Palestinians Angry with Leaders, But Unity Remains Key

Increasingly well-attended protests are sweeping the West Bank, with Palestinian demonstrators angry with the government and the economic situation. Ashraf al-Ajrami of Al-Ayyam argues that those calling for better rights and living conditions must stay united and not deviate from the cause. “Saboteurs” must be avoided, he writes.

al-monitor Palestinians hold placards during a protest against the rising cost of living in the West Bank city of Ramallah September 11, 2012. Palestinian ministers met on Tuesday to discuss ways of easing economic hardships, which have provoked growing protests across the West Bank, challenging the Western-backed Palestinian Authority. The placard reads: No to exploitation of workers.  Photo by REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman.

Topics covered

salam fayyad, intifada, fayyad government, fayyad, abu mazen

Sep 13, 2012

The recent developments that took place in different regions of the West Bank, mainly in Galilee and Nablus, are reminiscent of the First and Second Intifadas.

Palestinians are revolting against the Palestinian Authority (PA) as if they wish to topple it, because they see it as their worst enemy. According to the protesters, the main reason for their demonstrations is the soaring price of goods — mainly gas and other products — in addition to low salaries and a delay in disbursing the wages of government officials.

It was not expected, however, to see these protesters vandalize public property, set fire to tires and waste, pollute, attack passing cars, steal, or throw stones at police and security officers — who, despite everything,  dealt with the situation in a very civilized manner. 

Such protests undoubtedly reflect the Palestinian people’s reaction to the statements of both Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). In fact, their statements did not augur any change in the short term, specifically concerning the living conditions of Palestinians.

Instead, such statements only analyzed the current situation and stressed its gravity, without providing any solutions to the problems they raised. This is probably why the Palestinian people protested and called upon Fayyad and Abbas to step down.

The Palestinians are enduring a serious crisis and their leaders cannot provide them with any clear justifications or solutions to their ordeal. The crisis is not the outcome of the developments during the last couple of months. On the contrary, such crisis reflects many negative, worsening developments that began years ago. Such developments are mainly political, even if they are related to socio-economic issues that greatly affect the daily lives of Palestinians and prevent them from moving forward.

The [Israeli] occupation is the chief reason behind the crisis Palestinians are enduring everywhere, and not just in the West Bank [where protests have occurred]. In fact, the Palestinian leaders did not manage, despite all their efforts, to end the occupation, or even to improve the living conditions of their people and help them overcome the crisis.

Despite this failure, the PA has succeeded in beefing-up national security, imposing order, and fostering economic growth after almost seven years of mere chaos and destruction. In the past two years, living conditions of Palestinians have continuously deteriorated as the rate of colonization increases and Israel endeavors to put obstacles in the way of any comprehensive political settlement and a two-state solution based on 1967 borders.

Moreover, the Palestinian leaders have not adopted any effective measures to convince the Palestinian people they are able to meet such challenges. Even the most important steps — such as the PA’s meeting with United Nations officials to recognize Palestine as an independent state — have failed because of foreign intervention.

It is true that the government has been unable to address such problems, mainly after major Arab countries refused to support the PA, which failed to improve its relations with several nations capable of providing the necessary funds. This government does not even have any plan to solve the Palestinian crisis. In fact, all solutions the government suggested to raise tax revenues never saw the light of day.

Fayyad’s statements might appease the Palestinians, especially his promises to cut fuel prices and adopt other procedures. However, the Palestinian people need long-term procedures with a deep strategic dimension in order to be convinced that their leaders are capable of solving their problems and find answers to their concerns. They also need a national entity that adopts serious stands and suggest practical and realistic solutions. 

There is today a major political controversy regarding the current Palestinian crisis. In fact, the opponents of Salam Fayyad want to take revenge on him and consider this is the opportune moment for him to leave office. There are also those who want to restore the former situation by instigating disorder and threatening national security.

This last category includes all those who are harmed by the PA’s policy, which aims to implement the law and impose order within the authority’s territory. It also includes those who endeavor to entirely destroy the PA’s project and those who just wish the PA would answer the people’s demands and provide them with reasonable solutions to the crisis.

Amidst such a chaotic situation, with confrontations overwhelming several regions of the West Bank, it is difficult to identify the supporters of such various agendas. There is no doubt, however, that if we continue down that road, we will soon plunge into a pit of despair. This will ultimately lead to further confusion and entirely destroy the national project.

If the protests are perfectly reasonable — and I believe they surely are — they should not deviate from their main goal, which is to improve the current situation. Chaos will waste all positive effort and harm all demands and interests, except for the interests of those who control the Palestinian street by force.

I believe those who seek to improve their living conditions do not wish to the abort national plan and ruin all national efforts. Therefore, protesters must act rationally if they really wish to improve their situation and realize their rights and demands. In other words, they must be wise and prevent the saboteurs from executing their plan.

Palestinian leaders shall take urgent steps to make people believe their message is received and their demands will be met as far as is possible. Moreover, the PA must make radical changes to the government’s structure and foster interaction and integrity between all public and non-public institutions and political, economic, and social figures.

This will eventually help solve increasing problems. Above all, Palestinian leaders must decide on a national road map [for peace] as agreed upon [in a democratic manner] and endeavor to end this chaotic and ambiguous situation all Palestinians are enduring. This way, the Palestinian people will be able to put up with many ordeals and difficulties.

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