Choice For Palestine’s PM: Resignation or Resistance
By: Hani al-Masri Translated from As-Safir (Lebanon).
What is happening in the West Bank? Who is behind the mass protests, the callous slogans and the general strikes? Has the “Palestinian Spring” against high prices and low salaries arrived, as President Mahmoud Abbas said? Is what is happening just a natural reaction to the global rise in prices or is it a power struggle that is taking advantage of high prices, high taxes, unemployment and poverty?
About This Article
Economic protests mark what could be the “Palestinian Spring,” argues Hani al-Masri, but Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has done such a poor job with the economy that he should either resign or let the Palestinian Authority renew its policy of resistance.Publisher: As-Safir (Lebanon)
An Uprising over Bread or a Power Struggle?
Author: Hani al-Masri
First Published: September 11, 2012
Posted on: September 12 2012
Translated by: -
Categories : Palestinian Authority Security
Is what is happening a dress rehearsal for an uprising against the Palestinian Authority (PA) or the Israeli occupation? Have the West Bank inhabitants forgotten about the Israeli occupation and aggressions and are they now moved only by livelihood concerns?
To answer those questions we must first note that the PA demonstrated an absolute commitment to freedom of expression and that the behavior of the police and security agencies regarding the economic protests was civilized. Both the Palestinian president and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad defended the Palestinian people’s right to protest. The police and the security services did not act against them even when some demonstrators blocked roads, burned tires, attacked private and public property or chanted unprecedentedly crude slogans calling for the departure of the government and its head, whom they harshly attacked.
It was noted that prominent Fatah members were active participants in the protests, if not the main proponents. While some considered this to be evidence of renewal and reform within Fatah, others thought that Fatah was merely trying to ride the wave on the eve of local elections.
Some even thought that it was an attempt by Fatah to cancel the elections given the difficulties the movement is facing in forming electoral lists — especially in the major cities — alongside the presence of harsh internal and external competition to Fatah. This is in addition to the formation of dozens of electoral lists that go against the will of the Fatah central committee and were formed in spite of the latter’s threat to ban anyone who runs independently from the movement.
Despite the economic dimension of the event — and there is a lot that can be done to correct the PA’s economic and social policies and alleviate the crisis of the poor and the unemployed — what is happening can only be explained as a manifestation of the general crisis that has hit everywhere.
One of the causes of this crisis is that the Palestinians, their president and Fatah are worried about the Arab Spring’s repercussions: the rise of political Islam — especially in Egypt — and the resulting marginalization of the Palestinian cause.
This marginalization is encouraging Israel to accelerate its expansionist and racist policies. They are worried about the collapse of the “peace process” and about the low likelihood that it will be revived in the foreseeable future. They are worried about potentially harmful Palestinian splits, which are spreading throughout the West Bank and Gaza and have even affected the internal ranks of Fatah and Hamas.
Making matters worse, the PA seems paralyzed, delegitimized, without a political vision and at a loss about what to say or do. The institution-building process and the process for ending the occupation have reached a dead-end but the PA and the government did not present an alternative plan. The aim to reduce dependence on foreign aid then eliminate it completely in 2013 has failed and the PA is now reluctant to ask for foreign aid to save it from the worsening economic and financial crisis.
Regarding its internationalization strategy, the PA takes one step forward and then two steps back. After President Abbas’ historic UN speech, which was supposed to have been the beginning and not the end, we went back to square one and wasted an entire year.
We are now preparing and consulting with regional states and organizations to determine when we can introduce a draft resolution granting Palestine UN observer status. But this is being done without an integrated strategy, in the presence of US and Israeli threats to punish the PA if it proceeds with such a step.
If we are unable to confront Washington and Tel Aviv directly, then why don’t we simply tell this to the people and explain to them why we are where we are? Why don’t we prepare for confrontation and prepare the people for it. The people are willing to make sacrifices for a worthy goal but will not do so for a directionless authority, which is what the occupation wants in order to avoid responsibility.
The PA should either leave or reconsider its functions and obligations in order to serve the national project. It is not enough for the president and prime minister to provide excuses. What is needed is a change in approach and policies and a return to the resistance.
The PA’s discourse, the shape it is in, the internal tension between Fatah and Hamas, and the economic crisis are making people worried about internationalization and confrontation. They are standing naked without the necessary means for steadfastness and without any weapons while they are facing a comprehensive economic, political and social crisis. The US and Israel are threatening the PA, trying to prevent it from submitting a request for either full UN membership or observer status.
Palestine obtaining UN observer status means nothing by itself. The PLO has had such a status for decades. The struggle for UN observer status should merely be an echo of other battles taking place mainly in occupied Palestine. The country will not get established in New York, but rather in the valleys, mountains and plains of Palestine. This will happen when the occupation becomes too costly for Israel, unlike the current “five star occupation.”
There was an opportunity to get rid of Prime Minister Fayyad following the Doha Declaration, however, it was wasted with the declaration’s collapse. There seems to be another opportunity now but it could also be wasted due to Fayyad’s stubbornness and his attachment to his job, even though he claims that he is willing to resign if his resignation would help solve the crisis.
He says that he is not contributing to the crisis and that he is not an employee, rather, he is someone who has been charged with a mission that is not yet over. According to Fayyad, he would leave office if the one who appointed him fires him or if he saw that the people want him gone. Yet this will not happen until after free elections are held.
Fayyad said: “If you want to get rid of me, let the president say it openly or let Fatah withdraw its support.”
This position, which he has held since assuming the role of prime minister during the era of division, reflects poorly on Fayyad and is difficult to explain.
He now looks more and more like someone imposed from the outside. If the president, Fatah and Hamas do not want him and since he has no strong political party supporting him, why is he being so intransigent? Getting rid of Fayyad does not require an economic revolution. The president can remove him or Fayyad himself can resign.
Fayyad has the right to have political ambitions separate from those of the president and Fatah, but he cannot do so from his position as head of government. This is supposed to be the government of the president and supported by Fatah.
Anyway, I hope that Palestinian parties can avoid sliding into chaos and that matters will not get out of control, resulting in the intervention of other parties. There is a big difference between freedom of expression, economic struggle and fighting the occupation on the one hand, and chaos on the other. We have experienced and paid the price of chaos and lawlessness many times. There is no need to try it again.
The events indicate that there is a scheme to recast the PA in such a way where it would accept what is being offered to it even if that meant that it stays on the edge of the precipice until it succumbs and changes leadership. Are we aware of the dangers we are facing and are we preparing to face them as a united front, including our people, institutions, leadership and national project?
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