Hussein Agha and Ahmad Samih Khalidi, who have intimately involved with the PLO negotiations team for more than a decade, have written a devastating piece in the New Yorker, entitled The Decline of the Palestinian National Movement, with the following talking points:

  • The contemporary Palestinian national movement is reaching its end. As its institutions wither and its leaders fade away, there is no obvious successor to take its place. With the passing of Arafat and most of his colleagues, Fatah’s ability to hold its fractured parts together waned.
  • The social and political milieu of the West Bank and Gaza – steeped in clannish and personal influences – highlighted local fiefdoms as Fatah became mired in narrow and parochial turf wars. With no new leaders, no marked success in government, and no progress toward peace, Fatah fundamentally disappeared as a real political agent.
  • Abbas’ peace policy has provided the PA with a formidable firewall against the kind of international pressure associated with the Palestinian national movement’s past violence and, since 1994, many of the day-to-day governing affairs of municipal, health, education, and other functions have been in Palestinian hands.
  • Perhaps most important, Abbas has succeeded in insulating the Palestinian people from much of the violence and destruction of the “Arab Spring” and from the growth of Salafi and jihadist movements in the West Bank. However, as a result of the failure to make diplomatic progress even in the shadow of a relatively friendly U.S. administration, the entire notion of peace negotiations has been discredited.
  • Hamas’ adoption of armed struggle has been no more successful than Fatah’s. The suffering of Gaza’s population has not served as a model or source of inspiration for the rest of the Palestinians.
  • Similarly, Hamas’ decade-long governance of Gaza has been marred by the same charges of corruption, incompetence, and heavy-handedness as its PA counterpart. Those looking to Hamas as a replacement for Fatah would find it difficult to argue that the former has delivered where the latter has failed.

The writers have been involved in Palestinian peace negotiations for three decades, and are senior associate members of St. Antony’s College, Oxford.