State of confusion over state of Palestine
January 15th, 2013
12:20 PM ET

State of confusion over state of Palestine

By Jonathan Schanzer, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism analyst at the U.S. Treasury, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He tweets at @JSchanzer. The views expressed are his own.

Has the Palestinian-Israeli conflict finally entered the post-Oslo Accords era? In the Middle East, nothing is dead until it’s buried, but several troubling signs are pointing in that direction.

The game-changer was Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ historic mission upgrade at the United Nations General Assembly on November 29 of last year. The upgrade merely afforded the PLO, which sets foreign policy for the Palestinians, status akin to the Vatican as a non-member observer. Since then, however, the PLO has enacted several changes that may make the 1994 Oslo impossible to resuscitate.

Within days of his U.N. victory, Abbas requested that the United Nations begin referring to the Palestinian Authority government as the “State of Palestine.” That may not sound like much, but it means that the PLO has scuttled the Palestinian Authority, the interim government put in place by the Oslo Accords, and the cornerstone of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations since 1994.

The Oslo Accords were built upon the premise that U.S.-led diplomacy between Israel and the PLO would help take the Palestinian Authority from interim government to statehood through a bilateral process.

More from CNN: Palestinian move doesn't solve anything

Here’s where it gets tricky. The “State of Palestine” is not the caretaker government Israel is contractually obliged to deal with in the Oslo Accords. Moreover, the bilateral process stipulated in Oslo has been outwardly violated.

It is perhaps for these reasons that Shawan Jabarin, director of Al Haq, a human rights organization in Ramallah, expressed concern about potential “legal and political complications” and a “lack of clarity that needs to be sorted out.”

The complications don’t end there. Abbas recently issued a decree that all stamps (currently under production in Bahrain), signs, and letterheads will be changed to reflect the new name. The move, according to one Palestinian official, was aimed at enhancing Palestinian “sovereignty on the ground,” and was a step toward “real independence.”

The Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, an aid institution more commonly known as PEDCAR, was reportedly the first Palestinian institution to comply with Abbas’ decree. The Palestinian Ministry of Information has followed suit.

Abbas also reportedly ordered new passports and identity cards, which would have “State of Palestine” emblazoned upon them. The Israelis howled with disapproval, and Abbas appears to have backed down for now.

Still, the PLO chief may not be done making moves.

The PLO’s official mouthpiece, WAFA, ran a piece on January 5 stating that, “an earlier decision has been reached [by the PLO] to delegate to the [PLO] Central Council the duties of the Palestinian Authority’s government and parliament.”

If this is true (and two senior Palestinian insiders say it is), Abbas appears to be consolidating power by facilitating the transfer of key components of the Palestinian Authority into the hands of the PLO, which is not subject to public scrutiny in the way that the PA has been since its inception in 1994.

Abbas would never frame it this way, of course. He would claim that he seeks to shut down the PA in the face of continued Israeli settlement construction.

By one count, Abbas has threatened to quit as the PA’s president or simply dismantle the PA more than 25 times. And partisans of the Palestinian cause support him. They say that the Palestinians should not have to ask permission to do anything, not least from their occupiers. They roundly support the notion that collapsing the PA would saddle the Israelis again with the full administrative burden of the West Bank (Gaza, under the control of Hamas is another kettle of fish).

But what Abbas’ supporters – both domestic and international – don’t seem to realize is that, by shutting the doors of the PA, the PLO may be leveraging its newfound status at the U.N. (not Abbas’ elected presidential authority, which expired in 2009) to consolidate power.

The last thing anyone needs is a more muscular PLO. The PA was created, in part, to curb the bloated PLO, which has earned a reputation over the years as being ossified and less than transparent.

One obvious challenge now for Abbas is figuring out how far he can push this agenda without setting off alarm bells in the West.

Abbas is betting that since Hamas is the only real alternative to his rule – thanks in large part to his refusal to help cultivate new leadership – the West will fold. Fearing a takeover by Hamas, even the Israelis are loath to topple him.

But there is still another challenge for the new president of the “State of Palestine.” Winds of war are blowing in the West Bank. Ever since Abbas challenged Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu by upgrading the PLO’s status, the West Bank has been signaling that it might plunge into revolution. Every few days, we see another report of Palestinian violence against Israelis. Palestinian terror groups are calling for a new intifada. And Israeli military officials are warning that one may have already begun.

Conflict is not a foregone conclusion, however. Abbas may somehow find a way to maintain calm in this atmosphere of growing tension. Yet the injection of the “State of Palestine” has created a state of confusion, with the future of the peace process, the viability of the PA, and the power of the PLO hanging in the balance.

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soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. rightospeak

    What a spin ! I think there should be a Palestinian response to this biased report. Israel terrorized the Palestinians since 1948 and grabbed most of their land. The propaganda of our media that ignored the UN resolutions , Israeli terrorism in Middle East slanted the true picture of what is going on there. What CHUTZPA to call the Palestinians terrorists -ask Prof. Finkerstein ! "Palestinian violence against Israelis " ??
    It is similar to Jedwabne incident in Poland near the city of Lomza. Jews from Jedwabne (mostly Jewish town ) in 1939 went for training to Bialystok at NKWD HQ. Many joined the police force and together terrorized Eastern Poland , shipped 1/3 of Polish families to Siberia to die of cold and starvation , took their houses and land. The Jews in NKWD collaborated with Gestapo in extermination of Poles. When the Germans came in 1941 there was a tragedy and now the Holocaust Inc. is trying to extort money from Poles, former victims.The Holocaust Inc. hired writers like Gross to rewrite history , to extort money. So it is with Palestinians and this article is nothing but propaganda for Israel.

    January 15, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Reply
    • meqdadtaheri

      I am with you on the Jews. That's why the Mufti met with Hitler. There was a plan for the Jews in Palestine too.

      Today, as a start, it is important that the apartheid wall and checkpoints be removed. Only then can martyrdom operations resume (derogatorily known in the West as “Suicide Bombings”).

      January 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Reply
      • Vicky

        Good work , feed the Hate, forget Peace, Iam sure the People need more Killing & Wars. Never mind Justice.for the people in that area. Shame.

        January 16, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
    • Vicky

      Evert Word You Said is TRUE,

      January 16, 2013 at 11:33 pm | Reply
  2. ralphiesmom

    What unmitigated trash this article is. Mr. Schanzer doesn't realize the world has changed. We know what Israel is doing and has done to Palestinians. 2 states are not possible anymore, thanks to the greedy landgrabbing Israeli gov't. Nice try, trying to cover for them
    though, Mr. S.

    I hope they let you into Palestine when it is a place of equal rights for everyone who lives there, no matter what their religion or ethnicity. Or in other words, when Palestine is free.

    January 16, 2013 at 1:59 am | Reply
    • Vicky

      Thank God , there are Humans Still in the world , that know right from wrong.

      January 16, 2013 at 11:42 pm | Reply
  3. 100 % ETHIO

    Without any doubt, the Holly Bible and most religious books, proofed it, the existences of Jewish and Jewish State. No further question!

    However, although the Earth's shape & atmospheres are significantly changed, time after time, the Ancient-Jewish or the True-Jewish lost their vast-territories, extended upto the current Saudi-Arabia, Jordan, some parts of Egypt,.....

    But, the current foolish or fake Jewish does not have the Heavenly bless, as well as hearts and minds to claim the Ancient-Jewish lands wisely.

    So, what are the consequences?
    I do not know.

    January 16, 2013 at 2:57 am | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    Abbas was under pressure as leader of the Fatah, being driven out of Gaza in 2007 by the Hamas, which has close ties to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi had also denounced the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, saying it was "created by the Zionists and American enemies for the sole purpose of opposing the will of the Palestinian people. Hamas and Fatah are rivals and fundamentally disagree in their approach towards Israel. The Palestinians' loyalty is torn between the two.

    January 16, 2013 at 8:32 am | Reply
  5. david singer

    The author is 100% spot on.

    IIt is official – the Palestinian Authority no longer exists and Israel now has no Arab partner to negotiate with on the allocation of sovereignty in the West Bank.

    You can all read about these developments in my article at:

    January 16, 2013 at 10:58 pm | Reply
    • Vicky

      For 60 Years they have been negotiating , I guess they need another 60 years. Or Its offical the real reason , israel had no intention for peace, why not say the Truth

      January 16, 2013 at 11:50 pm | Reply
  6. Hate Wins

    Vicky: Your right almost.
    The Palestinian/Arab states that support them will not be happy unless there is no Israel and no Jews.
    You and I as well as 99.9% of the posters here have not lived under that 2000 lb. gorilla all our lives, until we have to then we can never understand.
    Other than little boys/girls blowing themselves up, what concisions have Hamas given?
    Where is all the money the PLO, Hamas and other received gone to? NOT ENGOUGH for school, food, homes, hospitals. But lots of money for weapons and none for the Babies.
    If you want to defeat Israel then stop killing babies, make Israel shot first and prove it.
    Same rule for Israel, the problem is most of the time Hamas, PLO, and others shoot first and cry when they get shot back at.
    This war will only stop I feel is when MOTHERS stop letting their sons and daughters go to the meat grinder.

    January 18, 2013 at 11:29 am | Reply

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