The Palestinian people: the spirit of all nation
Following the March 17th Israeli elections, the right-wing government of Netanyahu confirmed himself as the legitimate guide of the country, by allowing the enhancement of the security paradigm. With six weeks available to form the government, Mr. Security officially reinforces his fortress, right before the expiring date, on May 6th, by establishing a right-wing government of national unity, made up by hard-line and religious parties – Likud, United Torah Judaism, Shas, Kulanu and the Jewish Home. In this way, Bibi gained 61 seats out of 120 of the Knesset. Therefore, Avidgor Lieberman, of the Yisrael Beitenu Party, surprisingly decided to abandon the coalition and to resign from his post of Foreign Minister, because he was unsatisfied with the shape the rising government was taking. This meant the loss of seven parliamentary seats for Netanyahu and, as a result a weak majority in the Knesset. In his own words, if “Sixty-one is a good number, sixty-one plus is a better one.”
Contrarily to what someone had foreseen right after the elections, the implemented coalition strategy has not opened the door to the minority block, namely Mr. Herzog’s Zionist Union. Another hypothesis has been made incorrect by the upcoming events: if someone had predicted that Netanyahu would have not encountered a lot of difficulties in forming the coalition, it contrarily gathers that the elected Prime Minister did not conceive a clear coalition strategy to implement. Rather, that he wanted to take the necessary steps to safeguard his political position and career, before the deadline expired. This is demonstrated firstly by the timing of the decision making process, as the talks went beyond the designated 28 days, to a 14-day extension to try to make compromises between the rival and demanding agendas of the parties, and the final decision was made just 90 minutes before the final deadline. A second demonstration is provided by Netanyahu’s way of conducting negotiations, especially considering the discussion vis à vis Naftali Bennet, of the Jewish Home. Although his intentions to maintain some of the main ministries under the control of Likud, Bibi accepted some last minute claims made by the leader of the extremist Jewish Home party, who wanted one of his party member to be appointed as Minister of Justice – one of those ministries Netanyahu wanted to be assigned to one of his party’s members.
Already in 2009, Bibi established a coalition government with ideologically adamant parties. In particular, at that time, Avidgor Lieberman’s figure was strongly debated at the domestic level, and even more at international one, because of his racist and extremist leanings in approaching both the Arab percentage of Israeli citizens and the Palestinian people. Netanyahu had equally shown his support to hard-line ideas, when examining the issue of the creation of a Palestinian state, first of all by prompting the cause and the demands of the Israeli settlers in the territories of West Bank.
Today, on one hand, we face a situation in which Lieberman has abandoned the political life. On the other hand, we clearly notice that his figure has been replaced by an even more extremist personality, Naftali Bennet. His party started to gain a lot of success two years ago, when it became the country’s second biggest force, by amounting itself as a strong challenge to Netanyahu’s right-wing predominance, after the 2013 legislative elections. During these two past years, its charismatic leader has repeatedly labeled the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “insoluble”, and the international pressure to find a compromise as “result of ignorance”. In his idea, no Palestinian state could ever exist in the tiny land of Israel, and to rightfully protect the Jewish home, he has often proposed to annex most of the West Bank. By choosing Bennet and his party as the main partners of the coalition government after the 2015 legislative elections, Netanyahu confirmed his reluctance in dealing with the Palestinian question.
Thus, the day after the coalition agreement was sealed, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee confirmed to theMoriah Jerusalem Development Corporation the possibility of starting the construction of 900 buildings in the orthodox quarter of Ramat Shlomo, in East Jerusalem, by enabling a project known since 2010. Today about 500.000 Israelis live in more than 120 settlements, beyond the 1967 green line. Although this long-term occupation and illegal expropriation of territories are against both the international law and the humanitarian law of conflict, as established by the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the international community’s sanctions have never substantially stopped the settlers from moving forward and, the pressure for encouraging the pacific coexistence of two states has never seen any real outcome.
In addition to this, between the lines of the coalition programme presented on May 13 to the Knesset, Netanyahu has not shown any commitment nor to empower the solution “two states for two people”, neither to create a “Palestinian state”. A statement just puts the government in the position of advancing the diplomatic process and striving for a peace agreement with the Palestinians and with all of the neighbors, while preserving Israel’s national security and historical patrimony. The players of the international arena, with the European Union and the US in first line, have always shouted loud to defend the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people, as equal individuals and human beings, but evidently, their voice has never been loud enough.
Of the same sort is the – more or less formal – recognition of the Palestinian state by a significant number of European countries. Notwithstanding the importance of these fundamental and legitimating political initiatives from the West, it remains a mere symbolical one, when considering the present living conditions of the Palestinian people.
Speaking of which, it is fundamental to notice that the uncertain future of the Palestinian people is not only caused by the lack of mention by Israel of a programme to enhance and put forward the peace process; not only by the weak and only symbolical action promoted by the international actors; but also, by the chaotic domestic situation. From a closer point of view, it gathers that the Palestinians are not only territorially divided between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but are also under the leadership of two separated governments, of two states, or better two prisoners who do not acknowledge each other – as a journalist from Haaretz once defined them. In particular, the division was more profound after the results of 2006 Hamas winning of Palestinian parliamentary election, when The Hamas ‘Change and Reform’ party won 74 seats out of the 132 in the Palestinian Legislative Committee, in comparison to the 45 won by Fatah. As a consequence of the lack of recognition of its government, the Islamist party turned to isolation, taking over the power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007, by pushing Fatah’s loyalists out, and causing the effective formation of two separate political, social, civil realities, one in the West Bank under the ruling of the PA, and the other in the Strip of Gaza, with Hamas in power. Clearly, this “fratricidal” confrontation – or “Intrafada” between the two powers accounts as one of the major weaknesses that prevent Palestine to face Israel and to claim its prerogatives at the international level. However, both Fatah and Hamas, were born as movements to liberate Palestine, afterwards the two factions mainly worked to strengthen their own system of ruling, rather than to register concrete results for the civil society. In fact, their action to mobilize the people was directed to collect loyalists to themselves, rather than to prompt the national cause. This assumption is confirmed when considering that both Palestinian political forces changed from movements at the service of the people, to authoritarian and self-ruling machines, spreading terror, dissatisfaction and frustration and worsening the already deteriorated circumstances on the ground.
As the circumstances changed and worsened, at the beginning of the 21st century, when the Second Intifada occurred, personalities in both parties were aware of the negative contributions of an eventual open collision between the two Palestinian political actors. Despite of this, the compromising vision never prevailed. Extended frictions occurred and although several rounds of meetings, contacts and negotiations helped in relaxing the relations, but they did not let Hamas and Fatah reach the “political breakthrough”. However, the division between the two Palestinian forces has always been opposed by the population, who deemed the reconciliation as necessary to see Palestine winning its struggle. The 2011 “Arab Spring”, as a spontaneous surprise of the people erupting against its leadership, to call for the recognition of their role in the destiny of their country and their partnership in the reform, shook the two separated Palestinian leaderships. Some progress was registered in the past years, thanks to several round table between Fatah and Hamas, but – again – the main aim consisted in strengthening and protecting his position, as the region has been experiencing several changes. Indeed, the very unpredictable results of the curtain which had been opened by the civil societies, combined with the potential negative consequences the ongoing process could have had on Palestine, pushed both Hamas and Fatah to argue that a supposed pacific domestic context could have put them in safe from the “crazy” neighborhood.
The latest agreement, signed in Gaza City on April 23rd, 2014 was definitely appreciated by the general opinion, because it appeared more concrete than the other ones: it indicated that a national unity government would be set up in five weeks and, that the Presidential and Parliamentary elections would follow in six months. In addition to this, the security agencies were about to be restructured, public freedom restored, and practical measures leading to societal reconciliation adopted. In May 2014, Abbas nominated the Prime Minister of this unity government of independents and technocrats, namely Rami Hamdallah. According to Mouin Rabbani, the agreement has to be considered more seriously, because it was signed for the first time with Hamas’ leadership in the Gaza Strip, the one who opposed the previous attempts of agreement more fiercely, since they seemed to put under peril their power, governance and interests.
In the aftermath, because of firstly, the fights between Hamas and Israel during this summer, secondly because of the renovated tensions between the two factions, thirdly because of the harsh tensions rose in the region, the accord has been lost – again.
To better comprehend this, it is important to not forget the geopolitical context we are analyzing: four years after the popular regional uprisings, it evidently appears that the region is beyond the edge of chaos and disorder. The Arab world faces incredible challenges, among which Daesh, the Syrian war and the confrontation between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, over the Yemen crisis acquire the loudest resonance. The Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause remain as important as they were before for the ideologies of the Arab countries, but today some problems seem more urgent and compelling. In this framework, the Palestinian leaderships are impotent and divided. On one hand, Hamas suffers from a split between the more severe military branch – al-Qassam Brigades – and the more compromising political one – under the leadership of Ahmned Yousef and Ismail Hanieh – concerning the aims and the strategy to be implemented to pursue them. Young people in Gaza, usually the most proactive section of the Palestinian society, feel themselves uncertain, demotivated and less politically involved.
On the east side of the Palestinian territories, West Bank, under the command of the Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, suffers from social dissatisfaction and disorder, as the political bodies and their members do not put any effort to produce an impact for the population and the level of corruption remains always very high. Furthermore, authoritarianism and suppression of basic freedoms have come along, and the peace process has been facing a stall without precedents.
However, this critical framework must not discourage the Palestinian civil society, who has always shown a brave commitment to the national cause. In particular, youngsters and women, thanks to their experiences with national struggle and associations, have to present themselves has the new voices to replace the old Palestinian leadership. This can be done only if these common roots and this past are well known, understood, and used to light the future. The future of a region which needs to use the dialogue between the leaders, the intellectuals, the public opinion and the international counterparts to climb the stairs of the evolution towards modernity. A region which has to be externally recognized as a legitimate player in the international political arena. A region which has to be encouraged first of all by the passion, the energy, the awareness and the education of its civil society.
Master’s degree in International Relations (LUISS “Guido Carli”)