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Challenges facing the Shtayyeh government

Newly-appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh sits behind his desk at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 10 March, 2019 [ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images]
Newly-appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh sits behind his desk at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 10 March, 2019 [ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images]

After Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appointed Fatah Central Committee member Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister, some questions are raised regarding the challenges the next Palestinian government will face. One of these challenges is Trump’s deal of the century, the details of which will be announced after the Israeli elections on April 9thand which aims to liquidate the Palestinian cause.

Therefore, it has become necessary to establish Palestinian national unity as soon as possible as well as to include a variety of Palestinian forces (Palestinian economic and political figures, as well as civil society bodies) in the new formulas for the government. This is especially important given the fact that the quota system among specific factions has proven to be a failure in the past.

It is worth noting that the chances of reinforcing reconciliation and broadening the participation of the silent forces in Palestinian national decision-making will be easily attained. This is because Israel’s racist image has been more exposed than at any time before. The idea of establishing a Jewish state has unprecedentedly become a common denominator between the various trends, blocs, parties, and political, social, and cultural trends in Israel.

Naturally, there are complex goals Israel seeks to achieve by making a Jewish state a reality on the ground, beginning with ending the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland (6 million refugees as of 2019) and eliminating the legal basis for this right and the hope in the UN’s agenda to eliminate the most important Palestinian right amongst the various Palestinian rights. By this, I mean working to revoke Resolution 194 issued by the UN General Assembly on December 11, 1948, which calls for the return of Palestinian refugees at the earliest possible time and offering compensation for the damages caused by their forced asylum in the year mentioned above. In addition to this, Israel seeks to marginalise the Arab minority within the Green Line in all aspects of life.

Another challenge facing the next Palestinian government is the settlement activity, which has increased under Netanyahu’s current government.  Data and statistics indicate that the number of settlers in the Palestinian territories rose to 670,000 at the beginning of 2019 in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, who reside in 196 settlements and 120 outposts. Israel has not hidden its strategic plans for Jerusalem, which aim to confiscate the bulk of its land, real estate and shops, and to make the Arabs a minority in their city, not allowing them to exceed 12 per cent of its population by 2020.

Economic challenges are facing the next Palestinian government, as the Palestinian economy has been forcibly linked to the Israeli economy and has been reliant on international aid after the Oslo Accords. The PA is subject to clear American exploitation, and therefore the next Palestinian government will face various economic challenges.

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This is especially true given the instability of the Palestinian economy and Israel’s control over the dynamics and directions of foreign trade and the Palestinian labour force. External pressure is increased, especially American pressure, because the PA needs monthly financial aid amounting to about $150 million, the majority of which is spent on salaries for various employees. There are also challenges that are no less important than those mentioned above, such as the unemployment rate, which has reached over 20 per cent in the West Bank and 60 per cent in the Gaza Strip due to the continued Israeli siege. There is also the challenge of the high poverty rate, which has reached 65 per cent of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip. This requires the upcoming Palestinian government to work on making new investments to reduce the unemployment and poverty rates.

While many Palestinian factions may refuse to participate in Shtayyeh’s government, there is a consensus amongst political analysts that an independent government made up of Palestinian national figures is the main outlet for all Palestinian factions in order to form a national government that can lift the siege on the Palestinian people and confront the American and Israeli pressures. At the same time, such a government could urge the international community to stop the intensified settlement activity in the Palestinian territories, especially in Jerusalem, and can work hard to quickly begin reconstructing what was destroyed by the Israeli war machine during the repeated attacks on Gaza. This destroyed thousands of residential buildings and the death and wounding of thousands.

The process of establishing national unity in all fields must be the priority of the next Palestinian government, regardless of its composition, to bring together the forces to face the challenges that loom over the Palestinian cause. It is, therefore, necessary to agree on a joint political program for all Palestinian forces, that takes into account the preservation of the Palestinian constants and does not recognise the contents of Trump’s deal of the century. We must emphasise that facing the challenges mentioned above requires genuine Palestinian political will that overcomes sensitivities, tension, and narrow partisan calculations to reach the desired goals. However, holding at true Palestinian reconciliation remains mainly dependant on facing the challenges that face the Palestinian national project. It has become necessary for the Palestinian people and their vital forces inside Palestine and is diaspora, to protect the Palestinian national project and achieve the main Palestinian national goals.

This article appeared in Arabic in Al-Hayat Al-Arabi on 14 March 2019

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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