Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Palestinian government reshuffle

Abdul Sattar Qassem


Abdul Sattar Qassem
Abdul Sattar Qassem

For days, Palestinian media outlets have been busy with the issue of the government reshuffle, which was hastily dubbed the "national consensus" government. There have been many predictions regarding this change, and many Palestinian sources which have said that it would be minimal and superficial.
I accept that there are times when a reshuffle can be justified, such as an unforeseen crisis, a serious failure, a war or suchlike. However, anyone observing the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would not see anything new emerging in the Palestinian arena, nor would they see any justification for the reshuffle. It seems, therefore, that the reshuffle is related to the internal relations of those controlling Palestinian politics. Perhaps the performance of a certain minister is weak, a figure is feeling overwhelmed, an official is insubordinate, or whatever.
The success or failure of a certain government is based on whether or not it has made any changes to the situation and conditions of the Palestinian people under occupation. If the average citizen does not feel a change or feel that the government offered something that impacts their everyday life positively, then they are not concerned with changing, reshuffling, or cancelling the government. In the Palestinian street, one can feel that it is the media outlets which are busy with the ministerial reshuffling, while the people are busy with making ends meet and improving their living conditions; they are not concerned with what is happening in the corridors of the Palestinian Authority HQ in Ramallah.
Since the establishment of the PA, many governments have been formed, perhaps 19 of them. Not one has presented to the Palestinian people a programme, agenda, plan, vision, philosophy or strategy, including the current government headed by Rami Hamdallah. Governments come and go, and no one knows how they will work or what they will do. The current government made promises to the Palestinian people that it will end the division and the people were optimistic that this would happen. However, the division still exists and the rift may even be deeper than ever. There was talk of reconstructing the Gaza Strip, paying the salaries to the Gaza employees, and holding presidential and legislative elections in the West Bank and Gaza, but none of these promises were kept, nor have Hamas and Fatah reconciled. Gaza is still suffering, no government employees other than the Ramallah PA's are getting paid, the elections have not been scheduled, and reconciliation is just a mirage.
Since the beginning, even before the formation of the government, the PA president has declared that it would be his government and that it would work according to his plans. He announced that it would work with just two conditions: first, it would continue its security coordination with the Israelis, and second, it would accept agreements with the Israelis. By making these two conditions, he ensured that the government's work would fail. The Palestinian arena divided and fought over the security coordination and agreements with the Israelis; by insisting on these two matters the president was insisting on maintaining the division and fighting.
There is also the question of who governs the territories occupied in 1967. Is it the Palestinians or the Israelis? It is clear that any government formed in accordance with the agreements made by the Israelis cannot succeed because Israel's interests will always be a priority, given Israel's ability to control Palestinian policies in various fields. The occupation does not accept Palestinian policies that deviate from the agreements, so it stands in the way of the people and their free will. There is no political free will in the occupied land and the decision is ultimately in the hands of the occupation and its sponsor, the United States. As long as matters remain like this, the government can never present the Palestinian people with an agenda or programme, nor can it develop an economic, social, or cultural vision separate from the stipulations of the agreements. The greatest disaster is that the PA is confronting so-called Palestinian "terrorism" while defending the security of the Israelis, including the illegal Jewish settlers.
Hence, the Palestinians are paying a heavy price for the whims of successive governments. Each minister demands privileges, accompaniments, facilities and other miscellaneous items that are costly to the Palestinian treasury, while the latter has to wait for grants from third parties. In addition, ministers are paid a salary even after they leave their ministry; there are now hundreds of people who have occupied a ministerial position or were hired in positions that are ranked as ministerial and who are now costing the Palestinian people money without actually providing any service in exchange for what they receive.
Do the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip actually need governments and ministers? If the government does not provide a new reality for the Palestinian people, and if the Zionists are interfering with every small and serious issue and are preventing the formulation of executable and enforceable action plans, then what is the use of having a Palestinian government that does not actually govern? The Palestinians in the occupied West Bank only need a national committee to manage the people's daily and civil affairs, in order to prevent chaos and disorder. As for these big titles, such as "His Excellency" and "State", there is no need for them, as they do not reflect the truth of the matter.
However, if a national body or committee is formed to manage the people's affairs, then it is only expected to succeed if it acts like an administrative body that is completely removed from all political aspects, especially from agreements with the Israelis. The Palestinian people need to get out from under the "Oslo" umbrella, but as long as the enemy is guiding the Palestinian controls, the situation will never be corrected.
Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid, 5 July, 2015. 

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