The Palestinian Political System: Where is it Heading? By Adnan Ramadan

Via: The Alternative Information Center.

Background

Since the early 1960s, the Palestine Liberation Organization has acted as the moral political entity of the Palestinians with the support of the regional powers. The PLO was the umbrella of the Palestinian political system under which all political parties and movements converged. It expressed the different components of the Palestinian people, which are distributed geographically in historic Palestine, refugee camps and in the Diaspora, creating a space to unify the Palestinians of various social classes under an inclusive national agenda that was represented by the Palestinian National Charter. The PLO acquired its legitimacy through its struggle and popularity, which represented the aspirations of the Palestinian people. This legitimacy has been reflected in the PLO’s support to all civil, popular, local and professional bodies within it, as well as the legitimacy granted by the Arab and international recognition of the PLO, especially after Arafat addressed the UN General Assembly in 1974.

PLO – The Umbrella of the Palestinian Political System

The various bodies within the PLO, such as the National Council, Executive Committee and other PLO institutions, have functioned within an institutional framework, despite the intellectual and ideological differences between them. These differences arise from pressure from Arab countries and attempts to exclude others from the Fatah movement’s decision-making practices, which were enforced by Yasser Arafat.

The PLO became the political expression of the aspirations of the Palestinian refugees, the urban poor and the Palestinian farmers, as well as a foundation for the emerging Palestinian bourgeoisie in its search for its own market and home country. In this way the PLO played a unifying role, creating a sense of social unity despite geographic division throughout several countries.

The Palestinian political system accordingly maintained its unity and political performance in the 1970s and 1980s, but it remained exposed to certain factors, such as the oil money that poured into some segments of PLO and the individual successes in managing the Diaspora’s capital. On the other hand, the Israeli military occupation worked to append the Palestinian economy and transform the Palestinian market into a monopoly for Israeli goods and strengthen the values of consumption rather than production. It also worked to strengthen the social powers whose interests are associated with the military occupation.

This process has allowed class divisions that expressed themselves politically in the split of PLO’s official policy between formal leadership and its opposition. The formal leadership was described as the part that represents the Palestinian capitalist aspirations, and attempted to get closer to the moderate Arab states, which in their turn contained this leadership with generous funds and money. The opposition described themselves as the representative of the Palestinian refugees and the poor, and was known for building allies with other liberation movements around the world as well as the global socialist parties. But even though the split was there, in general it remained within the secular Palestinian political system.

During the mentioned period, the impact of Palestinian workers in the Gulf countries (especially Saudi Arabia) began to grow within the refugee camps and Palestinian communities, mainly because of the income they provided to their social circles. This financial impact also came with certain attitudes, habits and ways of thinking that were affected by the conservative Wahhabist social and religious practices, which eventually formed a reference for certain social changes that appeared in the rise of religious powers and the establishment of the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS).

The Palestinian Political System in the Diaspora

After its expulsion from Beirut, the PLO began to move closer to the formal Arab regimes in terms of behavior and methods of governance. There were attempts to reach out to the dominating world powers in order to start secret communications over negotiations with Israel. This was accompanied by the increase of individualism at the expense of institutions, and an increasing distance from the Palestinian National Charter. Through this atmosphere, the occupied territories experienced a wide political transformation under the PLO political parties – parties which experienced oppression and prosecution from the Israeli military occupation. Through this course, criticism for the political leadership in the Diaspora started to rise, and at the same time, religious organizations and movements began to grow outside of the official political system and with a closed Israeli eye toward this growth.

On July 19, 1988, the kingdom of Jordan announced its disengagement from the Palestinians, and at the same time it made a decision to disengage its legal and administrative ties with the West Bank in order to ease tensions in light of the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada (uprising). Jordanian disengagement enabled the Palestinians and the PLO to claim themselves an independent entity on the Arab stage. Now, with the spark of the First Palestinian Intifada in 1987, the Palestinian territories had the largest popular participation in the making and formulation of Palestinian decisions. This was done through local and professional initiatives, structures and bodies that formed together what was known as the United National Leadership. Additionally, the Palestinians inside Israel moved on to stress the unity of the Palestinian people under the PLO. This period also witnessed the participation of Islamic movements in the resistance, which would eventually gain legitimacy on a popular level. The PLO further announced the Declaration of Independence in 1988 and used the ongoing uprising to empower its political status on an international level.

In the early 1990s, after the collapse of the USSR and the first Gulf War, it was time for international intervention to reap the results of these dramatic political changes. Therefore, there was a call for the Madrid Peace Conference in 1990, especially after the Intifada proved that not entering into an international political process over the Palestinian state would end up harming the interests of several parties. After the approval of the PLO, the Palestinians participated in the conference as part of a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation. The outcome of this political process resulted in the launching of secret talks between Israel and the PLO (the formal leadership took this step without consultation with PLO institutions, resulting in additional weakening of the political system). The secret talks were revealed with the announcement of the Oslo Agreement in 1993, which transformed the Palestinian political system into a tool to justify the political settlement projects, resulting in the loss of a great deal of popular support. This loss was compounded by the decline of the Palestinian Left and the rise of religious movements.

On the socio-economic level, Israeli measures taken in the First Intifada resulted in a state of impoverishment and a general reduction of income for Palestinians in the territories occupied in 1967. This coincided with the beginning of the separation of Palestinian communities, especially the annexation of Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. In the meantime, the importance of foreign financial aid increased, along with aid from the States, non-governmental organizations, and from Palestinians working in Gulf countries, especially as this period witnessed the exit of Palestinians from Kuwait and the termination of thousands of contracts from countries such as Saudi Arabia and the workings of many left-wing activists in NGOs funded by the West.

Oslo, the New World Order and Deep Transformations

The Oslo Agreement produced fundamental changes in the Palestinian political system. The Palestinian Authority created a Palestinian political structure that represented and interacted with a part of the Palestinian people while excluding the majority of Palestinians, relying on the intersection and overlap between the governing bodies of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority institutions. This process was accompanied by opposition and a split in the Palestinian political system, in which the political parties that opposed the Oslo Accords were marginalized, particularly those that chose to stay outside Palestine or encountered obstacles in trying to return.

This new system was associated with great changes on the social level. Changes occurred with the return of a large portion of the PLO leadership to Palestine and the movement of a large part of the components of the Palestinian political system with Israeli approval. A huge Palestinian bureaucratic system began to emerge in the Palestinian Authority. This bureaucratic entity became known for granting employment on the basis of political loyalty while the PA structure, management and leadership overlapped and merged with the organizational hierarchy of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement – FATAH.

All of this helped and accelerated the changes in the class that is related to the PA, especially those changes concerning corruption and lack of accountability.

In this period the Palestinian people for the first time in history participated in elections. The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) of the Palestinian Authority became active in 1996, although the PLC term was extended longer than originally planned because of the absence of political stability and general confusion in the structure of the Palestinian political system, which became fragile and vulnerable and carried with it the seeds of change. Here it is not only about a system of governance, but also the interactions between the public and the political components of organizations and interest groups, as well as civil society. All contributed to the identity crisis in the Palestinian political system, the crisis of legitimacy over its representation of the Palestinians, and the crisis in the ability to provide opportunities to participate politically. The system experienced a loss of control over what were considered the bases of power in addition to the fact that a large part of this system is working under the military occupation, with all that it implies in terms of interventions and pressures.

The establishment of the PA caused the marginalization of the PLO and the Palestinian National Council and limited their roles. If we follow the role of the National Council since its development, we see that it has consistently declined each decade. Between 1964 and 1973, the Council held ten sessions; between 1973 and 1983, it held five sessions; and from 1983 to 1993, only four sessions were held. Since Oslo (1996), only one session has been held, and that with the sole purpose of voting on the Oslo Agreements.  This trend benefits the PA because it enabled the PA to usurp the Palestinian National Council’s role on the international level, and it has benefited the Islamic movements by allowing them a bigger role within the Palestinian political system. Thus these changes brought the Palestinians into a new era, one of structural changes and political and social instability that expressed themselves in internal clashes and confrontations, as well as in violent confrontations with the Israeli military occupation. In 1996, uprisings related to the Palestinian prisoners and the Israeli decision to open another tunnel under the Al Aqsa Mosque eventually led to a political stalemate in 2000 and the outbreak of the Second Intifada.

During the Second Intifada, the Palestinian political system was marked by its duality between authority and resistance. Arafat and his leadership tried to behave as if they were running a state, and at the same time, running a revolution. The spread of the Al Aqsa Brigades and other militant groups ran counter to the idea of responsible state functioning. The political system existed in the form of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the National Council, but did not function; decision-making rested solely in the hands of Yasser Arafat.

This period was also known for the rise of local political groups, and especially the militant groups, in addition to a substantial drop in income and the destruction of infrastructure, decline in employment, human losses and material damages, and the decline of the political parties’ work for the benefit of local communities. Moreover, there was seen an absence of order from security forces and a general decline in the role of political parties, unions and popular committees, for the benefit of NGOs, sectarianism, clans and special interest groups.

The Palestinian leadership in the Second Intifada attempted to reconcile between resistance and state authority; however, the results showed the futility of such attempts as historically, resistance has always dominated at the expense of the state, as is the case in Lebanon. The impact of this on a Palestinian level led to the 1996 transformation in the general legislative elections which represented a milestone toward further Palestinian divisions. These divisions occurred not only geographically, but also between the Palestinian population and the neo-liberalists, who arose as a result of partnerships between higher categories of the political system and the capitalists who functioned as a broker and mediator for the Israeli economy and were embraced by the military occupation under the support of the West. On the other hand, there was a further rise in religious ideology which to a great extent has marginalized the Palestinian issue in favor of the issue of Islamic identity. Both the neo-liberalists and the Islamist camps built their agendas within the framework of regional and global levels, which provided the space for the foreign intervention that has affected the Palestinian political system.

One of the main bases on which social and political framing occurs is the relationship with the military occupation and the state of division which prevents the possibilities of reform and rebuilding of a unified political system. This keeps the system vulnerable and subject to large shifts in the foreseeable future. The state of division has provided an opportunity for the emergence of the current progressive social movement that could be more effective in the presence of a governing power that is capable of working diligently and professionally.

The Current Situation: Division and the Fayyad Government

In spite of the political stalemate and the impasse of the political process on the one hand, and the Palestinian division and contradictory strategies on the other, the Palestinian people still live in a state of overlap between the functions of the national liberation period and the functions of democracy and social building. According to the latter, democracy and social building work in tandem to encourage social resilience as well as provide for basic needs. At the same time, they enhance the capacity of the Palestinian community to secure the conditions for national liberation and the building of a more evident relationship between resistance and authority.  But the two dominating powers in the Palestinian political system (FATAH in the West Bank and HAMAS in Gaza) did not succeed in the managing of the Authority to further the strategic goals and national aspirations of the Palestinian people. This has led to the existence of two competing strains of feeling. People feel that either the Israeli military occupation will dominate political life, or fundamental and religious ideals that impact the social order will dominate.

Currently in Gaza, we are witnessing a decline in support for a political system based on ruling by the name of a divine power. People are beginning to turn against the idea of a political system run on divinity. In the West Bank, the idea of a state for all of the Palestinian people is ceding to the creation of a state for the people who are ruling. In the name of reform, Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad are engaging in state- and organization-building. Yet this is deceptive and destructive for the Palestinian state as a whole. This type of “reform” lends validity to the hypothesis – perpetrated by Israel since the Second Intifada and adopted without question or discussion by the EU, United States, and other world powers – that the underlying reason for the crisis in the region is due to internal Palestinian problems, specifically, the corruption of the PA. This almost entirely displaces blame from Israel and the occupation and places it onto the PA. Israel and the international powers use the gaps or flaws in the political system – corruption, limited space for participation, absence of law and security – to keep Israel and its military occupation far from blame.

All of this is accompanied by a complete malfunctioning of parliament-based order because of imprisonment of members of legislative council or the absence of common goals. In general, the PLC has been denied its opportunity to function efficiently and strongly, and has been ignored and marginalized to a large extent in the past few years, while the roles of the political parties continue to decline.

Generally, the Palestinian political system is in a state of alienation which is experienced and felt by Palestinian society itself. The Palestinian political system and its components are undefined and unclear, and the components of the Palestinian population are not represented in this system proportionally or effectively. The political system in the West Bank that followed the Annapolis process, and which based a great deal of hope and expectation on the promises of Barack Obama, has finally come to the conclusion that change is the result of balance of power, and negotiations are not about a Palestinian state as much as they are about the role of the PA in the protection of Israel. The situation indicates clearly that two authorities cannot coexist within one geographical area, and that eventually the strongest power will decide the path. These fears were expressed by stopping the negotiations and by Abu Mazen’s announcement not to run for another term. Also, recently, FATAH announced its commitment to become more involved in the peaceful popular resistance.

The PA, as part of the Palestinian political system, is propped up by many internal and external bodies. Israel needs the PA because its existence exempts it from performing a great deal of security work that would otherwise be its responsibility. The EU and the United States also want the PA to exist for their own political needs and interests in the region. Some moderate Arab regimes desire the security that the PA brings because they fear repercussions from the deterioration of the situation and its impacts on their own internal stability. Furthermore, on the Palestinian level, the presence of the PA has become linked to the interest groups that benefit from their association with the PA and its ability to employ more than 143,000 employees, and bring in billions of dollars as “development aid.”

As noted above, the state of alienation is a common feature of the components of the Palestinian political system. The Palestinian National Council is not elected and the majority of its members are not known at the grassroots level. The last time it came together was in 1996 in order to endorse more political compromises, and the state of the council remains the same today.

Regarding the Palestinian Authority institutions, namely the Presidency and the Legislative Council, both have exceeded their constitutional periods, while elections remain realistically impossible so long as the PA in the West Bank remains alienated from the people because of their political positions and distance from resistance.

The same applies to the Authority in Gaza, which is also alienated from the people because of its desperation to rule and its social agenda that favors Islamic identity over national interests.

The Leftist parties are alienated due to not taking initiative and by staying in the shadow of authority, without taking effective steps to break through this crisis.

NGOs, too, are experiencing the same state of alienation because they continue to receive foreign aid that ends up neglecting real humanitarian and development work due to stipulations on aid money.

Fayyad’s Plan and the Independent State Plan
It could be argued that the attempts of the Salam Fayyad government to take the initiative by declaring the Independent State Plan is a good attempt in terms of managing the everyday affairs of the Palestinians, but its approach uses a political agenda to “reform and use good governance and institution-building towards state-building,” a slogan repeated by the government. These policies are pursued by Abu Mazen/Fayyad in an attempt to move from the one leader system to the enterprise system, and further include the attempt to produce new visions for the Palestinian national ambitions that promote the assumption that the cause of the crisis lies in financial and administrative corruption and the spread of favoritism and lack of order. Such assumptions were created by Israel in the first place and adopted by Europe and the United States. In an “attempt to contradict the priorities of the Palestinian people by shifting the focus from the military occupation to administrative problems, it is clear that the international community and the Quartet took advantage of the disorder and corruption to undermine the authority of President Arafat at that time, and pave the way for new leadership promoted as moderate.  As they follow the approach of negotiations as the only to achieve the objectives the Palestinian people, they move away from resistance or consolidating an international stand in the face of the military occupation through isolating it.”

This plan does not live up to the challenge of building a state, which is essentially a task of struggle, and the plan does not address the problem of the settlers and the military occupation. There is a great deal of fear coming from the bad political performance in general, and in particular from the corruption scandals. Contributing to this fear are internal conflicts, the approach taken in relation to the Goldstone report, the suppression of popular movements during the war on Gaza, bad conduct with respect to human rights in the West Bank, especially the condition of “security clearance” regarding recruitment and the role of the Palestinian security forces, and the reporting on torture and ill-treatment of detainees emerging from such sources as the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights.

International treatment of the Palestinians focuses on building two models, the first one in the West Bank, which would concentrate on effective daily management of finances to help open up job opportunities and facilitate the daily life of the population. The second model is a closed, religious, oppressive system such as that in Gaza. Michael Lewis mentions in his article on Fayyad’s plan: “Fayyad’s mantra is the economist’s version of the screenwriter’s imperative to show, not tell. ‘We’re not different from other countries with different parties and ideologies,’ he said. ‘Our future will be decided by the Palestinian people, not by arguing on split-screen television. I am trying to produce results on the ground and then let the people decide.'” (Michael Weiss, Fayyad Has Plan to Build Functional Palestinian State).

The Western media has promoted Fayyad and his government’s agenda by highlighting the achievements it has brought. He was named a Change Agent by Jeffrey Goldberg, who said, “He [Fayyad] has helped change the Palestinian lifestyle in the West Bank more than anyone else” and that his name became equated with “honesty, truth and transparency for the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

Another writer, David Horowitz, wrote an article published by MIFTAH, in which he said, “In Ramallah, day by careful day, Salam Fayyad works on building a Palestinian state.”   Meanwhile, “Gaza now faces massive unemployment and starvation, worsened by last winter’s Israeli war against Hamas, while the West Bank’s economy is expected to grow at 5 percent in 2009, according to Fayyad’s old employer, the World Bank, usually a purveyor of gloomy annual forecasts. Ramallah is awash with construction cranes and new shopping centers. Since 2008, the World Bank found, 6,000 news jobs have been created. Trade with Israel is up 82 percent; tourism in Bethlehem is up 94 percent; and agricultural exports are up 200 percent.” A rise in trade and tourism has occurred in Bethlehem with the formal restoration of security. “The key to past and future successes, [Fayyad] said, is bolstering internal security, perhaps his biggest preoccupation: ‘The main reason we have seen improvements in the economic sphere is that—long before Israelis eased restrictions—there were improvements in our security. Security is as much a Palestinian need as it is an Israeli one.’ Of the 25,000 members of the Palestinian Authority Security Forces, about 2,100 paramilitary troops have been trained by U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton; their capabilities are such that Fayyad has used them to conduct autonomous operations against sectarian militants, especially those affiliated with Hamas.”  According to its personnel affairs officer, the Palestinian Authority is paying salaries to about 63,000 employees in the security services. The security forces’ philosophy is based on fighting terrorism, and its main goal is the preservation of public order (meaning the maintaining of the current reality, which is to say, the military occupation).

An important issue is economic development and the focus on the role of the economy in peace building. This process is being spearheaded by Tony Blair and is conducted by proceeding in the peace process and clearly lining up with the regional moderate camp.

Therefore, the effort is to showcase a model of prosperity in the West Bank, led by Fayyad, while the reality of Gaza is portrayed as a model of poverty, insecurity, and unemployment, subject to repeated Israeli military strikes and offensive practices all the while lacking the lowest level of basic needs due to the blockade and continuous political sanctions.

The consequences of these two models are further deterioration of the Palestinian structures and components as the first model (West Bank) does not have the ability to protect itself, and there are no guarantees for its continuity, even in the best conditions. The Israeli military occupation does not let a day pass without incursions, arrests, attacks, and more violations of this model. This form confirms that the strength of the Palestinian security forces is not in the service of the Palestinians, but rather in the service of Israeli visions.  This means that the security situation in the Palestinian arena is directly related to Israel’s security, while the Palestinians see that their security is not due to the existence of security forces and police that fail to protect Palestinian children from arrest and torture. They see that they don’t have a say when it comes to the continuous Israeli land grab, disregard for Palestinian ownership of the land, and disrespect for all Palestinian citizens at the checkpoints. In truth, Palestinian security is achieved in relation to getting rid of the military occupation, and any other form of security is an illusion that can be quickly removed by the tanks of the military occupation.

The West Bank has witnessed the formation of an army of senior employees with high incomes who run the bureaucratic system that consists of 143,000 employees waiting to be paid at the beginning of every month by the government in Ramallah. At the same time, there are approximately 30,000 Palestinians working in Israeli settlements, two-thirds of whom are legally registered to work there, while the other third is working there illegally.

The Fayyad model is seen by the citizens as a temporary model, and the citizens’ intention here is to take advantage of the semblance of stability to earn a living and get ready for the coming darker days, as there is a sense as well as indicators that the system is moving toward that of other Arab regimes in policing their populations.

It should be noted that Israel before the Intifada was engaged in identifying indicators of the Palestinian economic growth, indicators like Palestinian families owning refrigerators and televisions; but this didn’t prevent the outbreak of the First Intifada. Also, before the Second Intifada the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics issued several indicators on the evolution of the Palestinian economy and the serious rise of health and social indicators, yet this did not prevent the outbreak of the Second Intifada. Now there is more discussion of development and other achievements, while the circles of popular resistance are widening in the West Bank in more than fifty locations.

The second model (Gaza) has also succeeded in forming an army of people who are dependent on the system, with about 30,000 staff members. According to The Guardian, the system is allied with a number of smugglers who operate more than 700 tunnels, and about 500 smaller tunnels, that have been closed. According to The Times, this sector, which runs the tunnel economy, found in the blockade a highly profitable opportunity. Therefore a profitable alliance exists between the authorities in Gaza and the people who are running the tunnels.

Security Reform Plan

According to the 1994 Oslo Accords, the Authority would build “a strong police force” that was qualified and composed of 3,000 members. According to the IMF, in 2003 it reached 56,128 members. After Mahmoud Abbas was elected President in 2005, he began rebuilding and reforming the security forces, which consisted of 15,000 in the National Security and 10,000 for the Coast Guard.

Internally, the police force is made up of 10,000, a small force of civil protection, 5,000 in the Preventive Security, 3,000 in the Presidential Guard, and 3,000 in the General Intelligence (Hossam Al Madhoum: Palestinian Security Forces Past and Present).

General Dayton’s plan relies on the “new Palestinian men” who will build the Palestinian state. The plan is based on rehabilitation of the philosophy of anti-resistance, and the recruitment plan stipulates that applicants should not have any previous relationship with any resistance activity, and should not have passed the high school exams (tawjihi). The plan states that recruitment should be 70% from Palestinian communities in Jordan, and 30% from the West Bank, who will have to pass security screening by the CIA and Israel, both of which have the right to veto the acceptance of any person. The Jordanian intelligence also has its say, as the training is taking place in Jordan.

This professional security force, whose leaders are proud of its success in applying public order and gaining the respect of the Palestinians, took more than 30% of the Palestinian government’s general budget in the past three years (the Palestinian Development Plan of the 13th Government). Additionally, it was the FATAH leaders who were removed from the forces, with this removal also placed under the supervision of General Dayton. More than 7,000 security agents were excused from service due to suspicions of involvement in activities against the Israeli state during the Second Intifada.

This new force, which Fayyad depends on as he is not affiliated with any political party, together with the existing  agents of capitalists, middle men and the power-abusing interest groups, constitutes the neo-liberal trend in Palestine which will eventually form the new Authority party that will inherit FATAH’s legacy.

Since Fayyad’s government took control, the “professional” security services have arrested more than 8,000 Palestinians, more than 700 of whom are still imprisoned. More than 14 representatives of local councils who are not deemed loyal were replaced, while dozens of institutions and associations belonging to the opposition were closed.

The rebuilding of the security services doesn’t happen with the intention to promote democracy in Palestine, but rather to strengthen and promote the neo-liberal trend whose ambition is to build a state of Palestine, but only according to Israeli requirements and not on the basis of the rights of the Palestinian people. Salam Fayyad claims that the refugee issue will be solved in a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which places people far from their original places and releases Israel from its historical responsibility. And East Jerusalem, due to the reality on the ground, is not under Palestinian control. Any attempts or plans to rebuild the capacity of Palestinians and their institutions in the city are being neglected, according to statements by Hatem Abdel Kader, the previous Minister for Jerusalem affairs.

The size of the settler population also continues to increase, as the international community gives in to the claim that the freezing of settlement expansion is impossible.  Thus 500,000 settlers continue to build their state in the West Bank, supported by well-armed and well-trained militias backed by the Israeli army.

Moreover, in Israeli prisons are more than 11,000 Palestinian prisoners, the expenses of whom are covered by their families and the PA, without any financial costs born by the military occupation and without any serious efforts for their release.

Is this the de-facto state that Salam Fayyad talks about? The Israeli journalist Amira Hass states that Palestinian efforts are so far from success because the military occupation controls 605 areas classified as Area C – areas that are out of the Palestinians’ reach. Every month tens of thousands of employees in the public sector fear they will not receive their modest salaries on time. And unemployment in the cities, villages and refugee camps remains a very real and grave issue.

Israel wanted the Palestinian political system to play a role restricted to security, acting as mere policemen and releasing Israel from the burdens of the military occupation, while politically entering into a negotiation process that would provide a cover for continued Israeli settlement expansion, the annexation of Jerusalem, normalization with the moderate regimes, and the shifting of focus toward Iran.

The root cause of the problem is the Israeli military occupation, and normalization with the military occupation means legalizing it, which will only enhance Israel’s attachment to its positions. “If Israel has achieved the benefits of peace while retaining the military occupation, then what would it need peace for?” Hani al-Masri asked. Any political or development agenda  which is not built within the framework of resisting the military occupation will not support the Palestinian people.

Efforts by the Fayyad government will turn this system into a police regime that Palestinians have experienced under neighboring Arab regimes. There exists no Legislative Council to properly oversee affairs, and life is run largely by the security forces. The current state of no clarity, confusion, division, and the vulnerability of the Palestinian political system requires the efforts of political parties, institutions, civil society, and NGOs in the areas where Palestinian people are located. These parties, institutions and organizations must rebuild the system and construct a Palestinian political agenda that will represent all Palestinians, and not simply a select part of them.

Adnan Ramadan is the Director of the Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (www.opgai.net), an alliance of 11 progressive civil society organisations acting to enhance and coordinate their advocacy messages, in addition to building a democratic social movement in Palestine.

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