Joseph Dana writes: Amid a sea of green Hamas flags in the centre of Nablus, Abdul Rahim Rabaiya expressed satisfaction that Hamas had returned to the West Bank after a five-year absence. A modest schoolteacher, Rabaiya passionately argued that the Palestinian street needs Hamas to force change on the West Bank. Hamas, forced underground by the Palestinian Authority, sweeps over the past years of political division. The rally marked what some see as an olive branch from Fatah to Hamas in order to kick-start reconciliation efforts.
But despite the passionate chants ringing through the narrow and ancient streets of Nablus, Hamas’s first West Bank rally in more than five years failed to attract more than 4,000 people. One shopkeeper dismissed the entire event outright. “We are the products that these politicians sell,” he said. “If there is unity, it will be bad for us. The United Nations should run Palestine.”
Undoubtedly, the final months of 2012 saw dramatic events unfold in Israel and Palestine. Hamas, long isolated diplomatically, staged a veritable diplomatic coup with unprecedented visits from Arab leaders like the Emir of Qatar, who pledged more than $400 million (Dh1.46 billion) to the Islamic movement in Gaza. A quick but brutal conflict erupted between Israel and Hamas with all of the trimmings of the last conflict, back in 2009, which turned the Gaza Strip into a battleground.
Demonstrating the changing contours of the Middle East since the Arab revolutions, Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi asserted his country’s new position as a regional broker and negotiated a fragile ceasefire between the two sides, which, surprisingly, has held. In a major boast to Hamas – and evidence of Egypt’s changing role in the region – Morsi has even pledged to ease border restrictions at the Rafah border crossing, the only crossing into Gaza not controlled by Israel.
The West Bank has not been immune to changes as well. Palestinian Authority president and Fatah chairman Mahmoud Abbas continued his quixotic statehood campaign at the UN and delivered the Palestinians de facto state recognition. More than mere symbolism, the Palestinians may now have access to institutions such as the International Criminal Court, which could be used to prosecute Israel for rights violations and murder.
Yet, these efforts seem to be lost on the Palestinian people.
The ferocious manner in which Fatah and Hamas are fighting for the approval of the Palestinian street is all the more breathtaking given the general sense of apathy that hangs over Palestine.
Exhausted from the Second Intifada and life under military occupation, Palestinians generally seem more interested in making ends meet than political revolution. [Continue reading…]