The Palestinian Authority is reverting to old oppressive tactics as its raison d’être is increasingly questioned, writes Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah
A visibly nervous Palestinian Authority (PA) has been clamping down on dissent following the cancellation earlier this week of a planned visit to Ramallah by Israel’s deputy prime minister, Shaul Mofaz.
Mofaz is widely viewed here as a war criminal for his role in the killing of thousands of Palestinian civilians, including hundreds of children, especially in the Gaza Strip, while serving as chief of staff of the Israeli army.
The cancellation of Mofaz’s visit to Ramallah came after dozens of Palestinian activists took to the street, shouting
“Mofaz assassin” and “Don’t let the child-killer enter Ramallah.”
Mofaz had intended to meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, ostensibly to explore ways and means to resume stalled peace talks between Israel and the PA.
During his recent visit to the United States, Mofaz told American leaders he anticipated the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians in a few weeks.
Israeli sources, however, argued that Mofaz wanted to meet with Abbas only for publicity and in order to appear as capable of stirring the stagnant waters of the Palestinian-Israeli scene.
“This visit by this war criminal and child killer is totally unjustified. The so-called peace process is dead thanks to unending settlement expansion. So why would Abbas meet Mofaz? It is an insult to the Palestinian people, especially to the hundreds of families whose children were murdered at the hands of this criminal,” said one protester, Jamil, who gave only his first name.
Israel and most Jews view every Palestinian taking part in the resistance, even non-violent resistance against the evil occupation, a terrorist. So, don’t we have the right to call these virulent murderers terrorists?
The PA Interior Ministry deployed crack security personnel to suppress and forcefully disperse demonstrators. Eyewitnesses reported that at least six protesters sustained non-lethal injuries.
The scuffles and beatings generated a lot of anger and indignation, which culminated in Abbas’s decision to cancel the visit.
A group of activists said they had prepared a lawsuit demanding Mofaz’s arrest for war crimes upon his arrival in Ramallah.
One Fatah official was quoted as saying that Abbas decided to “delay” the meeting with Mofaz in consideration of popular opposition to it.
The Palestinian leadership, meanwhile, denied that Abbas and Mofaz were going to discuss the resumption of stalled peace talks. However, such denials seem to carry little weight in the eyes of most Palestinians. Indeed, most observers in occupied Palestine agree that the PA is eager to resume peace negotiations with Israel and is only seeking a face-saving formula to do so.
The PA leadership said repeatedly it would not resume stalled peace talks with Israel until Tel Aviv halted settlement expansion in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. But last month Abbas hinted that he would return to the negotiations table if the Israeli government agreed to release an undisclosed number of Palestinian prisoners, presumably in order to make the resumption of talks more palatable to the Palestinian public.
As no positive response came from the Israeli government, Abbas declared the peace process “clinically dead”, blaming Israel for its collapse.
Meanwhile, the PA is reverting to repressive measures that characterised its behaviour prior to the Arab Spring. For example, the PA security agencies have outlawed Al-Aqsa TV operations in the West Bank, accusing the pro-Hamas Gaza-based satellite station of incitement against Ramallah.
The press-fettering measure, coupled with the reported arrest of some pro-Hamas operatives in the West Bank, is already hindering efforts to promote reconciliation with Hamas.
Hamas has suspended the functioning of the election committee, arguing that it would be futile to hold elections at a time when the PA security agencies continued to launch a witch-hunt campaign against its supporters in the West Bank.
Another factor contributing to PA nervousness is the ascendancy to power in Cairo of Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist that is generally viewed as more sympathetic to Hamas than to Fatah.
In his keynote speech at Cairo University earlier this week, Mursi said Egypt would continue to support the Palestinian cause and pursue efforts to bring about reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
Nonetheless, the bulk of the Fatah leadership seems to be resigned to the fact that a new reality is taking shape in Egypt and that Fatah has no choice but to deal with the new Egyptian leadership.
During the Mubarak era, the United States and Israel repeatedly pressured the regime in Cairo to bully the PA leadership into accepting Israeli dictates. Now with an Islamist president in power in Cairo, it is unlikely that the new regime will agree to play the role of “facilitator” or “enforcer” of American policy in the region.
Finally, reports revealing that the PA had asked Israel to apply for a $1 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have caused a lot of embarrassment to the PA leadership. PA officials denied any knowledge of the matter.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported last week that PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad asked the governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, to request the loan on behalf of the PA.
The IMF refused the request, arguing that it doesn’t want to set a precedent of a state taking loans for a non-state body.
The PA is facing a crushing financial crisis that has been described as the worst since its establishment 18 years ago.
Some observers view the PA decision to ask Israel to obtain an IMF loan as an expression of desperation as many donors have failed to make good on their aid pledges to the PA.
source: Ahram Weekly