2013: Predictions from Gaza

Fatah movement leader Dr, Nabil Shaath, who is known for his orientation towards peace in the region and reconciliation with Hamas, said after a visit to Gaza last week that the New Year 2013 will be the year of victories, both at the grassroots level and at the international level. But he stressed that Palestine will advance after the United Nations resolution either through exercising struggle against occupation or through negotiations, but without entering into military confrontation with Israel. And he added that the new year will witness an escalation of a boycott of Israeli goods and possibly the situation will develop into a civil disobedience in the West Bank.

Shaath said that the Palestinians do not seek any dispute with the United States, but it is expected that the U.S. administration will go from pressure on the Palestinian Authority to a drive for peace in the region. It is expected to apply more pressure on Israel after the Israeli elections on January 22nd , 2013, to stop building settlements on the Palestinian land occupied in 1967 ( especially on the area E1), in addition to the European pressure on Israel also to keep the two-state solution alive.

On the economic front, Shaath expects during the next year more support from the Arab countries to the Palestinian economy, led by both Saudi Arabia and Qatar, especially with the presence of Israeli economic sanctions against the Palestinian Authority.

Differences between Hamas and Fatah

I think that what is happening in the Palestinian arena regarding continued division and creating pretexts from both Palestinian sides of the conflict (Hamas and Fatah), doesn’t show a positive shift by the Arabs and the West alike. Differences still exist between Fatah and Hamas over the site that Hamas sees fit to allow Fatah to celebrate the 47th anniversary of its establishment in Gaza, and Hamas still refuses to update the voters list in the Gaza Strip and refuses to talk about the elections, while demanding the formation of a government of national unity or technocrat government before that in order to prepare for the upcoming elections. It also rejects the principle of negotiations with Israel and began - after the recent war on Gaza - calling for armed struggle for the liberation of all of Palestine.

Hamas popularity

There is no doubt that Hamas' popularity has risen after the war on Gaza (Hamas's popularity grows with every battle with Israel), after it was low before the war on Gaza, which led - I believe - to the decision of Hamas to stop the process of updating the voters list. And after the war on Gaza there were many delegations from Western countries arrived in Gaza to study the increased popularity of Hamas and its impact on the Palestinian reconciliation and the prospects for peace in the region, noting that the delegations of some of these countries have (either secretly or directly ) met officials from Hamas. It is worth noting that for the first time we observed that the United States intervened in the completion of the armistice agreement between Hamas and Israel, with the help of Egypt in the wake of the recent Israeli war on Gaza (13-21/11/2012).

The increase in the popularity of Hamas among the Palestinian people at home and abroad is worrying even the leaders of the movement itself, because it believes that the increase in popularity may lead to the winning of any future elections, making it the target of the Israeli occupation, especially in the West Bank, where Israel will not allow Hamas to rule there until it recognizes the State of Israel.

For this purpose, Hamas is struggling to rebuild the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and to share power in the Palestinian territories with all factions who can get the minimum votes, which means that there will be no absolute rule for the holder of the highest number of votes!! This will allow Hamas to participate in the rule (without a majority) and leave it to others participating in any future Palestinian government after elections to negotiate with Israel without Hamas recognition of the State of Israel.

Problems for the PA

Among the most important reasons for the still increasing popularity of Hamas, is Israel's continued establishment of settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, especially after the loss of nearly 20 years that the Palestinian Authority spent in negotiations with successive Israeli governments (right and left) without any progress in the peace process. This has led the Palestinian citizens in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and abroad to no longer believe in peaceful negotiations with Israel, and to turn to supporting Hamas, which believes in armed resistance against the occupation, especially after the conviction of many Palestinians and Arabs that Hamas and armed resistance triumphed in the recent war with Israel.

Also the non-payment of salaries of employees of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and the West Bank as a result of Israeli confiscation of the Palestinian Authority’s money that Israel collects as customs and taxes on Palestinian goods imported via Israeli ports, will make it difficult for these employees and their families to support President Abbas’ desire to move forward on negotiations for peace with Israel. This may impose on President Abbas the need to take radical steps of escalation against the construction of settlements, especially in the region E1 that divides the West Bank and prevent the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state. Among these steps could be to bring a suit against Israel in the International Criminal Court and other actions that may lead to the stopping of Palestinian/Israeli security coordination, and perhaps even the announcement of dissolving the Palestinian Authority!!

Israel’s turn to the right

There is no doubt that the United States and European countries and all peace-loving people in the world are worried about Israel's current policies. Almost all political analyses believe that the current prime minister, Netanyahu, will be able to return to power again due to the turn to the right of the people in Israel, although a recent poll in Israel still indicated that 53% of the Israeli people support peaceful negotiations to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians, despite the fact that 61% of the Israeli people disapproves of the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The continued Israeli settlement policy in Jerusalem and the West Bank and the confiscation of Palestinian tax and customs money, (which came as a punishment to the Palestinian Authority after it gained the recognition of 138 member countries to become a non-member state in the United Nations), could lead to a killing of the Arab Peace Initiative, which is based on the two-state solution, supported by the United States, Europe, the Arab and Islamic world. This simply means the continuation of the conflict between Arab and Islamic countries with Israel perhaps for generations to come.

I believe that this is not in Israel’s favor, which will be responsible for about 5.5 million Palestinians living now in Gaza , the West Bank and Israel, as this works to undermine the idea of ??the Jewish state advocated by the Israeli right, thus turning the State of Israel into a bi-national state. Therefore Israel will become a racist state characterized by the Jewish people ruling over the Palestinian Arab people who live on the same land. About two years ago Henry Siegman of Stanford University in the United States published an article which said that Israel is the only democratic state in the Middle East (this was before the so-called Arab Spring revolutions), but it will then become the only racist state in the West!!

What will be in 2013?

Are we going to witness, after the Israeli elections and the formation of the new right-wing Israeli government at the beginning of next spring, continued international pressure on Israel, and the success of Western countries to persuade Israel to halt settlement activities and return to negotiations with the Palestinian side? Or will Israel continue the policy of settlements on Palestinian land, making it impossible to establish a Palestinian state on the Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967, which will lead to increased Palestinian, Arab, and Islamic extremism, to the stopping of Palestinian/Israeli security coordination, and even to the dissolving of the Palestinian Authority, which – in my point of view - may lead to a new changes in the political map in the region? That certainly would adversely affect Israel's relationship with its neighbors both Egypt and Jordan, where in both countries we are witnessing an Islamist trend which supports the Palestinian side!!!

Or are we going to see a breach of the armistice agreement between Israel and Hamas, which in turn will lead to continued instability in the approach of the Israeli right, that calls for the need to eliminate Hamas !!!

Gaza – Palestine, December, 23rd, 2012