What is happening in the West Bank, and who is behind the widespread protests, pointed slogans, and general strikes?" .
Has a Palestinian Spring begun to confront the rise in the cost of living and secure a rise in salaries, as President Abu Mazin said? Or is it a manifestation of the natural aftershocks of the global rise in prices? Or is it nothing more than a struggle for power that has exploited the rise in prices, the heavy taxes, unemployment, and poverty for its own purposes?
Is what is happening a 'dress-rehearsal' for a coming intifada against the PA or the occupation? Have people in the West Bank forgotten all about Israel’s occupation, aggression, and settlement activities? Are they now moved by nothing but the concerns of daily life?
Before seeking an answer to such questions, we should note the PA's total commitment to the freedom of expression as well as the civilized manner in which the police and security apparatuses have behaved in response to the economic protests. The president and his PM have defended the Palestinian people's right to protest, and the police and the security forces did not react when demonstrators blocked roads, burnt tires, and attack private and public property despite the fact that the protestors banners and slogans were unprecedented in their shrill demands for the departure of the government and its head, describing the latter in the severest terms.
It should also be noted that certain important circles within Fateh took very active part in the protests, not to say that they were the real engine behind it. Some have viewed this as a process of renewal and reform for Fateh, while others have deemed it as no more than an attempt to ride the wave of protests and win votes on the eve of the local elections. Yet others viewed it as 'an operational attempt’ to cancel these elections given the difficulties that Fateh is facing in forming its electoral lists especially in the major cities, and the presence of strong local and outside competition with the creation of tens of lists of candidates in defiance of the movement’s central decision, and despite Fateh Central Committee's threats to expel anyone who decides to run as an individual candidate.
Despite the economic dimension of these events, and the fact that there is much to be done to repair the faults and correct the PA's political, economic, and social mistakes and alleviate their sharp impact on the poor and unemployed sections of the population – despite all this, what is happening can only be explained as one of the manifestations of a general crisis that afflicts all issues and at every level.
One reason for this crisis is the general Palestinian concern, and the president and Fateh's concerns in particular, about the repercussions of the Arab Spring and the rise of political Islam that has accompanied this, especially in Egypt. That has led to a greater marginalization of the Palestinian cause, spurring Israel to speed up the implementation of its expansionist, settlement, and racist schemes.
And all this has occurred amidst the collapse of the 'peace process' and the absence of any political horizon for its revival in the foreseeable future in the shadow of the destructive inter-Palestinian [Fateh/Hamas] split and its gradual infiltration into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and other areas, even to within Fateh and Hamas ranks.
But what has exacerbated the situation is the fact that the PA appears to be paralyzed, lacking any legitimacy or political horizon. It seems to have nothing to say or do. The plan to build state institutions and prove the PA's abilities as a means of ending the occupation reached its deadline and failed. The PA and the government did not renew this plan, and they did not propose any new plan to replace it.
The slogan of reducing foreign aid, reaching the point of doing without it altogether by the year 2013 collapsed against the background of the PA's current calls for such aid to save it from the worsening economic and financial crisis.
As for the plan to internationalize the Palestinian cause, the PA seems to take one step forward, only to take two steps back. After the president's historic speech in the UN [in September 2011] which was supposed to be the beginning of that process, not its end, we are now back to square one having lost an entire year. We are now talking of preparations and consultation with regional states and organizations, and specifying the appropriate time for putting the resolution to a vote in order to secure observer-state status for the State of Palestine but without a comprehensive strategy for doing so. And all this is proceeding amidst concerns about U.S. and Israeli threats to punish the PA if it takes this step.
Meanwhile, there is nothing to suggest that we are really heading towards a confrontation with the rulers of Washington and Tel Aviv. That being so, why can we not be open with the people and tell them about our inability to engage in such confrontation? Why do we not consider what brought us to this fate? Or why do we not prepare for confrontation and ready the people for it? After all, this is a nation willing to make sacrifices if the aim is worthwhile. But it is not willing to sacrifice for the sake of a PA that seems to have lost its direction and to be part of the arrangements made by the occupation to relieve it of its responsibilities.
The PA must either leave or reconsider its form, mission, and commitments. It must become a tool in the hands of the PLO and the Palestinian national project. It is not enough to offer a 'scapegoat,' in the form of the prime minister or anyone else. What is needed is to change a certain pattern of behavior, policies, modes of action, and certain personalities, returning to the path of resistance instead.
The PA, the condition it finds itself in, the tense relations between Fateh and Hamas, and the economic crisis – all lead the people to fear the internationalization of the cause as well as fearing any confrontation. This is because the nation stands naked without any of the prerequisites of steadfastness and without any weapons. It is facing a comprehensive economic, political, and social crisis. Given this, what can we expect if the U.S. administration and the Israeli government were to implement their threats if the PA applies for observer-status UN membership, or if it were to go further and apply for full membership?
Obtaining observer-status membership alone means nothing, especially since the PLO has had that sort of membership for decades now. Such membership should be a mere echo of battles fought in occupied Palestine. After all, the Palestinian state will not be established in New York, but in Palestine's valleys, mountains, and plains, when the occupation becomes very costly to Israel, instead of its current status as a 'five star' occupation.
After the [Fateh/Hamas February 2012] Doha accords, it appeared as if there was an opportunity to get rid of Fayyad. But that opportunity was lost with the accord's collapse. Another opportunity now seems available. But it also could be lost given Fayyad's obstinacy and his determination to cling to his post, despite his expressed willingness to resign if such resignation is the solution. For, as he said, he is not the main cause of the crisis; nor is he a mere employee. He was asked to fulfil a task which he has not yet completed. He will leave if asked to do so by the same people who appointed him, or if he finds that the people want him to leave. But that would only be evident after elections in which the people give expression to their free will.
It is as if Fayyad is saying this: 'If you wish to get rid of me, then let the president openly ask me to leave, or let Fateh withdraw its political cover from me.’ This is the position in which Fayyad has found himself ever since he became PM against the background of the inter-Palestinian split; this position is harmful to him and is difficult to explain.
More and more, Fayyad now seems like he was appointed by the outside world. After all, if the president does not want him, and if Fateh and Hamas do not want him as well, and if he does not have a strong political party to back him, what is he relying on and why is he being so obstinate?
Getting rid of Fayyad does not require launching an economic revolution or exploiting such a revolution to remove him after it breaks out. The president can dismiss from his post or ask him to resign; alternatively, he can take the initiative and resign himself.
It is Fayyad's right to aspire to play an independent political role that is different from that of the president and Fateh. But he cannot do this from his post as PM of a government that is viewed as being the president's government and which enjoys the legitimacy and backing bestowed by Fateh.
But be that as it may, I warn against a slide towards chaos as a result of the actions of certain Palestinian parties. I warn against matters getting out of hand and intervention by other parties. For there is an absolute difference between freedom of expression, livelihood-related demands, and a revolt against the occupation on the one hand, and anarchy on the other. We have repeatedly tried and repeatedly been scorched by the fire of anarchy and a security breakdown. There is no need for a new situation that consumes everything in its path.
After all, successive indications point to a scheme that aims to restructure the PA in a manner that makes it more willing to accept what is on offer [from Israel]. This scheme is proceeding even if it requires the situation to remain on the edge of the abyss, until it gives in and changes its president and its leadership. Otherwise, the PA can go to hell!
"Do we realize the gravity of what we are facing and are we prepared to confront it as a single nation under a single institution that brings us all together; a single leadership and a comprehensive national project?" asks Masri in conclusion.