Green shoots of Palestinian Spring?
By Nureddin Sabir
Editor, Redress Information & Analysis
While Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) gear up for another round of American-sponsored talks, and with the international media fixated on Israel’s miserly release of just 26 Palestinian prisoners, another peace process lies forgotten.
That is the peace process between the Fatah-dominated PA, which has been empowered by the Israelis to kill mosquitos, collect refuse and arrest Palestinians it doesn’t like in the occupied West Bank, and Hamas, the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which runs the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip.
As we have said previously, we have no doubt that the current Palestinian-Israeli talks, which began in Washington on 29 July after a three-year break and are due to resume in occupied Jerusalem on 14 August, are simply a smokescreen for consolidating the Israeli occupation.
To underline the point, on 13 August, the very eve of the resumption of talks, the occupation authorities approved the construction of 942 new Jewish squatter homes on stolen Palestinian land in East Jerusalem, just two days after they had given the green light to build 1,200 new Jewish squats in East Jerusalem and other West Bank colonies.
In the meantime, that other peace process, reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, without which the Palestinians are doomed, has come to a complete halt. As UK-based Palestinian journalist Abdallah Khader says in a recent article in Foreign Policy,
Three agreements have been signed by both sides under Saudi, Qatari and Egyptian patronage. Dozens of reconciliatory meetings have taken place. And yet Gaza remains politically separated from the West Bank. For many, Palestinian reconciliation has become a mantra, an elusive goal that is taking the Palestinians nowhere…
One consequence of this is that neither the chairman of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas, nor Hamas have a mandate to rule. Abbas’s mandate ran out in 2009 but the PA has been unable to hold new presidential elections due to disagreements with Hamas over electoral law. And Hamas’s right to rule expired three years ago, yet it continues to rule Gaza and obstruct the holding of new legislative elections.
Revolution in the air?
With the Palestinian people deprived of the right to choose who represents them, the only solution seems to lie in grassroots popular action. As Khader says,
Non-partisan civil society in Gaza includes around 860 NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and hundreds more smaller community-based organizations (CBOs) that are capable of pulling off waves of public protest. Indeed, Palestinian civil society activists in the West Bank and Gaza have repeatedly attempted to end the division and put pressure on Hamas and Fatah to bridge their rift.
And it would seem that the people are ripe for a root and branch change in the West Bank and Gaza:
A Palestinian poll in March 2013 found a “dramatic reversal” in Palestinian attitudes towards reconciliation. Around half of the sample believed reconciliation was impossible and required regime change in either Gaza or the West Bank, or in both areas. The poll also showed that two thirds to three quarters of the Palestinians thought it was impossible for Fatah and Hamas to reconcile without a set date for elections.
Without elections, “Efforts at promoting unity… run the risk of artificially papering over the genuine divergences of interest among various groups, leaving important differences to simmer unaddressed.”
So, Hamas and Fatah had better let the people decide or else the people will sweep them aside.