The Palestinian Authority decided on January 31, 2017, to extend the date of the municipal elections to mid-May 2017. This is yet another sign that the leadership in Ramallah is losing touch with reality, and the January 31 decision is another example of the Palestinian Authority crumbling.
First, why were municipal elections canceled six months ago? There were both diplomatic and political reasons. The diplomatic reason to cancel was the assumption that Hillary Clinton would be elected president. That would have presented the opportunity for the Palestinians, Europeans, and White House to open a broad diplomatic blitz. The Palestinians needed to show they could function as a state. The municipal elections were supposed to provide the evidence of their governmental capabilities.
The political reason for the delay was the rift between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas wanted to use the elections to gain a foothold in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority wanted to do the same in Gaza. Each side sought to use the elections to gain a foothold in the other’s territory.
Nothing has changed since then. On the contrary, the separation between Gaza and the West Bank has gotten worse. Egypt has begun to recognize the de facto authority of Hamas in Gaza, and is in the process going around the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah when it comes to Gaza.
On the diplomatic front, Donald Trump is the president and not Hillary Clinton – enough said.
Other issues are preoccupying the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas who are currently focused on building opposition to President Trump’s commitment to move the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Most Arab leaders have stayed quiet on the issue. The King of Morocco responded to a letter from Abbas, but not as the King of Morocco, but as the Chairman of the Jerusalem Committee of the Arab League. King Abdullah of Jordan expressed his (seemingly mild) opposition in Washington on January 31, 2017, fearing the wider repercussions of the embassy move.
What is the most critical issue for the PA currently? During the November 30, 2016, Fatah Seventh Party Conference, the Fatah representative in Syria was interviewed about the situation in Palestinian refugee camps in Syria. The official reported that the refugee camps have been destroyed; there are no Palestinian refugees, except for 5,000 remaining in the Yarmouk camp near Damascus, which is now controlled by ISIS. The questioner, a man from Ramallah, ignored the answer and pressed again and again about how Fatah in Syria is organizing for the right of Palestinian return from Syria. The hapless official, in the end, shrugged and answered at length how to arrange a right of return for the Palestinian refugees –who are no longer there.