For Palestinian leaders, mere mention of “the occupation” is used not only to justify anti-Israel violence but as an excuse for all manner of internal ills. For them, the term refers to the situation both of Gaza (from which Israel withdrew completely over a decade ago) and of those parts of the West Bank under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Asaf Romirowsky explains:
[P]rogress in Palestinian economics, institution-building, or civil society [is not] possible, because—as Nabeel Kassis, the Palestinian minister for finance, put it—“Development under occupation is a charade.” Even the Palestinian Authority’s own repression and crackdown on freedom of the press are, according to Hanan Ashrawi, caused “of course [by] the Israeli occupation.” And despite the palpable underdevelopment of Palestinian institutions and civil society, Europe must keep funding them. . . .
Palestinians and their supporters want to have the occupation both ways. It is the trump card for their own refusal to negotiate and failure to develop their own society, but it is also a useful tool for further internationalization of the conflict and prolongation of their international welfare status. . . . Hence the plan to change the international definition of “Palestinian territories under occupation” into “a Palestinian state under occupation” [by declaring a Palestinian state]. This would shift attention back to the “occupation” while requiring nothing from the Palestinian Authority.
Of course, declaring a de-facto state does not make it a reality. Nor will declaring that state to be “under occupation.” The reality is that both the essential non-existence and the claim to victimization of the [putative] Palestinian state represent a conscious decision to embrace failure. This will not change unless there are direct negotiations, a choice the PA has consistently refused. . . .
Whether Palestinians think they are an “occupied state” or “Palestinian territories under occupation,” as long as Palestinians cling to the notion of being “occupied” and Israel remains the “occupier,” we are destined to see more of the dynamics of the past and fewer possibilities in the future. Until we see more self-awareness, self-criticism, and a sense of accountability, Palestinian identity and statehood will remain occupied in perpetuity.