The Palestinian reaction to the decision of the Israeli defence minister to grant 800 settlers in the centre of Hebron independence from the municipality of Hebron was weak and did not match the action taken by the Israelis. The Ramallah government warned against the fierce settlement attack waged by the Israeli government, through which it seeks to end any chances to revive the political process and end any trace of the international efforts in this regard.
Warnings no longer scare Israel and it will not stop settlement expansion. Furthermore, the content of the warning exposed the Ramallah government, showing that its concerns are limited to maintaining the peace process, far from the Palestinians' angry reaction and the resistance of settlements. The statement of Ramallah did not involve any angry words or a challenge to the action, and this was confirmed by Fatah in a statement in which it said the decision is "very dangerous and will lead to an explosion of all the agreements."
Why doesn't it destroy the Hebron agreement signed in 1997? The agreement that divided Hebron into two parts: a part where 80 per cent of the city is under the complete control of the PA and another part where 20 per cent of the city's area is under Israeli security control and Palestinian civil control?
Why did Fatah back down from the threat to ignite the ground under the feet of the occupation? Why didn't it threaten to shake the foundations of the occupation, as it usually does? Why has it merely issued a condemnation statement with no actual value and no impact on the ground in the West Bank, which is a target of seizure? What does this suggest?
So that the blame is not put solely on Fatah and not any other organisation, Hamas' statement was also made in a verbal context, as its spokesperson said: "The Israeli government's decision to form a committee representing the settlers in Hebron sets a dangerous precedent that will reinforce the settler authorities in Hebron by providing them with municipal services separate from the Palestinian municipality."
However, Hamas' statement included a reluctant threat, "this is a dangerous precedent and a crossing of a red line, the consequences of which the occupation must bear."
The occupation is willing to bear the consequences and it made this decision while fully aware of its repercussions. If the occupation was certain that the leadership's reaction, in coordination with the Palestinian organisations, would be different than the typical condemnation and renunciation, it would not have taken the step and made this racist decision. This is what the Palestinian foreign ministry ignored when it blamed the Israeli government completely for the escalation of settlements and its consequences on the process of resolving the conflict politically.
Read more: Hamas slams Israeli settlements
As of now, the government, foreign ministry, and party's reaction has been limited to the consequences of the Israeli decision on its ability to impose a political solution to the conflict, overlooking the fact that they have limited the other ways to resolve the conflict. Therefore, the leadership's reaction to the Israeli decision has been less than the matter itself. This is especially true as the danger of the new arrangement in Hebron has gone beyond allowing settlers to receive municipal services directly from the Israeli civil administration (the civil branch of the Israeli Defence Ministry in the Palestinian territories), but rather gives the settlers strong local authorities and powers that can, in the future, be an alternative to the Hebron municipality. This is what happened before 1948, when the British colonial powers helped the Jewish communities to create alternative local councils and reduce the services provided by the Palestinian local councils, thus paving the way for the loss of Palestine and the establishment of Israel.
Condemnation, renunciation, refusal and urging the international community to intervene are not enough. This is cheap and foolish talk used by the government, leadership and organisations to fool the people, especially since it is Palestinian land that is being targeted. This is the core of the conflict that is being lost before the eyes of the world. Therefore, what we need is a serious Palestinian position regarding settlements and an effective positon on the ground that disturbs the actions of the settlers, wrecks their plans and imposes a new equation on the ground. Anything other than this is a lie and hogwash.
This article first appeared in Arabic on Felesteen on 6 September 2017
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.