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The Day of Rage revealed ordinary Palestinians’ loss of trust in the PA

December 16, 2019 at 3:10 pm

Palestinians carry posters depicting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a red cross during a protest against him, 22 March 2018 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

The Palestinian Authority called for 26 November to be a “Day of Rage” against America’s claim that Israeli settlements do not violate international law. The PA called on the people to hold on to the Palestine Liberation Organisation, reject Washington’s alliance with the Israeli occupation and stand behind President Mahmoud Abbas.

A number of senior officials from Fatah, which Abbas also heads, said that the protests would be the start of a comprehensive programme to confront the US-Israeli measures, leading to an uprising against the Israeli occupation. They called on the Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo to do more than just issue statements.

One individual close to Abbas announced efforts to form committees in all towns and villages adjacent to illegal settlements to guard against settler attacks on Palestinians. There were also calls to end the Day of Rage by blocking roads and checkpoints to impede settlers and send a powerful message from the masses.

It was clear that the PA wanted the Palestinian people to demonstrate the rejection of US-Israeli policies, especially regarding settlements. However, the response to the PA was modest; demonstrations were few and poorly attended, despite the widespread Palestinian rejection of all US and Israeli measures. A fair assessment is that the “Day of Rage” was a catastrophic failure for the PA, with only around 1,000 demonstrators on the streets of the occupied West Bank, where around 3 million Palestinians live.

READ: Palestinians hold ‘day of rage’ against US statement on illegal settlements

This suggests that the main concerns of the Palestinian people are the economy and living standards rather than action in support of the PA.

Moreover, a clash between former prisoners and PA security forces damaged the authority’s credibility. Abbas had ordered his forces to disperse a protest by the former prisoners in the centre of Ramallah because the PA has cut their stipends.

The largest city in the northern part of the West Bank, Nablus, did not witness a single meaningful demonstration. There was widespread indifference to the PA and its “Day of Rage”. A video released by the PA showed Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah to participate in the “protests”, but people on the street were ignoring him.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh makes a speech as he leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Ministry building in Ramallah, West Bank on 6 May 2019 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh makes a speech in Ramallah, West Bank on 6 May 2019 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Despite appearances, this may not be good news for Israel. Palestinian nationalism has not declined in popularity, but the despair of the people is pushing them towards the idea of a one-state solution, rather than the moribund two-state compromise. The gap between the Palestinian leadership and the people is getting wider by the day.

A decade of political estrangement between the PA and Israel, along with the disintegration of the influence of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, is having an effect. Instead of seemingly pointless “negotiations” — Israel has never made any concessions to get a peace agreement — there is a gradual increase in the number of armed resistance operations. The Palestinian people do not trust Israel to agree on a two-state solution, so one state for all is starting to be favoured. However, the people are realistic enough to know that the history of Palestinian-Israeli relations poses many questions about the feasibility of a one-state solution.

Israelis generally shudder at the thought of this option because it carries what they call a “demographic threat”. They will do everything possible to prevent it from happening. Their preference is to talk about two states while working to make sure that an independent Palestinian state simply isn’t viable. In other words, the occupation in one destructive form or another is permanent.

READ: The value of the human being in the Arab world

The latest opinion poll conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah confirmed that 74 per cent of Palestinians believe that the PA and political forces have not done everything possible to prevent Israel from destroying buildings and the homes of Palestinian citizens in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, two-thirds said that it was the duty of the PA, its security services and police to protect Palestinian buildings from demolition, by placing themselves in front of the Israeli bulldozers.

Moreover, 61 per cent think that Abbas’s decision to stop working in accordance with the agreements reached with Israel was not the appropriate response to the demolition of Palestinian homes in Wadi Al Hummus in Jerusalem. Even more believe that the Palestinian leader has no intention of stopping security coordination with Israel. Just under 80 per cent insist that the PA is not serious about stopping its agreements with Israel. It is, they believe, a publicity stunt by Abbas.

While the PA security services continue to pursue those involved in armed resistance to the Israeli occupation, 37 per cent of Palestinians in the West Bank think that they should focus on the struggle against Israel. Given the fact that the “peace process” has been stalled for years, 62 per cent support peaceful, popular resistance, with 50 per cent backing a return to an armed intifada.

Worryingly for Abbas and the Palestinian leadership, 40 per cent of respondents said that they support the dissolution of the PA, and slightly fewer think the two-state solution should be abandoned.

The Fatah-led Palestinian leadership in Ramallah should reflect on this data, because its call for a Day of Rage was a complete failure. Over in the besieged Gaza Strip, however, Hamas and the resistance factions mobilise thousands of Palestinians every week in the Great March of Return protests, putting their lives on the line to bring about an end to the Israeli siege and fulfilment of their legitimate right to return to their land. Abbas should be worried.

READ: Have the Great March of Return protests backfired?

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