Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rebellion in Ramallah - can the outsourced occupation survive?

Excellent article by Gershom Gorenberg, Rebellion in Ramallah?, on the protests against the Palestinian Authority by people in the West Bank. 
Thousands of Palestinians take to the streets. In Hebron, demonstrators burn an effigy. In Tul Karm, Ramallah, and other cities, they block streets and set tires ablaze. Teens hurl stones. All of the West Bank's bus, truck, and taxi drivers go on strike for a day. In Bethlehem, truckers park sideways, blocking streets. In Nablus, kindergarten teachers join the strike; elsewhere storekeepers shut their shops. Universities announce they, too, will strike.  
These are updates from the West Bank over the past week. They sound as if taken from the start of the first Palestinian uprising against Israel 25 years ago. But the leader burned in effigy in Hebron was Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian government in Ramallah, rather than Israel, is the direct target of protest. Economic frustration sparked the fury. This sounds like a variation on revolts in other Arab states—except the Palestinian Authority isn't an independent state. Set up as to provide short-term, limited autonomy until a peace agreement, it has become the lasting means by which Israel outsources its rule over Palestinians in occupied territory. Donor countries foot the budget; the PA provides local services. Israel's current government acts as if the arrangement can last forever. The protests show how unstable it really is.... 
The outsourced occupation depends on the whims of donors; it produces high prices, hunger, unemployment, and unpaid salaries. Economically, it cannot be sustained.
When I was in Israel earlier this year, there were a number of warnings that a third intifada was on the way - a committee of outside experts even arranged a special meeting with Netanyahu to warn him of this. Of course, nothing changed. I would expect that an uprising against the PA would quickly turn to the real culprit - the Israel government's unwillingness to negotiate any change to the status quo that would risk the settlement project. I hope it doesn't happen - the second intifada was terrible, and got the Palestinians no closer to an independent state - but Israel has to be willing to offer something to the Palestinians in order to prevent a third uprising in 25 years.

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