Palestinian Authority Study Endorses Sheikh Jarrah 'Popular Struggle' Model

Yaniv Kubovich
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A demonstration against the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, last week.
A demonstration against the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, last week.Credit: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman
Yaniv Kubovich

The younger generation of Palestinians is frustrated by the ruling Fatah leadership and views it as hesitant and weak, according to an internal study the Palestinian Authority commissioned from academics in Fatah.

The study also indicates that the clashes that broke out in May in East Jerusalem – particularly in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and on the Temple Mount – and that led to the all-out military confrontation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza – are the correct model for the Palestinian struggle with Israel. The analysis by the PA has been obtained by Israeli security officials, who are concerned by the potential direct effect of the mood on the Palestinian street on the security situation in Israel.

The study was carried out at the request of senior Fatah officials following an unprecedented drop in confidence in the Palestinian Authority's leadership among Palestinian residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Among the reasons that the study was commissioned was an earlier opinion survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research that Hamas had gained support following its military confrontation with Israel.

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The research was also conducted due to public criticism of the death of the political activist and dissident Nizar Banat on June 24, a few hours after he was arrested by Palestinian security forces. Banat’s death brought thousands of Palestinians out in a wave of protest against the PA in which police stations were set on fire.

According to the research, “the popular struggle” – that is, the protests that broke out in May amid tensions over the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah – “is the best model to enlist the international community in support of the Palestinian struggle against Israel.”

The researchers wrote that the Fatah activity in East Jerusalem – encouraging the residents to protest and confront Israeli security forces – was a model for confronting Israel “and also managed to garner support from the younger generation.” The turning point, according to the study’s authors, was “that Hamas diverted attention from the Temple Mount to Gaza by firing rockets into Israel.”

The authors noted a sharp divide, however, between the leadership of Fatah and the movement’s grass-roots activists. “The Palestinian public, particularly the younger generation, is frustrated,” they stated.

The younger generation, according to the study, “sees the lack of activism by the leadership, its failures in understanding the needs of the public and in identifying and taking advantage of opportunities.”

"The events have exposed the Palestine Liberation Organization … as a dead entity without any activity,” the study claimed, adding that the younger generation of Fatah attributes this to “the hesitancy of the Palestinian Authority, which is afraid of outbreaks and another intifada, as well as a weakness stemming from struggles among the senior figures in the organization to succeed Abu Mazen [President Mahmoud Abbas].”

The study also provides an action plan for the immediate future to strengthen the organization’s standing among Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. "The occupation, the Islamist movements and the corruption in Palestinian Authority institutions are the enemies of Fatah,” the study claims. Its authors recommend a clear separation between Fatah and the Palestinian Authority and unity talks with Hamas, which in 2007 took control of the Gaza Strip from the PA.

The split between Fatah and Hamas enabled Hamas in practice to share power with Fatah, the study noted, but “today, Hamas constitutes an alternative to Fatah and not a partner in government,” due to the weapons in Hamas' possession and the regional support that it has received since the round of fighting with Israel in May, the study adds.

Restoring Fatah’s standing as “defender of Jerusalem” and the representative of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem will require it to "permit the younger generation to fulfill key roles in the organization’s leadership and invest in the young people in Jerusalem who work for Israelis and speak their language, but in times of crisis lead the struggle against Israel.” 

The researchers also recommended hosting conferences to bring about a change in the mood of the Palestinian public “including Arabs in Israel and in the Arab world” on the Palestinian issue. They recommended the establishment of think tanks under Fatah sponsorship as well as a media channel to serve the movement that could also attract young people. 

According to a June opinion poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research among 1,200 adult residents of the West Bank and Gaza, some 65 percent believed that Hamas' firing of rockets at Israel in May led Israel to halt the eviction of the Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah. Fifty-three percent of the respondents said that Hamas should represent and lead the Palestinians, and only 14 percent preferred Fatah under Abbas’ leadership. In addition, 77 percent of the respondents said they believed Hamas had won the battle with Israel and that Hamas had initiated the confrontation to defend Jerusalem – unrelated to the PA's cancellation of planned Palestinian elections, which was announced prior to May's war.

Israeli security officials, particularly in the military's Central Command, believe that the PA will continue to work on restoring security control throughout the West Bank in the near future, before it turns its attention to strengthening the movement's standing in the Palestinian street. Last year, the Palestinian Authority halted security cooperation with Israel for six months after then-President Donald Trump’s peace plan was made public. The cooperation was resumed in November, but both sides say that the impact of the suspension can still be felt.

According to security officials, during the six-month period Palestinian security forces were unable to restore order in large parts of the West Bank. The lack of cooperation between Israel and the PA permitted Hamas to strengthen its presence in the West Bank. That led factions within Fatah – particularly in the Hebron area and the northern West Bank – to become more independent, as reflected in protests attended by armed activists and open criticism of the PA.

While the research was underway, senior Israeli security officials met with Abbas and other leaders of the PA and its security forces in an effort to stabilize the area following the tensions over the unauthorized Israeli West Bank outpost of Evyatar. The PA ordered the heads of its security agencies to expand cooperation with Israel, sources with knowledge of the talks said.

In the course of the discussions, Abbas claimed that it was not his intention to launch a violent struggle against Israel in the West Bank. Palestinian diplomatic activity, he said, had proven itself, as was evident at the United Nations and the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

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