The PA’s plan is little more than a belated and weak response to decades of Israeli settler-colonial expansion – rejecting annexation, which is a formality, is not a rejection of Israeli colonialism. This flawed premise is what the two-state paradigm is all about – affirming legitimacy for Israel by normalising its colonial presence in Palestine.
Israel’s Annexation Plans and the Palestinian Authority’s Weakness
In June, the Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh stated that declaring Palestinian statehood would be the next step if Israel goes ahead with its plans to annex over 30% of the occupied West Bank. Annexation, according to Shtayyeh, is an “existential threat”.
However, the “existential threat” has been applied with one major reservation. The PA has been careful not to apply the terminology to Israel itself, which is a colonial project in process. Annexation cannot be considered an existential threat without recognising the source – colonial Israel – as an existential threat itself.
Part of the reason for this inconsistency is the PA’s decision to uphold international consensus regarding the two-state compromise. International law forbids annexation and the UN was also purportedly dedicated to eradicating colonialism. Israel, of course, was not included in these parameters. There is too much international complicity and investment in colonising Palestine. The two-state hypothesis is perhaps the most visible diplomatic effort on behalf of the international community.
For the sake of remaining in alleged opposition to the US deal of the century, the UN will continue to promote the obsolete framework, and the PA will take its cues from whatever is determined as international consensus. After all, the PA maintains itself through donor funding, without which it would collapse.
Shtayyeh has not specified how declaring Palestinian statehood over slivers of territory without any contiguity will serve Palestine politically. The PA’s plan is little more than a belated and weak response to decades of Israeli settler-colonial expansion – rejecting annexation, which is a formality, is not a rejection of Israeli colonialism. This flawed premise is what the two-state paradigm is all about – affirming legitimacy for Israel by normalising its colonial presence in Palestine.
In terms of Palestinian memory, the international promotion of the 1967 borders as the basis for diplomatic negotiations, which the PA acquiesced to, has created a permanent rupture among Palestinians whose memory of Zionist settler-colonialism dates back to the late 1880s. Of particular note is the international community’s marginalisation of the 1948 Nakba, during which over 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes as Zionist paramilitary groups ethnically cleansed Palestinian towns and villages to lay the foundations of Israel as a colonial state in Palestine.
With its acceptance of the two-state compromise, which was never intended to materialise, the PA has participated in an incomparable betrayal of the Palestinian people. The Nakba is the historical event upon which the Palestinian right of return emerged. By accepting the two-state framework, the PA mangled Palestinian history and any chances at allowing a unified Palestinian political approach to counter the international impositions upon Palestine.
Furthermore, Shtayyeh’s ineffective statements of declaring Palestinian statehood are more of a reflection of how the PA gambled upon Palestinian history and memory to safeguard its political structure while appeasing Israel and the international community.
Annexation affirms the permanence of each wave of Palestinian forced displacement. The PA, meanwhile, has not even sought to at least adhere to a narrative that unites the Palestinian collective experience. On the contrary, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah has relied upon the international community to define Palestine and Palestinians, thus participating in the fragmentation of Palestinian memory.
Palestinians have long expressed the concern that the PA does not represent them, their political aspirations, and needs. The US-Israeli annexation scheming has brought the dissociation between the Palestinian people and the political leadership to the fore. While the PA can claim political isolation and it would be correct in its assumptions, given that its existence is just a component of the international diplomatic agenda, the isolation faced by the Palestinian people is unprecedented. Stripped of even more land, Palestinian memory is fast becoming involved in a struggle for its preservation within the people themselves.