Palestinian Authority Must Change Strategy, Analyst Declares

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

By Middle East Policy

In the face of Israeli crackdowns, a Middle East Policy contributor urges leadership to curb security cooperation and support popular resistance.

In the face of a deadly crackdown by Israeli security forces and the rise of the right-wing Netanyahu government, a Middle East Policy contributor is urging the Palestinian Authority to curb its security cooperation with the occupation authorities, support popular resistance, and rally the broader Arab world for support. 

“The Palestinian Authority must draw lessons from past mistakes and experience when negotiating agreements with the extremist Israeli occupation governments, which frequently reject any agreements that benefit the other side,” said Oqab Jabali, a faculty member at An-Najah National University in the West Bank city of Nablus, who has analyzed popular resistance for the Middle East Policy journal. 

The week, Israeli raids at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which led to the arrests of dozens of Palestinians and the expulsion of hundreds from the holy site, sparked rocket attacks on Israel and reprisals by the Israeli air force on targets in Gaza and Lebanon. Israel blamed the violence on Hamas. 

Al-Aqsa Mosque

The surge in West Bank violence has led to the deaths of more than 250 Palestinians and the arrests of thousands; more than 40 Israelis have been killed. Reached for comment this week, Jabali argued that the Palestinian Authority must focus on “resistance, self-defense, and protection for its people.” 

Jabali asserted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the religious nationalists who form the backbone of his coalition “have taken care to show the Israeli voter their keenness to implement their promises through a series of decisions and laws that were directed against the Palestinians.” 

“The series of decisions taken constitutes a real challenge for the Palestinians, especially at the leadership level represented by the Palestinian Authority, and the factions in particular,” Jabali said. The key question, therefore, is “how to mobilize the Palestinian street.” 

Concerns about the unrest sparked an emergency meeting last month between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, aimed at preventing the violence. The summit ended with promises from both sides to reduce tensions. Israel pledged to stop discussion of new settlements and to halt the planned legalization of unauthorized settlements for the next several months.  

“The participation of the Palestinian Authority in the Sharm el-Sheikh conference could be seen as an attempt to address the ongoing violence in the region and find a peaceful solution,” Jabali told the Middle East Policy Council. “However, some may argue that the Palestinian Authority’s participation in such events could be seen as legitimizing the occupation and normalizing relations with Israel, which is not acceptable to some Palestinians.” 

Jabali has closely studied the potential for nonviolent resistance. In an article published in Middle East Policy, Jabali examines a nonviolent movement to counter Israeli incursions into Palestinian lands in the West Bank. He demonstrates how residents of the town of Beita have resisted territorial expropriation since the first Intifada in 1987, demonstrating the effectiveness of grassroots struggles. 

The choice of this town as a case study is calculated, Jabali asserts: “The struggle at Beita is emblematic of the larger Palestinian struggle; it is a microcosm where unarmed civilians fight against a colonial, settler state that ultimately desires to replace Palestinian towns and villages with Jewish outposts and settlements.”  


The town has a history of conflict: Multiple clashes between residents and settlers over the last 30 years have resulted in deaths, injuries, deportations, and dozens of houses demolished. As a result, the town’s residents have curated a series of resistance tactics, coined “night-confusion tactics.” This includes confusing, frightening, and intimidating occupying Israeli soldiers, with citizens formed into units that engage in tire burning, horn blasting, laser pointing, firework setting, and protesting.  


Resistance has most often taken the form of grassroots demonstrations and protests, and Jabali notes that a vital component of its successes has been the unity of those involved. “They mobilized every citizen in the village as well as a great many people from different parts of Palestine,” he writes. “Beita finally won, and the settlers were forced to evacuate the outpost. Beita’s nonviolent approach to resistance enhances its legitimacy domestically and internationally and encourages a wider base of grassroots participation.” 

In his email interview with the Middle East Policy Council this week, Jabali contended that two main factors are driving violence in the West Bank: a growing disillusionment among Palestinian youth, and the Palestinian Authority’s legitimacy crisis, which has “increasingly prevented it from asserting control over key areas.”  

Palestinians between the ages of 15 and 29 make up nearly a third of the population, and they, unlike the generations before them, do not have the memory of the harsh Israeli response to the Second Intifada that raged in the early 2000s. Youth unemployment is also high, contributing to the alienation from leadership. Factions outside the control of the authority, including those who more frequently engage in armed confrontation, have intensified their activities in the occupied territories. These factors have contributed to a situation with “ideal conditions for violence.” 

Despite the Beita model, Jabali played down the potential of a strictly nonviolent movement. He called for “a national strategy for comprehensive confrontation that addresses the plans of uprooting and liquidation of the Palestinian cause, based primarily on the necessity of regaining the initiative in resistance and confrontation.” 

You can read Jabali’s article, “Popular Resistance against Israeli Territorial Expropriation: Beita as a Model,” in Middle East Policy, available through Wiley

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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