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What might this year have in store for the Palestinians?

January 18, 2022 at 11:48 am

Palestinians stage a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners facing repression at Israeli jails, at the Masjid Al Aqsa, Jerusalem on 10 September 2021. [Mostafa Alkharouf – Anadolu Agency]

The summaries of the Palestinian Strategic Report for 2020-2021, launched recently by Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, do not provide much optimism for 2022. This is despite the fact that the internal Palestinian situation over the past two years witnessed the greatest breakthrough in ten years.

However, there was also the greatest disappointment. Great hopes had been placed on the success of reconciliation and putting the Palestinian house in order since the summer of 2020, but this all ended in a major failure last year. It was accompanied by the biggest crisis of confidence and credibility suffered by the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organisation among the Palestinian people.

The report indicated the continuation of the Palestinian national project crisis, and the ongoing conflict between the main Palestinian forces over agreements and resistance in the absence of a national programme that controls the constants and manages the phase. It also noted the continued deterioration of official Palestinian institutions as long as the current leadership remains in control, meaning that there is no real prospect for putting the Palestinian house in order and holding fair and transparent elections. This leadership will continue to manage this file within a tactical framework that is not serious, unless the arrangements are guaranteed to lead to its re-election and the faction it represents — Fatah — is guaranteed to continue to dominate Palestinian political life.

The erosion of the PA and exposure of its functional role, as well as the shrinking of its popular support base, may lead to an increased possibility that it will compensate for this with more security and political repression to ensure its survival. This will lead to more popular opposition.

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Moreover, Palestinian factional and popular pressure will increase for an interim Palestinian leadership, or the selection of a neutral party, with full and non-disruptive powers to carry out the necessary measures to rearrange Palestinian institutions. There is also a reasonable opportunity to form a Palestinian national front or alignment that supports the line of resistance and presses for rebuilding such institutions. At the moment this consists mainly of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), with the ability to expand to include other Palestinian factions and individuals within and beyond occupied Palestine pushing in this direction.

In the coming period, there may be better opportunities for popular action and initiatives at home and abroad, which may influence the Palestinian arena if well managed. This is because of the vacuum created by the disruption to the reconciliation process, the current sense of helplessness, and the loss of vision and direction from which the Palestinian leadership suffers.

Meanwhile, it is expected that pressure will be imposed to subdue and marginalise resistance factions, and to stop them from taking the lead in Palestinian affairs. This pressure will include the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip; the drying up of sources of financial, popular and political support; and the publication of distorted narratives in the media. However, the resistance groups will be able to get through this phase if they maintain their cohesion, their moral compass and the management of their capabilities, while attracting and absorbing the support of more and more ordinary Palestinians.

When the International community and the Palestinian politics are abandoning Gaza, but it will rise up! - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

When the International community and the Palestinian politics are abandoning Gaza, but it will rise up! – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

In Israel, the Zionists are moving in ever more extreme religious and nationalist directions; right-wing and religious currents dominate politics and the government. The left wing in Israel has declined noticeably. With the “Jewish” nature of the state enshrined in law, Israel is intent on “Judaising” the occupied city of Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank through intense illegal settlement activity.

Israeli politics has gone through a degree of instability with four General Elections between 2019 and 2021, which has affected the government’s ability to make decisions. The larger political parties were (and remain) unable to form stable governments, such was the desire to end Benjamin Netanyahu’s role as Israel’s longest serving prime minister. He still faces corruption charges.

Even after the formation of a new coalition government headed by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid in June last year, opposition to Netanyahu remained an important reason for its cohesion despite its political, economic and ideological heterogeneity, and it being led by the head of a small party. Even though the coalition could fall at any moment, it seems likely to stay in power as long as the parties fear Netanyahu’s return to front line politics.

Despite its economic and technological progress, qualitative military superiority, high national income and per capita income, and the existence of weak and fragmented Arab states — some of which have normalised relations with the occupation state — Israel lacks stability. It is still unable to overcome the Palestinian resistance to its brutal military occupation. There is also — regardless of the so-called Abraham Accords — total popular rejection of the occupation state in the Arab and Muslim world, along with support for resistance. Regional instability contributes to this, as does the apparent decline in the quality of the Israeli leadership, and the increasing unwillingness of young Israelis to serve with the army in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In 2020 and 2021, the UAE and Bahrain signed normalisation agreements with Israel, followed by Sudan and Morocco. The UAE seemed the most enthusiastic for the normalisation of political, economic and tourist links with Israel. Last year, trade between the two jumped to around $1.136 billion, which is about five times the value of trade between Israel and Egypt, which has had normalised relations with Israel for more than four decades.

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It is expected that the Arab world will remain unstable and vulnerable, disintegrating slowly as cracks appear in the countries that are against the Arab Spring objectives of freedom and democracy for the people. Popular rejection of normalisation will remain widespread, and the instability arising from the change of president in the US; the waning of pressure on the Arab regimes; unified Palestinian rejection of the “deal of the century” and normalisation; and the resistance groups’ victory in the Sword of Jerusalem battle will all result in some degree of confused scrambling in Arab politics with regimes uncertain about whether to proceed with normalisation or put it on the back burner.

It is thus likely that the normalisation impetus will decline, not only for the reasons given above, but also because the normalising regimes will find that the cost and burden of it are much greater than the benefits and what they had hoped to achieve from a relationship with Israel. There will continue to be a crisis of mistrust and credibility as the occupation state acts with opportunism and condescension, with not even the slightest chance of it becoming a friend and ally.

The Arab regimes will continue to support the path of a peace agreement and the current leadership of the PA and PLO. The regimes mainly concerned with the Palestinian issue will remain opposed or reserved regarding the option of resistance and the Islamic trend, which will hinder any real rearrangement of Palestinian affairs in a way that reflects the popular will on the ground.

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