Tomorrow, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs will arrive in Ramallah to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA). In a phone call last week, Abbas—who was elected to a four-year term in 2005 and has not stood for reelection since—reportedly told Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “I am done. This is the end.” Kobi Michael and Ori Wertman comment on Abbas’s strategic impasse:
The manifest weakness of Mahmoud Abbas’s leadership—and the PA’s failures in the field of governance—thus pose for Israel, and the world, a poor but inevitable choice among sub-optimal conflict management, the alternative of localized centers of power, or the dangerous rise to dominance of more radical elements. . . . [B]ased on the evidence of the last 28 years, . . . the basic drivers for this failure and the reasons why it cannot easily be undone can be found in the PA’s own conduct.
The main cause of failure, . . . can be identified in the failure of the Palestinian leadership—first of Yasir Arafat and then Mahmoud Abbas, each in his own distinct way—to carry out the necessary transition from a revolutionary movement . . . to a real and painstaking process of state-building. This would have required a change in the aspects of consciousness, organization, and political behavior, which did not come about.
The PA, which failed to read the global and regional map and continued to adhere to the internationalization strategy while deepening the rift and disconnect with both Israel and the U.S., has also failed to change its ways regarding the other reasons that have led to its failure. As a result, the Palestinian economy has continued to falter and its dependence on the Israeli economy is still complete; civil society has remained paralyzed and persecuted; and state institutions continue to be characterized largely by dysfunction saturated with corruption and nepotism.