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PA daily op-ed criticizes PA and Hamas, explains why Palestinians distrust their leadership

Excerpt of op-ed by former PA Minister of Prisoners Ashraf Al-Ajrami

Headline: "The tragic situation: A lack of trust between the public and the leaders"

"Recently there has been little response by the Palestinian public to the factions and leaders' calls, regardless of their political and ideological positions. For instance, the public did not participate in an important protest in Ramallah against the dangerous Bahrain workshop (i.e., refers to US-led conference in June 2019 focusing on economic aspects of US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan), and the number of participants was smaller than the number of journalists and photographers. Even in the Gaza strip a marked decline can be seen in the participation in the weekly marches (refers to the violent March of Return riots in Gaza; see note below –Ed.). This is despite the fact that participation there has been reinforced by free transports, sandwiches, and sometimes by the participants’ desire to break free of the misery in which they are living as a result of the siege and tragic situation under which the Gaza Strip residents are buckling, and their preference to be wounded rather than remain unemployed and without a livelihood.

There are many reasons for the decline of popular activity based on the factions’ calls and decisions. One of them is the existence of the regime that has created a clear contrast between the civilians and senior officials; the senior officials have moved away from the public, and been perceived as belonging to a different privileged class… while the citizens have remained in a different class. The worst thing here is the lack of connection with the public, even those who benefit from the regime in everything connected to salaries, social aid, and other services like education, health and such… On the contrary – most of the people do not see what the regime provides as an achievement it can be credited with, but rather as less than [its] obligation. There is always a flood of complaints against the regime and those leading it. This is true not only about the PA in everything regarding its dealing with the concerns and demands of the citizens in the West Bank and Gaza, but also about the de-facto regime in Gaza (i.e., the Hamas government), which is characterized by the fact it takes without giving, and is interested in a specific party at the expense of the vast majority of the public.

It could be that the PA does not know how it can connect with the public and market itself as being interested in its just interests and demands, and which – despite the difficult and complicated situation of Palestine – is able to make achievements that will enable people to continue to stand firm on the land before the settlement project and uprooting being implemented by the extremist right-wing government in Israel. The PA has also not convinced the public that there is a punitive system against corruption, and that the citizens are equal before the law. It appears that the absence of a democratic process is one of the reasons for the decrease of trust in the echelons of the leadership. The public does not feel that it has a way to take to account those who in its eyes are not fulfilling their obligations, or corrupt people who are exploiting their positions.

The problem of regime concerns the large factions that manage the affairs – Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The other factions are in the two large factions' circles of influence in one way or another.

In the foreseeable future there is no possibility for the emergence of a third influential stream together with these two factions, as the left is weak and crushed, and in the best case is subordinate [to the large factions], even if some of its factions claim that they have an independent and different position. The other movements are not in a better situation.

The second important reason, in our opinion, is the frustration with the general situation. There is no development of any kind in the political process and in achieving the large national goals. On the contrary, the situation has become worse, even though the crises on the national level have always been what motivated the public to go out to the street and fight, which is what usually saved the leadership and assisted it. However, that was the situation during periods when the connection between the leadership and the public remained good and there was trust between the sides. In today's reality, the frustration is being expressed by regression and passivity, more than by a desire to change. In this context, people are being heard saying: 'Why should we act when we do not see the leadership leading our activity, and when there is alienation on the part of the leaders?'

There is a third reason that negatively affects the street activity: The repetition of the slogans that are being voiced by the leaders but not being implemented at all. Our leaders have grown accustomed to saying great and resounding sentences, which there is no way the public will see implemented on the ground – and this, by the way, is true regarding everyone in the West Bank and Gaza. If the leadership would have focused on specific slogans and positions, even small ones, and implemented them – rather than [focusing on] large things, even if they are just and reflect public opinion – it would have won the trust of the citizens…

The best proof of this is the decisions of the [Palestinian] National Council (i.e., the legislative body of the PLO) and the [PLO] Central Council in recent years, including stopping the security coordination and the latest decision to stop honoring the agreements with Israel.

It would have been better if we had implemented these decisions in a framework of gradual steps, such that at the beginning some of them would be implemented immediately, beginning with small and possible matters, on the way to implementing the large matters. This would on the one hand rebuild the trust between the leadership and the public, and on the other hand make the enemy understand that we are serious about fully implementing the decisions we make. Even the steps in Gaza – which began as steps to realize the right of return, afterwards became steps to lift the siege, and in the end became [steps] to obtain small sums of money – are unable to lift the siege or solve the large problems of the public. They have become a means of supporting the Hamas Movement more than [a means] to realize national demands, whatever their size may be. The worst in the matter is the unity of many factions around the slogans, of which nothing remains but money and simple easements. Nobody is criticizing or protesting the management of this process, or the extent of the victims and damages – which is inconsistent with the present or expected results."

"The March of Return" refers to massive violent riots in Gaza, in which thousands of Palestinians are rioting on the border with Israel and attempting to cut through the security fence, attacking with firebombs, flaming kites, and gunfire. The riots began on March 30, 2018, and were scheduled to last for 6 weeks until Palestinian "Nakba" Day on May 15. On the day the US embassy opened in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018, the Palestinian attacks escalated and 62 Palestinians were killed. A senior official of the terror organization Hamas, Salah Bardawil, stated that 50 of the 62 belonged to Hamas, while Islamic Jihad identified 3 others as belonging to it. The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, an Israeli research institute, published research documenting that from the start of the riots on March 30 until May 15, 93 of the 112 Palestinians killed in the riots (approximately 83%) were members of terrorist organizations. Petitions against the IDF's use of live fire to combat the rioting submitted by organizations that advocate for Palestinian rights were rejected by Israel's Supreme Court on May 24, 2018. The court accepted the state's argument that the riots were "organized and directed" by Hamas, a terrorist organization, and thereby rejecting the claim that the riots were peaceful and civilian in nature. PMW reports were referred to in the Supreme Court's decision.

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