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A notified murder

There are many culprits behind the collapse of the occupied Palestinian territories.


[Palestine] If possible, the month of December became even bleaker for the Palestinians than the previous months. After a brief, hectic period of diplomacy in November, efforts to establish a Palestinian unity government collapsed following the killing of three children in Gaza City. The situation was further aggravated when President Mahmoud Abbas took office on December 16 to dissolve the Hamas government, which has more or less ruled the occupied territories since March, and hold fresh elections for the Palestinian Legislative Assembly. The meeting between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's little Christmas Eve agreed on a ceasefire, the release of prisoners and a new hope for peace. But after Palestinian rockets crashed into Israel on Christmas Day, Olmert ordered the army to protest.

Hamas' reluctance

The collapse of the occupied territories is the story of a reported murder – a crime committed by several people, with various motives behind it.

Internally in the Palestinian territories there are two main suspects. First, the Islamist movement Hamas, which under the name "Change and Reform," secured 74 of 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Assembly in January 2006. By a pure majority in the National Assembly, the movement in March could form a government led by Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh.

Arafat's former Fatah party claims that it is Hamas' reluctance to accept the so-called Quartet's (US, EU, Russia and UN) demands for recognition of Israel behind international sanctions, a subsequent economic crisis and a general collapse of law and order. order.

One can in part agree with Fatah that Hamas' behavior towards the outside world is not exactly marked by diplomacy. Furthermore, the movement was ill-prepared to govern national institutions built up according to the Oslo agreement, institutions they had boycotted until this year.

Fatah does not deliver

But the Islamic movement has not held the knife alone, which brings us to the other main suspect internally in the Palestinian territories, Fatah himself, under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas. Fatah's reluctance to relinquish power has been as evident as Hamas' reluctance to recognize Israel.

Fatah would not admit the defeat and admit why they had lost their previous popularity. The reasons Palestinians stated for voting on the Islamist front were corruption, nepotism and the Oslo agreement.

Fatah had simply not delivered the goods, instead an inefficient and corrupt administration had emerged that failed to improve the living conditions of the occupied people of the West Bank and Gaza.

But the Palestinian actors cannot take the blame alone. First and foremost, the occupier, Israel, has a responsibility for what happens in Gaza and the West Bank. During the Second Intifada (which began in 2000), the occupation and isolation of the Palestinian territories suffocated the Palestinian economy.

Gaza has been completely closed for most of the past year, goods and Palestinian workers have not been able to move across borders. Farmers are not allowed to export their products, workers are not allowed to work in Israel. The people of Gaza have become increasingly dependent on aid shipments that the UN is able to receive. At the same time, 540 roadblocks in the West Bank ensure that trade and people do not move here either. Since March, Israel has also withheld $ 750 million in taxes and fees that it has committed to collecting on exports and exports according to the Oslo agreement. This normally accounts for more than a third of the Palestinian state budget.

Choked economy

But it is not just the economy that can be avoided, Israel has been a very brutal occupier over the past year. In June, they launched "Operation Summer Rain" on Gaza to free soldier Gilad Shalit. Simultaneously with the offensive against Gaza, Israel arrested a number of prominent Hamas members, including several ministers and almost half of the movement's parliamentary group, in the West Bank. The arrests were followed by a series of minor military operations throughout the West Bank. The summer rain, and the subsequent "Operation Autumn Clouds" lasted until November when Israel declared a ceasefire. The ceasefire does not apply to the West Bank. Around 500 Palestinians have been killed in these attacks.

But there are more than Israel who can be charged with complicity in the killing of Palestinian society. The United States and Europe initially supported the democratic process in the Palestinian territories. After Hamas' election victory, however, the United States and European countries, including Norway, announced economic sanctions against the government.

The result has been an impoverishment of the Palestinian territories, which at the beginning of December were completely paralyzed by the inability of public servants and the strikes that followed. The UN has estimated that the economy shrank by nine percent in the first quarter of 2006 alone. In the last six months, Palestinians' own consumption of goods has fallen by twelve percent compared with the last six months of 2005. This again goes beyond the administration's tax coffers. The budget in the Palestinian territories as of 30 November 2006 was one third of the total budget for 2005.

Completely paralyzed

It is difficult enough to run a state for half a machine. The Palestinians have also failed to do so on a third of their regular budget. When Abbas announced new elections in the middle of the month, all sectors in the West Bank except primary schools were on strike because no wages were paid.

In Gaza, workers went on unpaid work for the ninth month in a row. In Europe, warnings were issued that the Palestinian territories were on the brink of an economic abyss as early as Easter.

Following intense meetings between donor countries, organizations and the World Bank, new channels were established to provide emergency assistance to the Palestinian state apparatus by bypassing the Hamas-led government and the National Assembly. Among other things, money was channeled into the coffins of President Mahmoud Abbas and his apparatus. Donorland also tried to use the network of voluntary and humanitarian organizations as alternative aid channels.

Several organizations, including Norwegian Church Aid and Norwegian People's Aid, refused to be used in this way. They feared that these cash flows would undermine a popularly elected government and intensify the conflict between Fatah and Hamas. The contempt for the Palestinian voice has clearly shown that there are limits to the democracy that the United States and others preach from the West. Palestinians are being punished for choosing a government their occupiers cannot live with.

Gasoline on the fire

Abbas' proposal for new elections does not improve the mood in the occupied territories. It is doubtful whether the election law gives Abbas the authority to dissolve the elected legislative assembly.

Trying to force through a new election will in any case be perceived as a coup. That the USA, Great Britain and Norway have stated that they support Abbas' proposal to call new elections, rather more petrol on the fire. For many Palestinians, Abbas' support is a confirmation that the international community's real purpose for economic sanctions was to push the Hamas government out of its offices.

The sanctions, isolation and attacks have had an effect. Instead of trying to find a solution to the political and economic crisis, the Palestinians are choking each other. It's the story of a reported murder.

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