Last month, a senior figure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) declared that the group’s governing body had decided “to renounce all the commitments of the Oslo Accords,” along with any other “agreements with the state of Israel,” and end security cooperation with the Israeli government. It was the PLO that was party to the Oslo Accords, which in turn created the Palestinian Authority (PA) to govern in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. Thus, as Maurice Hirsch explains, this decision should be significant. But reality is somewhat different:
[D]espite the ostensible severity of the . . . decision, nothing on the ground has changed. Neither the PLO nor the PA has announced any severing of the security coordination with Israel, and they certainly did not decide to stop taking the hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes Israel collects every month and gives to the PA.
In stark contrast, in May 2020, the PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas decided alone . . . to renounce all agreements with Israel, including those regarding security coordination and tax revenues. That decision held for six months, after which the coordination was renewed and the PA agreed to accept the billions of shekels (over a billion dollars) in tax revenue that had accrued during that period.
PLO declarations aside, the reality is that everyone—including the Palestinians themselves—knows that the PLO is a defunct institution that lacks any real legitimacy. Both the PLO and the PA are run as a de-facto dictatorship, in which decisions are made by one person. . . . No one truly puts any stock in the decisions made by the PLO, and the organization itself is incapable of enforcing the decisions it and its institutions make.
Surveys conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research show even declining Palestinian support for the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” The March 2019 survey showed that only 54 percent of those surveyed still viewed the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinians, down from 69 percent in 2006.