By Akram Atallah
Bethlehem : The current case of political division within Palestinian society is, no doubt, so deep and strong, that it has started to clearly affect, not only the points of view and opinion of political factions and figures, but has also started to deeply influence “normal” Palestinian people, affecting their ambitions and confidence in the factions and political leadership in an unprecedented manner in the history of the Palestinian cause.
I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I say the gap between Palestinian political factions was never as sharp and deep as it is these days, whether before or after Oslo. Just a glance at the poll made by the Norwegian FAFO organization in the period between July 2nd and July 12th forces us to stop cautiously, as we discover the following:
First, only 31 percent of those included in the poll believe that Fayyad’s government is a legitimate one. 28 percent believe that Haniyeh’s government is the legitimate government, while 35 percent believe that both governments are illegal.
Second, 32 percent of Palestinians do not trust the PLC, 38 percent do not trust the security bodies, 53 percent do not trust the Executive Force either. Worse yet is the result that 42 percent don’t trust the political factions.
These percentages are shocking by all means, and will have a clear effect on everyone who cares about the Palestinian issue, and the Palestinian political future, but the Palestinians do not need those who will be shocked, or stopped from working. The above mentioned percentages mean that the Palestinians have started to lose trust and confidence, not only in the security bodies, but also in the political factions, and this is more dangerous.
The issue of the security bodies is not the only problem in the Palestinian territories, it is the same in so many other countries, the problem is when the people start to lose confidence in their political parties and factions, as we still don’t have a real state .
What happened in the Gaza Strip a month and half ago, when Hamas took power violently, disappointed many of the Palestinians who had built allowed hope to form their ambition. The Hamas movement did not act patiently, or with self control, in order to make change in Palestinian society, instead, it has lost the political compass and made a great division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The poll says that 73 percent of Palestinians are concerned that the country will be divided into two parts, with one in the West Bank and the other in the Strip. This is, of course, the result of the violent takeover of power, which some people are trying to justify. I myself can’t find the takeover rational, if compared with the strategic danger which resulted from this violence.
On the other hand, the same study by FAFO said that 14 percent of Palestinians believe in the necessity of the separation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Given its political meaning, this percentage is very high. It also represents an important part of Palestinian society, which was shocked, not only by the violent method of the attainment of power, but also by the daily scenes of internal fighting, which lasted for over a year and a half in the Gaza Strip.
There are many issues which the FAFO study dealt with. The study, as I can see it, is giving signals which are important, that political factions and their leaders should be going to legislative and presidential elections, not only to end the dual condition of the PA, the fighting and the siege on the Gaza Strip, but also to save the Palestinian individuals from losing their hope. The study shows that 49 percent of Palestinians were not satisfied with their lives, and only 3 percent said they were “very satisfied” by their lives.
Also, in order to return to concentrate on the most important issue, which is the end of the occupation and the building of the state, the study revealed that 23 percent of Palestinians believe that solving the current crisis could be achieved through dissolving the entire PA. It is no doubt that this is a dangerous pointer, confirming the necessity of elections and to make real changes in the political structure and official Palestinian departments in general.
If we want to move to the economic situation in Palestine, we will notice that the study shows 38 percent of Palestinian families will not be able to secure the basic needs for the coming three months, if the economic conditions remain as they are. This percentage is for both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, although it is a little higher in the strip, reflecting the increase in suffering as it has appeared more clearly in the last few weeks.
What confirms this fact, is that 86 percent of Gazans did not pay the electricity bill for the month before the study was made. Furthermore, 87 percent did not pay the water bill. Such numbers give clear signs in two directions; one is the possibility of the collapse of the two vital sectors due to accumulated debts, and the subsequent harm which will occur to the establishments which supply this service, second is that the Palestinian individual may become unable to cover the necessary expenses of food and clothes.
I am convinced that it is necessary to arrange the elections, not because of the previous mentioned percentages, but because I believe that the elections might get us out of the current political dilemma, and may contribute to spreading the feeling of security, instead of the high feeling of fear and instability which has resulted from a year and half of violent conflict.
Saying that we have arranged the elections just a year and half ago, and that we have to wait for another two and half years, will only increase the deterioration of the situation. Why can’t the Palestinians learn from the Turkish experience? When the political factions couldn’t decide to solve the issue of electing a president through the parliament, they went to the people a second time, away from violence. As the people are the master and source of the authority, the people should be returned to, instead of using weapons.
Some are trying to raise the level of fear, by saying that transparency might not be available in these elections. This is not an excuse, especially given that there is a possibility of securing local and international observers to monitor the elections. In addition, the repetition of procedures used in the last elections will make it possible to easily manage the processes of the elections.
We can’t say that early elections will make life better, or that the economic and social conditions will be better, or that political solutions will be faster for the Palestinian cause that elections, like a magic wand, solve all the suspended problems in the Palestinian arena, but the elections will contribute to the following:
One – it will return respect to the people’s prestige, and their just cause before all those who support and stand with our people, and with our just cause, after we let them down with the internal fighting and the violent takeover of power.
Two – the appearance of one power and one authority will help in making negotiations with the Israelis on the bases of power and concentration, instead of having a great part of our people and factions divided and distracted with irrelevant issues.
Three – the rebuilding of Palestinian service establishments, which were targeted by the Israelis to keep them weak. We, as Palestinians, have contributed to the marginalisation of these establishments, and have turned them into establishments to serve the factions and parties, not the people.
Four – an attempt to bridge the gaps and ease the heat of conflict between the factions and political powers, in a way which can serve the individual in his own life. As the human, the individual who loses his family security or his home due to the internal conflict will not be able to contribute to the political cause even at its very limited level.