Exactly a year after Hamas' January election to the Palestinian government, the wild optimism of early 2005 is noticeably absent. Ongoing inter-faction violence and rising poverty are providing Palestinians with little to be optimistic about.
At this time, both internal and international efforts to advance a Palestinian unity government appear to be at a stand-still.
In a recent bout of infighting Thursday night, two Palestinians – one operative from Hamas and one from Fatah - were killed. Friday afternoon, a Hamas security official, injured earlier during exchanges of fire in Beit Lahiya, died of his wounds.
As if the violence were not enough, the Palestinian Authority has also recently logged an increased number of homeless children. For this problem, however, some Palestinian families seem to have found a unique, if tragic, solution.
Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member Issa Qaraqe told Ynet of an increasing phenomenon of Palestinian minors deliberately provoking IDF soldiers at checkpoints in order to be arrested, and thus receive shelter in Israeli prisons.
"Prison time provides these lads with shelter, and also provides their families with prisoners' benefits," Qaraqe explained.
"We were actually amazed to find that some families encourage such a phenomenon in order to reduce expenses, and primarily to receive the weekly benefits given by the Palestinian government to the family of every prisoner," he added.
Qaraqe recounted a recent visit to a family whose underage son had been arrested: "I started to comfort the father and was amazed to hear him say that it's actually not so bad, because now the family will receive a government benefit. It will be their only income."
According to Qaraqe, such sentiments by parents illustrate the financial and emotional hardships suffered by Palestinian families over the past year.
"How can one explain a parent who not only isn't sad that his son is in jail, but rather, encourages him to go there?" Qaraqe queried. "These people are sick, and it indicates the severe deterioration of Palestinian society over the past year."