[[ Jerusalem Times : Opinion ]]

This Week in Palestine

September 17, 2005





Behind the News with Hanna Siniora


Palestinians celebrate


Joyous Palestinians flooded into the empty Israeli settlements and climbed over walls into Egypt to celebrate the end of 38 years of occupation. Neither Palestinian nor Egyptian security forces could stop the flow of people from and to Egypt.


Al- Arish in Egypt seemed an extension of the  Gaza strip.

Israel withdrew its last soldier and closed  the Rafah crossing for six months and the Palestinian crowd broke through the closed border to rejoice its new found freedom. All kinds of goods, cheaper in Egypt, moved into Gaza, it is suspected some weapons and even drugs were openly brought into the strip.


In the Gush Katif area, the hot houses were vandalized, looting took place and none of the security forces, those that belonged to Mohamed Dahlan or interior Minister Nasser Yousef had the ability to control the crowd. The credibility of the Palestinian Authority (PA) was damaged and to a certain extent that of the tiny Egyptian force present along the Philadelphi corridor.


A week of celebration after a prolonged occupation can rationally be condoned. The trouble did it effect the possibility of maintain the economic envelope over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank? The repercussion of the inability to contain the joyous crowd might lead to sealing the Gaza Strip from Israel and creating two different economic systems in the PA. The developments of the next few days would clarify the situation. An early controversial development, Israel’s intention of building a new fence inside Palestinian territory in Gaza, thus allowing the creation of a Palestinian Shabaa farm similarity.


PM Qurei facing a no-confidence motion


The Palestinian legislative Council (PLC) accused the cabinet of PM Qurei of the inability to maintain law and order, and is asking the speaker of the PLC to convene next week to discuss a motion of  no-confidence. The PLC members feel it is necessary to have a cabinet that can enforce the law and the ability and will to do so.


It is premature to expect the fall of Qurei cabinet, in the past PM Qurei anticipating the possibility of losing a no-confidence motion resigned before such motion took place. Some legislative experts, because of the closeness of the elections in January 2006, believe that the present cabinet might become a caretaker cabinet in order to carry the elections as scheduled.


According to PLC  speaker Rawhi  Fattouh, the no confidence motion was motivated by the September 7 assassination of former head of national security General Moussa Arafat.


The 88-member PLC is down to 83 members and for the motion to pass, 43 of its members must vote for the motion.


Abbas to end Lawlessness


President Mahmoud Abbas is determined to stamp out the lawlessness and has given the orders to disarm the small bands, splinters of the Fatah Movement. The next few weeks will determine the ability of the PA to carry out the orders.


Concerning Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, Mahmoud Abbas is allowing the movements to keep their arms until after the elections, hoping for the transformation of these movements into political parties that might join in a governmental coalition. The responsibility of being part of the governmental body would allow those movements to incorporate their military branches into the official security force of the PNA.


Anti-wall confrontations


For several weeks, week-end demonstrations are taking place in different areas of the West Bank, mainly near Bil’in village in the Ramallah district and the town of Qalqilya in the north.


Bil’in almost every week-end has a demonstration that combines locals, Israelis and international pacifists. The Israeli Forces put Bil’in under curfew and the demonstrators face the Israeli soldiers’ tear gas and rubber bullets.


The Israeli supreme court legalized the building of the separation wall disregarding the ruling of the Hague International Court’s ruling of the illegality of the wall. In its ruling, the Israeli supreme court, asked the Israeli government to reconsider the route of the wall near Qalqilya, but the result of the ruling allowed the continuation of building the wall, confiscating large areas of land and disrupting the daily life of thousands of Palestinians.


Elections in the PNA


Dr. Abdul-Aziz Haj Ahmed, an in-law of President Abbas, is in the process of organizing a major third alternative to Fatah and Hamas. Pundits suspect that Dr. Haj Ahmed has the tacit approval of Abu Mazen to proceed to create a new bloc that if it can receive enough electoral backing, might be in addition to the Fatah bloc a partner in the next coalition cabinet after the elections.


Other groups are in the process of forming local as well as national lists in order to contest the elections, but until now, the Fatah bloc seems to have the ability to come out of the elections as the largest, followed by Hamas. Other lists combined will only be able to win at most 20 to 25 percent of the PLC.