Since 2010, the Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas—having rejected Israeli offers of statehood along with further negotiations—has pursued a strategy of seeking membership in international organizations for a “state of Palestine.” His goal is both to wage lawfare against Israel through such institutions as the International Criminal Court and, eventually, to gain recognition for a Palestinian state as the 194th member of the United Nations. Besides the fact that at least parts of this “Palestine 194” campaign are in violation of the Oslo Accords, it also is starting to raise other problems, as David May and Zachary Fesen explain:
The Palestine 194 campaign converged with the PA’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies when the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) released its report on the “state of Palestine” last month. This was a routine review triggered by the PA’s 2014 accession to the UN Convention against Torture. While CAT, a subsidiary of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), is meant to review all convention signatories every four years, this was its first review of the PA.
Though Abbas has pursued international recognition to conceal his despotism, his accession to CAT has done the opposite. CAT’s report underscored the PA’s slide into authoritarianism by calling on the government to limit the duration of declared states of emergency, protect freedom of expression, and restore the Palestinian Legislative Council, [dissolved in 2018 after many years of inactivity]. Along with noting allegations of PA security forces’ culpability in torture, lack of legal safeguards afforded to PA prisoners, and PA arbitrary arrests of critics, the review highlighted the 2021 death of the Abbas critic (and 2021 legislative candidate) Nizar Banat at the hands of Palestinian security forces.
Two decades of Abbas’s rule have left the Palestinians divided, lacking democratic protections, politically hopeless, and on the precipice of an ugly succession battle. The aging Palestinian president’s increasing authoritarianism has gone hand in hand with his decreasing popularity. Western governments should make clear to Abbas that Palestine 194 is a dead end.