Since U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, tensions between Israel and Palestine have risen over new illegal settlements, the possible opening of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, and the declining outlook for the two-state solution. For its part, the Israeli right is overjoyed at the idea of an uncritical U.S. administration potentially willing to allow Israel to fully annex Jerusalem. Taking advantage of the current climate, the Israeli Knesset even passed a bill legalizing West Bank outposts considered illegal under international law. The Palestinian leadership, meanwhile, has threatened to withdraw the recognition of Israel put forward by the Palestine Liberation Organization and to dissolve the Palestinian Authority (PA). Further, ongoing unity talks between Hamas and Fatah seem to be productive. Thus, it stands to reason that if the West Bank and Gaza are once again united under a single leadership, the collapse of the two-state solution would have profound effects on the entirety of the Palestinian population in both territories. In the event that the two-state solution collapses and the PA fails as a safety valve, Palestinians could resort to varying methods of resistance to survive in an increasingly suffocating environment.
But it has been 23 years since the PA first attempted to build a state without sovereignty, and its project has affected how Palestinians mobilize and coordinate. Since the inception of the PA, activists and opposition leaders have voiced concerns over its increasing authoritarianism. They have complained about the hollowing out of civil society organizations, arrests, torture, and a crackdown on academic and media freedom. Over time, Palestinian society has grown more polarized, which has made it more difficult for different groups to coordinate with each other.
And in fact, from an Israeli perspective, an authoritarian PA was one of the main reasons for the body’s creation. The late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin clearly stated that Israel could outsource its repression of Palestinians to an increasingly militarized PA. That way, it would avoid being held accountable by