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Inside Story
Waiting for a 'Palestinian Spring'?
As protests escalate in the West Bank over the rising cost of living, we ask what impact these will have on the PA.
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2012 14:44

Social protests in the West Bank have been escalating in line with the costs of living. Thousands of people marched in the streets demanding lower prices for fuel and food.

"Most of these problems have been accumulating over time ....  After the recent rise in prices of most goods [when] the wages remained the same, unfortunately the Palestinians couldn't handle it .... [But] most of the economic problems are ... caused by [the] Israeli occupation .... If the occupation ends now ... we might witness [a] huge growth in the GDP .... So the problem is for sure of [a] political nature, it's not just purely economic."

- Naser Abdelkarim, a financial consultant and economist

From his presidential compound in Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said he understood the people's anger and would act to help, but he said his government will not be able to pay employees their full salaries this month.

"We won't be able to pay full salaries this month because we don't have [enough money], because there is a siege, because there are some governments that don't want to pay, because there are some people who decided not to pay because some want us to kneel down, but we won't," he said.

The most recent cause of frustration for West Bank residents has been a fuel price increase of about five per cent, in addition to a year of steadily rising food prices.

In Hebron, Nablus and Bethlehem, protesters aimed their anger at Salam Fayyad, the prime minister, accusing him of following policies harmful to the poor and demanding that he resign.

But the ruling Palestinian Authority (PA) has long been complaining that delayed aid payments and restrictive Israeli economic policies are responsible for the hardship.

"If the problem was being caused by Israel ... Mahmoud Abbas should seek a political solution immediately .... The problems with the Palestinian economy emanate from three specific issues: number one is fiscal irresponsibility, number two is an addiction to international development aid and number three is the failure to develop Palestinian institutions."

- Gregg Roman, managing partner at Praetorian consultancy

And Abbas has promised to revive the Palestinian bid for recognition at the United Nations.

A similar bid failed last year, but Abbas told reporters on Saturday that he hopes sympathetic countries will push for the symbolic recognition of their state on September 27.

"When we go to the [UN] General Assembly, we will offer a proposal in which there will be a vote on whether we will be accepted as a non-member state in the United Nations. This will be on the 27th of this month," Abbas said.

So, just how challenging is the continuing public anger to the Palestinian Authority?

To discuss this issue, Inside Story, with presenter Teymour Nabili, is joined by guests: Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council; Naser Abdelkarim, a financial consultant and economist; and Gregg Roman, a managing partner at Praetorian consultancy specialising in political and geo-strategic issues.

"[It is] very, very hard [as] the crisis is touching everybody. It's really getting difficult for people. There is no work, no income while at the same time we have so many expenses. The people who govern us are responsible for this situation."

A Palestinian woman


 

THE SITUATION IN THE WEST BANK:

  • The PA's cash problems have led to a delay in paying the salaries of 153,000 civil servants
  • A fifth of the West Bank's 2.5 million Palestinians are unemployed
  • The PA will not seek to stop protests as long as they remain peaceful
  • Mahmoud Abbas: Palestinians cannot exploit 60 per cent of their land because of Israel
  • Abbas accuses Hamas of wanting to set up an Islamic emirate in Gaza
  • Reconciliation efforts between Hamas and the PA have failed

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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