Mahmoud Abbas’s Graft Has Undermined the Peace Process

When the Oslo Accords were signed in September 1993, it was hoped that they would lead to the end of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of an enduring system of Palestinian self-government. Their failure to do so has been blamed on many factors, but one of the least noted is the endemic corruption within the Palestinian Authority (PA), established pursuant to the accords in 1994. To Khaled Abu Toameh, this widespread self-dealing is perhaps the greatest impediment to peace:

The allegations of corruption, leveled against the Palestinian Authority almost from day one, severely undermined the credibility of the former PLO chairman Yasir Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, in the eyes of their people. . . . One of the main priorities of these two leaders has been to prove that, when it comes to dealing with Israel, they are not “getting into bed with the enemy” for personal profit. Countering this perception has superseded their considerations of making peace with Israel.

From the very beginning of the “peace process” in 1993, many Palestinians saw it as a “transaction” between the Israeli government and the corrupt PLO leadership that was hungry for money after being dumped by many Arab countries as retaliation for supporting the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. After the liberation of Kuwait a year later, the oil-rich emirates and other Gulf states decided to cut off funds to the PLO, causing the organization one of its most serious financial crises.

The Oslo Accords, however, saved the PLO from collapsing once the Arab financial aid was replaced with massive funds by the United States, Europe, and other countries. Many Palestinians observed that the only things the “peace process” brought about were the enrichment of senior PLO officials and their family members and associates who greedily siphoned publicly designated funds to drive luxury cars and build extravagant mansions, particularly in Ramallah and the Gaza Strip.

Western donors’ failure, or refusal, in the first two decades after the “peace process,” to hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for their outlandish abuse of funds was one of the main reasons most Palestinians lost faith in the Oslo Accords. Moreover, it was also one of the primary reasons so many Palestinians were radicalized and ultimately voted for Hamas in the 2006 parliamentary election.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Mahmoud Abbas, Oslo Accords, Palestinian Authority, Yasir Arafat

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority