Two Palestinian men were killed early Thursday in separate clashes with the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
At least 87 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank this year in nightly raids carried out by Israeli security forces in cities, towns and villages, making it the deadliest year since 2016.
Almost every night, the IDF conducts military operations throughout the West Bank; some of those raids have turned deadly with several Palestinians killed in shootouts, and scores more arrested.
Israel has said that its military is carrying out these operations to bring an end to the increasing Palestinian attacks on Jews in the West Bank.
Some Israeli military analysts consider the explosive West Bank arena more worrying than the Iranian file and threats from Hezbullah’s Hassan Nasrallah.
Palestinian political analyst Adel Shadid says that the “prestige and respect” of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has “eroded.”
“Israel operates in Nablus, Jenin and other places in the West Bank and does not take into account the Palestinian Authority or the international community,” he says
Shadid argues that Israel’s continued incursions into the West Bank carries with it a message to the Palestinians. “It says that if force is used, the Palestinians will pay the price. Israel wants the Palestinians to reach the conviction that the project of resistance is an expensive project,” he says.
He also says that internal Israeli politics plays a major role in the Israeli military actions in the Palestinian territories.
“Let’s not forget the issue of the Israeli elections and Yair Lapid’s realization that he is seen as a weak military and security figure and wants to prove to the Israeli voter that he is capable of taking responsibility,” Shadid says.
But many observers believe that the daily Israeli army actions undermine the PA credibility and authority among Palestinians.
“These operations have negatively affected not only the PA, but also the Palestinians’ view of the PA after it failed in its national and liberation project, and also failed to assume its responsibility toward protecting the Palestinian people in the West Bank,” Shadid says, adding that “there is a significant decline in the popularity of the Fatah movement among its supporters. On the other hand, this will lead to an increase in the popularity of Hamas.”
Some analysts warn that the uptick in Palestinian attacks against Israel’s army and settlers in the West Bank, and the rise in Palestinian causalities this year, may spark a third intifada, or uprising; however, Shadid says it is premature to predict what will happen.
“The point of explosion in the West Bank, although it seems around the corner, will not happen yet. The lightning bolts are there, but they need someone to detonate them. I am convinced that the continuation of the process of assassinations and arrests will lead to the Big Bang,” Shadid says.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has several official titles preceding his name, among them the head of the Fatah movement, the largest and oldest Palestinian faction. The PA, which was formed following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, is largely made up of Fatah members, making a distinction between the two political entities almost impossible.
Fatah leader Rafaat Elyan says that the increase in Israeli army operations in the West Back is the cause of the rise in Palestinian attacks.
“The increase in operations against the occupation and the recent increase in weapons is caused by the daily Israeli raids, and the weakness of the PA,” Elyan says adding that the Palestinian street does not “deal with the PA with confidence.”
Although Abbas doesn’t travel much these days, he is scheduled to visit Cairo next week for a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, and he visited Ankara, Turkey two weeks ago; he occasionally visits Jordan for a quick hours-long trip for meetings with King Abdallah.
However, the 86-year-old Abbas rarely leaves his office in Ramallah. “Abbas is isolated,” Elyan says.
There are those who target the Fatah movement from within, says Elyan, through dismissals and exclusions from decisions.
“All this happens from the top of the pyramid and from the narrow ring around the top of the pyramid,” according to Elyan.
The general feeling among Palestinians is that a state of chaos exists within the PA, and the Fatah movement.
Deep internal disputes and fierce battles are taking place behind the scenes and behind closed doors throughout the West Bank between top Fatah officials. Infighting among top Fatah leaders for life after Abbas has begun, as they try to position themselves for the next phase in order to secure their political and personal interests.
A recent decision by the president to expel and marginalize top Fatah officials, to make way for his own loyalist to fill a vacuum, has infuriated many.
“These internal fights began to surface as a result of President Abbas’ real behavior as the head of the pyramid, and as a result of not adhering to the internal bylaws of the PLO and Fatah order,” says Elyan.
Elyan says many key Fatah members say that the current leadership has bypassed these laws within the movement, and that President Abbas has violated them with his decisions.
“Starting with the decision to dismiss Brother Mohammed Dahlan and those around him, Nasser Al-Qudwa, and the marginalization of the captive Cmdr. Marwan Barghouti, to what happened recently with brother Major General Tawfiq Al-Tirawi,” he says.
He adds that the main beneficiary of all this, strategically, is Israel. But internally there is no Palestinian beneficiary. “Whoever thinks that excluding his colleague in order to reach a personal goal is acceptable will pay the price,” Elyan concludes.
Abbas is threatening his critics and those who oppose his policies with a salary cut, termination, halting their advancement in government institutions and delinquency.
Palestinians say the absence of a regional and international vision for solving the Palestinian issue, and the absence of the Palestinian cause from the agendas of Arab and Islamic countries, has greatly weakened them.
“Arab and Islamic countries are evading their responsibilities toward the Palestinian cause. Add to that the bias of the United States of America to the side of Israel, that is contributing to the rising tension here,” according to Elyan.
The consensus among Palestinians is that the exit from the political bottleneck will only happen through the ballot.
“The real obstacle is President Mahmoud Abbas. In the presence of President Abbas, there will be no elections,” according to Elyan.
But the post-Abbas phase has another issue.
“The European Union cannot deal with the PA without oversight anymore, and it cannot deal with an authority without renewing its legitimacy,” Elyan says, adding that this goes also for the international community and Arab countries.
“Even Israel wants a Palestinian leadership that has legitimacy. The occupation wants to deal with a strong person that has mandate and legitimacy,” he says.
Shadid explains that, in light of the reality of the Palestinian division and the existence of two competing authorities – Hamas in Gaza, and Fatah and Abu Mazen in Ramallah, and without an effective participation and cooperation between them and in the absence of effective leadership on the ground, “no national movement can continue or political gain can be accomplished.”
Also, as long as the position of Fatah and its leaders is linked to the position of the PA, and its political agenda is linked to the survival of the authority, the authority has become a goal and not a national liberation movement.
The Fatah movement is no longer a Palestinian national liberation movement, but at the present time it has accepted coexistence under the Israeli occupation and not to be an equal or an opposition to the occupation.
“I do not think that the current leadership of the Fatah movement represents the Fatah street, its masses and its institutions,” Shadid says.
“In the last ten years, the Fatah movement was engineered to produce institutions that would be an arm of power. Today, Fatah is present in the West Bank to serve the PA’s project, not to serve a national project that sees Israel as an enemy,” he explains.
Shadid says that Abbas and other PA officials meeting with Israelis “embarrasses the PA.”
“Abbas must use his rhetoric to enable, support, and use these operations to strengthen his cards, and thus he can influence the Israeli street, both popularly and officially,” he says.
But Shadid argues that as long as Abbas has his so-called pragmatic and peaceful rhetoric, and he keeps on delegitimizing and fighting the armed resistance, the Israelis will use it to weaken him among Palestinians.
Ahmed Ghonim, a Fatah leader and a member of the Palestinian National Council, says that for more than 18 years the PA has been selling an illusion to the people for the sake of buying time.
He says the poor attitude feeding perception toward the PA leadership stems from several reasons.
“There is an absence of a leadership role to confront the occupation, and there is a state of adaptation and coexistence with this situation,” he says.
And, with the PA and its leadership being weak and fragmented, Ghonim says that things may reach a very dangerous stage in the near future.
“I think things have come to an end and the people cannot accept what is happening,” he says.
Regarding the current political situation, Ghoneim says there are two options; otherwise, he warns, the future looks bleak.
“The option of a safe transition to power through elections, or the other option, God forbid, which we do not want, is to leave matters to those competing to take over, and that may pull people into chaos and combustion,” he says.
Ghoneim says giving the decision on who will lead the Palestinians after Abbas to a small group that decides in closed rooms the fate of the people is “absolutely rejected.”
The story is written by Mohammad Al-Kasim and reprinted with permission from the Media Line.