On the Decline of the Palestinian Political System



President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting of Palestinian leaders to discuss the United Arab Emirates’ agreement with Israel to normalize relations, in Ramallah in the West Bank, August 18, 2020. MOHAMAD TOROKMAN / POOL / AFP

Majed Kayali

The Palestinian political system has become archaic, as the ruling class, factions and methodologies have remained the same for decades. This has been the reality since the creation of the palestinian government in the West Bank and Gaza three decades ago.

The system has eroded, including all entities – the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), factions, grassroots organizations and authority. These entities have exhausted themselves and are no longer relevant in Palestinian society. The PLO also lost its combative symbolism before moving from a liberation movement to an authority, especially given the failure of its political and militant choices.

The problem of the Palestinian political system does not end with obsolescence and erosion, as dysfunctions and stagnation characterize it. The ruling political class has been conservative in its approach and continues to be so. Although he acknowledged, for example, that Israel had blocked the Oslo Accords, he never considered or attempted to explore other options.

This has not changed despite the decisions of the General Council, which stipulated the cessation of security coordination with Israel, the continuation of the economic boycott, the cessation of negotiations and the efforts made to isolate Israel and Take it at the International Court.

The failure is also represented in the monopoly of political decisions, the limited participation and the restricted development of the Palestinian political system. As such, the ruling class, however outdated, has nothing to offer or add. This class has become a burden and an obstacle to the development of a Palestinian national movement.

One can imagine the disastrous extent of the monopoly in light of the vigor of the Palestinian community, its substantial rate of high education and the capacities built over its decades of struggle.

The question here revolves around the legitimacy of the Executive Committee of the PLO, knowing that the last sessions of the Palestinian National Council date back to 1996 and 2018, with an interval of 22 years between the two sessions!

It should be noted that the first session took place inside the Palestinian territories, three years after the creation of the Palestinian Authority, in response to the American request for edit the National Charter. The request was approved by 504 votes for, 54 against and 12 abstentions. However, no amendments were made by the Palestinian National Council.

Yet the story did not end there, as the illegitimate and unrepresentative Palestinian People’s Conference amended – by a show of hands – the National Charter at a session in Gaza in late 1998. The conference outfit only for this purpose in the presence of former US President Bill Clinton.

It also indicates that the Oslo Accords (1993) did not derive their legitimacy from the PLO’s legal committee 15 years after the authority was established.

It is known that these unjust agreements of the Oslo Accords have reduced the question of Palestine to the occupied territories of 1967, divided the Palestinian people and transformed their national movement into a mere authority approved by the same legal frameworks.

Above all, these conditions raise questions about the legitimacy of the Palestinian regime, whose composition is dictated by quotas for different factions that are virtually non-existent.

We are talking about factions whose existence has no historical, theoretical or militant justification. Moreover, the political class – whose members are mostly in their 70s and 80s – that controls the National Assembly and dominates Fatah and the PLO has been in power since the 1960s.

Based on the above, three conclusions can be drawn.

First, the role of Palestinian entities that emerged in the 1960s has come to an end. Their discourses, structures, frameworks and methods of resistance confirm this dynamic, which has worsened since the replacement of a liberation movement by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, yet another entity completely foreign to its predecessor.

The second conclusion is that the Palestinian leadership is not interested in adhering to the interests of their people for several reasons. Due to the imbalance of power in favor of Israel, the absence of a Palestinian society within a unified regional framework and since the Palestinian political class does not depend on popularity for its existence.

The third conclusion is that the problem of the Palestinians is not just about moving forward, but rather about the erosion of their entities. Moreover, these entities lack an institutional and militant spirit and have failed to build democratic structures and democratic modes of communication.

Moreover, they lack accountability and are not representative of democratically elected officials. The existence of a ruling class with a minimum of responsibility would have checked a deviation from the national course. One could say that if these factors had been present, they could at least have helped to correct the dangers of deviating from this path or could have preserved the Palestinian home.

As a result, all of the above factors have led to a Palestinian national movement and political system in a state of inactivity or decline. Given their differences and the backwardness of their political actors, no one can predict where the Palestinians will go next.


The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its editorial board.

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