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Posts tagged ‘Palestinian Authority’

The problem with Palestinian political leadership

For a few months now, discussion of Palestine/Israel has focused on the looming UN vote on Palestinian statehood, but this is obscuring more fundamental problems in the Palestinian political arena – of which the forthcoming UN vote is a symptom.

In three critical areas, there are significant flaws hampering Palestinian political leadership.

The first is a legitimacy deficit. Both the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority and Hamas have, with the most generous interpretation, a minority mandate from the Palestinian people. The last elections of any sort took place in 2005-2006, and overdue local elections have been indefinitely postponed. And even if presidential or parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza were to take place tomorrow, they would still exclude Palestinian refugees. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) remains a potential vehicle for democratic decision-making, but serious reform is still not on the horizon. Read more

Palestine needs a political solution, not aid

Part of the Israeli government’s response to critics of its Gaza policy is to deny that there is a “humanitarian crisis” in the coastal territory. The implication being that participants in initiatives such as the flotilla are not concerned with “aid” but seek to cause a political “provocation”. In a similar vein, recent news of the opening of a five star hotel in Gaza prompted Israel lobby group AIPAC to suggest that the flotilla’s real aim was to “delegitimise Israel”. Read more

A desperate throw of the dice

Thirty years ago, Israel minister Ariel Sharon told Knesset members that while they “shouted” about the settlements, “we lay another foot of pipe, another mile of road and build another house.” Successive Israeli governments have agreed with the country’s founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion’s own view that the “precondition for discussion with the Arabs” is to “establish a great Jewish fact in this country.” Now, however, the talk is of Palestinian “unilateralism.” This began with the appointed Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announcing his two-year plan for statehood in August, but has reached a crescendo in the last few weeks. Fayyad’s plan is still on the table, and although he has stressed that the emphasis is on institution-building, some reports have linked the initiative to a unilateral declaration of independence. Read more

Will Fatah – as much as Israel – be the target of the next intifada?

For the best part of half a century, Fatah dominated Palestinian politics. Israeli attempts to extinguish the movement failed; rivals were co-opted or sidelined. But gradually, as the Oslo years gave way to the Second Intifada, the peace process went up in smoke and Hamas emerged as a genuine contender for Palestinian political loyalties, serious and critical divisions within the movement have come to the surface. This piece examines the current crisis facing the Fatah movement, and possibilities for the future: critical issues facing the movement — internal divisions, differences over strategy often sharply focused on the question of resistance and/or negotiations, the relationship with Hamas, as well as some of the different options facing Fatah in terms of a way out of the crisis, and approaches being suggested as solutions to the crisis. Read more

Fatah strangled at rebirth

Last week, Fatah finished up its general conference in Bethlehem, the first time the movement had held such a gathering for 20 years. The conference, which began on 3 August and ran for several more days than scheduled, was billed as the opportunity for Fatah to breathe some life into an ossified leadership structure and kickstart a political comeback.

As the gathering drew to a close, with Abbas re-elected as party leader, new central committee members announced and votes being counted for the revolutionary council, western media headlines gave the impression that it had largely been a success, like the New York Times’s report: Fatah party election brings in a new generation. Read more

Peace in our time?

Recently, and in the last week in particular, there has been a flurry of speculation in the Arab and western media about changes afoot in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and in particular, how the US intends to engage with the conflict and the region as a whole. If the reports and analysis are to be believed, something is shifting, and the various players are staking out their positions in the changing landscape.

One of the main questions being asked is whether the US and Israeli administrations are heading for a conflict. Many answer in the affirmative, including the Guardian’s Simon Tisdall, who yesterday wrote that Israel is “under siege” as PM Netanyahu heads for “showdown talks” with Obama on 18 May. Other commentators have also perceived a “widening rift between the U.S. and Israeli governments”. Read more

The Palestinian Authority’s authoritarian turn

Last week, less than two weeks after I had talked with him in his an-Najah University faculty office, Abdel Sattar Qassem was arrested by the Palestinian Preventive Security forces in Nablus, occupied West Bank.

Qassem is a 60-year-old professor of political science, and has been at an-Najah University since 1980. Imprisoned several times by the Israeli occupation, he is the author of dozens of books and papers, as well as hundreds of articles, on Palestinian politics and Islamic thought. But Qassem is also an eloquent and prominent critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and he has been arrested, and targeted by politically-motivated attacks, on a number of previous occasions. Read more

How did Palestine lose its prime minister?

As the Palestinian factions meet in Cairo for crucial reconciliation talks this week, analysts are still trying to decode the resignation of Salam Fayyad from his role as prime minister.

The standard assessment, such as that reported by the BBC on the Cairo unity talks, is that Fayyad’s resignation was “intended to pave the way for the formation of a national unity government”. Why would removing Fayyad help? Because, goes the theory, such a step is an appeasement of Hamas, who have always maintained that Fayyad – appointed rather than elected – was an “illegitimate” prime minister. Read more

Aid as a weapon

Ever since the beginning of the second intifada in 2000, there has been a familiar pattern in the Occupied Territories: Israel destroys Palestinian civilian infrastructure, and the international community foots the bill.

This has been reproduced once more, on a grand scale, as billions of dollars were promised this week at the Egypt-hosted donor conference for devastated Gaza, far exceeding the Palestinian Authority’s initial target. Read more

The power of one

For the past fortnight, rumours have been circulating that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is considering a unilateral declaration of statehood. “Many agree that it’s time to end all this negotiation nonsense and work on peaceful resistance,” a Palestinian insider confided this past week.

The PA is considering several options: stopping all negotiations with Israel and severing diplomatic contact, unilaterally declaring Palestinian statehood, or removing PA security forces, which act as a cover for humiliating Israeli military operations, from West Bank cities – a move suggested by the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad. Read more