become a useful tool to silence voices of opposition regarding the Israeli occupation, leading to unprecedented attacks on free speech and freedom of assembly in the US, UK, Germany, and elsewhere. Thus, even though the Israeli occupation is increasingly unpopular amongst the public, “lawfare” strategies have had the effect of chilling activism on Palestine, including sometimes successful attempts at passing anti-BDS legislation.

Most important in these current conditions is the further rightward shift of the US in regard to Israel-Palestine, with Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, at the reins. Together they have decimated international institutions and allowed Israel to behave with even more impunity than it had enjoyed previously.

As such assaults on Palestinians intensify, the PA finds itself losing key reservoirs of support. Yet in the face of these myriad challenges, the PA has not sought to repair or strengthen relations with its own people or those who advocate for them. Rather, it has become increasingly authoritarian, to the detriment of Palestinians and their relationship with those claiming to represent them.

Though the PA may continue to operate and be recognized as the de facto authority in the occupied West Bank despite the local, regional, and international geopolitical transformations described above, as this state of affairs continues it may lose all relevance in the negotiation process and as a representative of the Palestinian people.

This commentary first discusses the disconnect between the PA and the Palestinian citizens under its control. It then examines how international involvement, in particular increasingly harmful US policy, has helped to shore up this disconnect, as such involvement has rendered the PA progressively repressive and divisive. This has made political activism in the OPT more difficult.

However, while the PA is at a critical and daunting juncture, this moment can be used to restructure state-society relations between the PA and Palestinians, both in the OPT and the diaspora. Palestinian civil society also has the chance to unify in its fight against both the occupation and the harmful PA leadership. Unless such developments occur, dynamics of stagnation and futile politics will likely continue.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2019, Al-Shabaka.