Seeking Stability over the Fault Line of Palestine

Abstract

In the traditional view, there are several misconstructions about the most complex and prolonged conflict regarding Israel-Palestine. Likewise, it is always portrayed as a conflict based on religion, but beyond that, the conflict is layered on social-political security. The early decolonization of European colonial masters and their experimentation with religion-based state-crafting, which is often underneath the surface, is the most underestimated aspect of this conflict. As a ‘state’, Palestine and its sociopolitical practice is the potential ground where the precious prosperity is laying under. To procure this prosperity there are no other feasible options other than a demonstration of sustainable and realistic political willingness. Broken political fabrication and coat of sectarian extremism with a fragile economy can not deliver stability to a state. Neither fuels its fight for liberation. For decades, it was believed that external supports is the lifeline of the State of Palestine, but in recent days it has changed to the fault line. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel; the 2021 general election of Palestine is the most important cornerstone of the state by which it will be decided that if it is capable of bearing stability at state-level to regional level or otherwise.

 

Introduction

From biblical to recent history, the conflict between Palestine and Israel is nothing new. There is a famous saying that, “Every Jew in Palestine is a bit of an Arab, and no Arab in Israel can deny that he’s a little Jewish”. Self-determination was and is a key factor that fueling the most prolonged conflict in human history. The controversial quest is what went wrong with this self deterministic approach that is taking forever to mitigate such conflict. Is it the approach or something else that is responsible, certainly in this case? It is said that a conflict is near impossible to resolute if something goes wrong with the exploration of causes that driving a conflict. Over the decades, there must be something erroneous with both Arab and Jewish perspective that is suddenly a burden to mitigate the conflict. This article is intended to explore the de-facto practices of the Palestinian perspectives which were equivocally underestimated by the rest in several ways in the time frame of 2010-2020.

 

How this is going

In 2010, there was a launch of ‘direct talks’ between both the parties (Israel & Palestine) brokered by the USA aiming for a so-called two-state solution. That initiative was a significant development at the time while Palestinians were already divided by two major political factions with disagreement and with different aims. Since 2007, political Palestine split into two different factions with different governments. During 2010 talks, there were significant positive confidence-building measures taken by the Israeli government including a ten months-long moratorium on new settlement construction in the West Bank and publicly announced support for a future Palestinian state that was more or less supported by Arab allies of Palestine. In response, Palestinians argued about already built settlements and refused to negotiate. Moreover, it was a faction that refused the negotiation and the other faction launched violent militant activities against the peace process itself. In peace-conflict language which is termed as ‘spoiler’ group. In every peace process, it is believed to have a spoiler group that usually disagree with the process. However, the Palestinian block considered it as an instrument of so-called ‘self-determination’ to achieve elusive liberty. Although, after the expiration of the moratorium the process started to descend with several political tactics by both Israeli-Palestinian parties over the year which ultimately unified political Palestine to form a unity government, again, keeping a general election into cross-hair.

In 2014, the two factions of Palestinian political parties sealed a deal ahead of the general election but faced strong Israeli condemnation as one of the factions was still involved in violent military expressions towards Palestinian liberation which was designated ‘terrorist activities’ by the Israeli perspective. Israeli argument was a non-violent approach through negotiations but in the response to self-defense, military necessity overtook the priority list. However, the 2014 general election did not happen and in 2015 the unity government was dissolved and both the factions made significant reshuffle to the cabinet and resulted in collapse, again (since the 2007 split, the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation process had surfaced several times).

At this point, the exploration of key factors by which were unlikely to succeed in the 2010 peace process is indeed necessary. First of all, the desire for liberation; an unrealistic illusion possessed by the Palestinian block. To obtain recognition by the rest of the world, it must be a realistic approach towards the desire to self-determination, either by violent or non-violent manifestation. If Palestinians wanted to manifest such behavior they would have chosen either a realistically planned-executed liberation war rather than an idealistically desired one or a profound negotiation. Secondly, inter-party conflict of interests among the political factions; no one should expect a better outcome out of a broken political party; especially, where two separate governments run a single state which is surrounded by another state from which it expects independence. Thirdly, a heavily corrupted system is more vulnerable to exploitation. Fourthly, lack of international funding is a crucial setback for a state in a condition like Palestine.

 

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Political parties in Palestine

The following political parties, listed in alphabetic order, have taken part in recent elections for the Palestinian National Authority in the Palestinian territories:[i]

  • Al-Mustaqbal or The Future
  • Arab Liberation Front
  • As-Sa’iqa or Storm/Thunderbolt, also called Vanguard for the Popular Liberation War
  • Democratic Alliance

Palestinian Democratic Union (al-ittihād al-dīmūqrātī al-filastīnī, FiDA)

Palestinian National Initiative (al-mubādara al-wataniya al-filastīniyya)

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (al-jabhah al-sha`biyyah li-tahrīr filastīn)

  • Democratic Alliance List Alliance of five palestinian Left-wing parties.
  • Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (al-jabhah al-dīmūqrātiyyah li-tahrīr filastīn)
  • Fatah or Palestinian Liberation Movement (harakat al-tahrīr al-filastīnī)
  • Hamas or Islamic Resistance Movement (harakat al-muqāwamah al-islāmiyyah)
  • National Coalition for Justice and Democracy
  • Palestine Forum launched 16 November 2007 by businessman Munib al-Masri,[1]
  • Palestine Liberation Front
  • Palestinian Liberation Front (Abu Nidal Ashqar wing)
  • Palestinian Arab Front
  • Palestinian Communist Party
  • Palestinian Justice
  • Palestinian National Initiative (al-mubādara al-wataniya al-filastīniyya)
  • Palestinian People’s Party (hizb al-sha`b al-filastīnī)
  • Palestinian Popular Struggle Front
  • Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command
  • Reform and Development Party
  • Revolutionary Palestinian Communist Party
  • Third Way

Among the following parties, Hamas and Fatah are considered the main political parties in the State of Palestine. While Fatah is considered more moderate Islamist and pro secularist, Hamas on the other hand is more Islamic nationalist and Islamic fundamentalist on traits. Although they have a common understanding of Islamic nationalism, they differ on their political goals. For Hamas, there is no other option except violent manifestation to become independent and of course, they do not want to recognize the state of Israel. Fatah on the other hand, more faithful in democratic political solution while recognizing the state of Israel but opposes Israeli colonialist manifestos. This is what makes the conflict more complicated, especially when Hamas decided to pursue a democratic system on the one hand, and refuses a peaceful political solution on the other, thus contradicts its political interests.

 

Hamas-Fatah Conflict

Historically, both Hamas and Fatah have domestic and international allies who had been supporting the State of Palestine through established mechanisms on the record. Off the record, illicit funding is also being traced by financial institutions very often. During and aftermath of the Arab Spring, Hamas was considered the biggest beneficiary among political parties in Palestine. Assumptions suggest that heavy international dependency for both parties shaped their political determinations too.

As a result, during Arab Spring the necessity of ‘unity’ was underestimated by both the parties, and later when the ‘revolution reality’ failed to meet the expectation, they perhaps realized the external configuration they heavily relayed was not strong enough to propagate their desired political agenda. However, if they could determine the significance of the 2010 peace talks and the immediate emergence of the Arab Spring; they would have not delayed the far-needed general election with unnecessary strategic timeout tactics. Who knows, we would have seen a better State of Palestine than we see now.

The formation of the 2014 unity government then was a major change towards political correctness which they were unable to see in post Arab Springtime in terms of micro-level urgency.[ii] This urgency certainly developed by self-realization and as a maneuver to avoid international sanctions but it backfired. Israel sanctioned the Palestinian Authority and launched military operations in Hamas governed Gaza area. To justify the self-defense they argued the same old argument, ‘terrorist activities’.[iii]

Conventional wisdom expects to learn from mistakes only when one is ready to admit it. But once again the conflict between Hamas-Fatah overtook the prosperity of peace. Several reconciliation processes failed back to back except for one thing, more Israeli settlements privileged by the local law of the states agreed earlier (Area C mainly, later Area A, B). The Palestinians made objections, condemned Israeli settlement, whined for a two-state solution, asked for fund rise; while they refused to regulate corruption, mitigate inter-party conflicts, got involved in disproportionate military tactics in the name of the liberation war. Due to domestic and political polarization and based on present evidence on the ground regarding humanitarian aid and failing to address accountability, Fatah finally dissolved the government, the legislative branch postponed the general election. Hamas remained in the power of the Gaza Strip.

In 2017, another reconciliation process took place. This time disarming Hamas was a significant milestone in agenda but in practical, implementing security agreement and creating a buffer-zone in Sinai-Gaza border while dissolving armed factions seemed a tough job. By which Hamas faced rival factions within itself in Gaza Strip and till then most of the armed activities against Israel were accused of each other by the factions. Meanwhile, the disproportionate military response by Israel remained the same but these attacks were more precise to reduce collateral damage.

 

Corruption in Palestine

No doubt, corruption is an unavoidable feature of statecraft as there is no mechanism that could diminish corruption completely but it can be controlled. In recent times, there is a large number of protests in Israel against corrupt administration and there is a hidden indicator that Israelis are aware of what is going on, but they did not choose to stand in silence about it, unlikely the  Palestinians. Many state/non-state organizations in Palestine have conducted surveys in which they found a significant rise in corruption in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Slightly apart from the so-called liberation propaganda in which Palestinians claimed deliberately that The Israelis left them no option, it’s not the responsibility of any external state to implement accountability into the statecraft itself. The Palestinians can not and should not deny it, for the sake of their prosperity.

According to The Annual Public Opinion Poll on the State of Corruption in Palestine 2019 by AMAN Transparency Palestine, corruption in Palestine is 63%, which is almost the same as the previous year, 64%. However, corruption in the West bank is 73%, compared to 70% in 2018, and in Gaza Strip is 48%, compared to 54% in 2018. In the same survey, 60% of responders believed that it will increase in the year 2020.

It also unveiled that 60.8% of Government Institutions are the most vulnerable while local government units, private sector, and civil society vulnerability is less than 15%. Among the institutions, ministries and public commissions are the most corrupt sector (29.9%); then-presidential institutions (20.9%) and followed by security agencies (19.9%).

The report also identified some reasons why people do not will to report and even when they report why the actions taken by the authority are inadequate.[iv]

For instance, while the state is already fragile with a huge number of refugees, struggling for political betterment, combating unemployment, extremism, international pressure; corrupt governmental institutions make the situation more endangered. Not only the government but other global governing institutions like UNRWA has been hit by corruption there.  In July 2019, a UN internal audit found the high-ranking UNRWA officials have involved in corruption-related crime, as a result, several officials resigned, significant aid donor countries cut their fund.[v]

 

International funds and economic crisis

Overall, the Palestinians and their so-called allies claim that Israeli deprivation is the most mountainous burden to the nourishment of its economy. In current practice, it is indeed true to some extends. If there were no de-facto borders (green line and barriers); transportation, trade, and exchange were normal (well regulated with no fear of security breach), there would have possibilities to have a better economy in Palestine. It is ridiculously projected that only Israeli aggressive policies caused the ‘near collapse’ condition of the Palestinian economy by Palestine and its so-called allies. The security dilemma, by which a strongly strict border regulation is present right now there; whose behavior caused that to be there on the first hand?

According to documents from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, a report by the Ministry of Finance stated that in the year 2019 total revenue (general, excluded Gaza Strip) was $4,427.2M including taxes ($3,251.7M), social contributions ($0.8M), grants and aids ($520.6M) and other ($654.1M).  The others including fees collected for utility resales, administrative fees and fines, property income, and voluntary transfers. On the other hand, current expenses for the year 2019 were $4,577.3M and gross expenses were $4,811.5M.[vi]

Other than grant and aids, a significant amount of support sources contributed to the economy of Palestine. For the year 2019, the major sources were the KSA (32%), Palestinian-European mechanism (36%), World Bank (12%), Qatar (10%), Algeria (5%), Iraq (2%), and Turkey (1%).[vii] At the end of the year 2018, the US ended any funding for Palestine due to a lack of accountability, jurisdiction, and transparency. Palestinian reaction at that time caught the attention of the rest of the world and many US allies condemned the action but till the end of the year 2019, the UNRWA scandal played a significant role to rethink the fund-donations by the donors worldwide. After some internal inquiries, major European countries discovered that there were terrorist financial channels draining funds from the aids they provided. As a result, they launched a new anti-terror mechanism to ensure funds not being ended up in the wrong hands but Palestinian civil society rejected the conditional funding.[viii] As a result the EU for the first time cut funds to Palestine.[ix] Not only the EU but also the Arab allies lately joined the fund cut campaign and Palestinians choose not to cooperate but resist by launching a counter-campaign spreading propaganda against USA-Israel-EU.[x] Meanwhile Covid-19 struck the world badly and eventually reached Gaza Strip and West Bank.

 

Consequences of counterproductive decisions

At the same time Arab-Israel peace initiative 2020 began, the Israeli general election faced political deadlock; Likud (major political party in Israel) used West Bank annexation as a political promise to gain support for election and eventually managed to form a unity government in Israel. The UAE, which was not a major donor of Palestine, tried to send medical aids for Palestine and the Palestinian Authority refused to accept it because it came via Israel. They expected it to come via Jordan! There were unconfirmed rumors that if it would come via Jordanian channel, a major corruption scandal could be surfaced and would have used against Palestine. However, the Palestinians failed to see the favor of the UAE and choose to end the most significant security agreement with Israel by which green line barrier gates and internal outposts were being regulated. This decision created widespread division inside the Palestinian Authority itself because it was thought that ceasing this agreement would force the Israeli security forces to launch new military operations but it backfired. Israeli forces withdrew (actually denied access by Palestinians) from part of Jerusalem and Hebron, Palestinian security forces lost access to part of territories and were denied to access to joint anti-terrorism information-sharing mechanism. As a result, a slight increase in illegal military activities was being observed across the West Bank. However, Israeli outposts in West Bank remained posted (without Palestinian forces).[xi]

Meanwhile, the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad Movement of Palestine (considered a military wing of Hamas, terrorists designated by several countries) refurbished and prepared to launch military resistance against all who is against the liberation of (whole) Palestine. Although, in practice, their activities were limited to locally developed short-ranged explosive rockets and balloon lifted improvised explosive devices and propaganda campaigns in popular social media.[xii]

Although, the main political party Hamas in Gaza, in search of a strong foothold for its international allies decided not to endorse military violence nor tried to prevent who are doing so from Gaza Strip but sent a delegation to Turkey.[xiii] After return, nearly a month later, Hamas and Fatah announced to agree on holding a general election in the coming year.[xiv]

 

A general election

It was 2006 since when no Palestinian general election had been held. An election was supposed to held in 2014, but the complex political game made it delayed until now. However, the election is scheduled for March 2021. The most important times were the election times in recent histories for Palestine. Internal political division and their unhealthy political demonstration during the election is the most important factor among the others. Firstly, it is eminent not to allow this division to expose vulnerabilities to be exploited by others. For example, whenever an election comes, from the Israeli perspective, new legal tactics are introduced, and usually, Palestinians are too weak to see that coming and as a result they get more divided. An indicator should be the recently announced new settlement expansion approval plan by Israel.[xv] Secondly, For decades-long exercised military resistance in the name of liberation and religion did not bring them what they wanted. Rather it constantly benefited a certain group of people home and abroad who do not seek stability. For example, PIJ’s recent announcement is nothing but to defect the general election, again.[xvi] Thirdly, this election will decide whether the Palestinian leadership is capable of achieving peace or not. Rebuilding a fragile economy, reforming the security sector, building 21st-century worthy infrastructure, countering sectarian extremism, combating widespread corruption, and so on is still on the list. Without regional cooperation, it would sound like a fairy tale. To build that cooperation it must need to be united on the home ground first. Fourthly, they need to understand the standpoint of their Arab allies. Without ‘managing’ Israel it is nearly impossible to bargain for a full functional sovereign Palestine. It is a matter of political will to accept what is indeed needed to be accepted. Either an isolated Palestine with no support from former allies; vulnerable to further exploitation or the beginning of a new era; it’s up to the Palestinian people. Only they are responsible for their choice.

 

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Conclusion

Within the next six months, it will be decided who is who regarding the Palestinian election. Notably, it is not the first time the rival political factions have come under the same umbrella and have agreed to hold an election. If it is only a political stunt ahead of the election, no doubt the world will see another 2014 and the Turkey-Qatar-Iran-Algeria-backed electoral initiative will again have to accept no option but fall back and turn the situation into the same old chaos. Ultimately this will bring back the Palestine that will be isolated from its allies economically, politically, strategically with the severest vulnerabilities to be exploited with sectarian extremism into the pitfall of illusive liberation.

writer
Nazib Nur
Independent Researcher

 

 

 

[i]      List of political parties in the State of Palestine. (February 24, 2020). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_parties_in_the_State_of_Palestine

[ii]     Amour, P. O. (2017). Israel, the Arab Spring, and the unfolding regional order in the middle east: A strategic assessment. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 44(3), 293-309

[iii]   Booth, W., & Gearan, A. (2014). Palestinians form new unity government that includes Hamas. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com /world/middle_east/palestinians-form-new-unity-government-including-hamas/2014/06/02/c681d5c6-ea46-11e3-9f5c-9075d5508f0a_story.html

[iv]   AMAN Transparency Palestine. (2019). Annual Public Opinion Poll on the State of Corruption in Palestine 2019.

Retrieved from https://www.aman-palestine.org/cached_uploads/download/2020/01/23/english-aman-for-website-1579765033.pdf

[v]     UN Watch. (2019). UNRWA Corruption Scandal Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://unwatch.org/unrwa-ethics-scandal-fact-sheet/

[vi]    Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. (2020). Press Release on the General Government Finance 2019. Retrieved from http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/portals/_pcbs/PressRelease/Press_En_6-9-2020-govFin-en.pdf

[vii]  Civil Society Team for Enhancing Public Budget Transparency. (2020). 2019 Public Budget Performance Report. Retrieved from https://www.aman-palestine.org/cached_uploads/download/2020/04/26/public-budget-performance-report-2019-1587933395.pdf

[viii] Alsaafin, L. (July 1, 2020). Palestinian civil society rejects EU’s Conditional Funding. Al Jazeera. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/7/1/palestinian-civil-society-rejects-eus-conditional-funding

[ix]    Jones, E. (June 18, 2020). EU cuts funding to Palestinian group for refusing to sign anti-terror clause. CBN News. Retrieved from https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/israel/2020/june/eu-cuts-funding-to-palestinian-group-for-refusing-to-sign-anti-terror-clause

[x]     Patel, Y. (January 24, 2020). Palestinian NGO’s launch campaign against EU ‘anti-terror’ funding requirement. Mondoweiss. Retrieved from https://mondoweiss.net/2020/01/palestinian-ngos-launch-campaign-against-eu-anti-terror-funding-requirement/

[xi]    There are several configurations of Israeli outposts in the West Bank; some are scheduled, some co-operating with Palestinian forces, some military only posts, some temporary posts. All are Legalized by local law and agreements.

[xii]  From various OSINT sources.

[xiii] Frantzman, S. J. (August 23, 2020). Turkey’s Erdogan hosts large Hamas delegation with a wanted terrorists. The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved from https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/turkeys-erdogan-hosts-large-hamas-delegation-with-wanted-terrorist-639597

[xiv] Al Jazeera. (September 24, 2020). Fatah, Hamas say deal reached on Palestinian elections. Al Jazeera. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/9/24/fatah-hamas-say-deal-reached-on-palestinian-elections

[xv]  Haverty, D. (October 14, 2020). Israel to Approve New Settlement Units in the West Bank. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/10/14/israel-to-approve-new-settlement-units-in-the-west-bank/

[xvi] Several OSINT sources.

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