|Ban Ki-moon and Abbas at the Cairo conference to "re-build" Gaza|
I spoke to a tribal figure from Nablus, and asked him what he thought of Abbas’ quest for statehood, he told me:”This is another bad movie from Abbas, what state? A state of poverty? A police state? This is what the PA brought us since it arrived here”, “Abu Mazen [Abbas] controls some of the West Bank and we are already living a nightmare in those areas, why should we want to expand Abbas’ control to the rest of the West Bank?”, “Before Oslo, we all thought we would have a state instead of occupation, what we got is a state of disaster and a new occupation called the PA”
A businessman from Bethlehem told me: “Abu Mazen went after the statehood to defuse our anger against him and our bad living conditions, he wants something to make him look like a hero, and that is why he is playing this statehood comedy”, “We want a state, but before that we want jobs, food on our tables and running water, these are things Israel secured for us when it was here, and under the PA we cannot even afford the basics of life”, he adds “Take Bethlehem for example, before the PA took over, the Al-Quds street in Bethlehem was a crossway from Israel to Jerusalem, [Israeli] Jews used to travel through it, shop, vacation and invest here, and the city was about the most thriving town in the West Bank, when the PA came, the first thing it did was banning Jews from entering the area and we lost the business that came from them and Bethlehem has been in economic ruins ever since”.
|Israeli - West Bank wall|
Khaleel’s son, a lawyer in training, joined the discussion, he said:”Most of us [Palestinians] here are afraid of PA takeover of Eastern Jerusalem or any part of it, that is why most of us have applied for Israeli citizenship, we are afraid that we could become Palestinian citizens instead of Israel’s residents…we don’t want to lose everything so Abbas could sit in the UN as head of state”
A souvenir shop owner in Jerusalem –who is a Hamas loyalist and a frequent guest on Hamas’ TV Al-Aqsa– told me:”I have applied for an Israeli citizenship myself, Israel gives us many benefits and retirement pensions, I will keep working on saving Al-Aqsa from Jews, but I also have to take care of my family and the future of my kids”.
I asked him why couldn’t he see “the future of his kids” with the Palestinian state Abbas is trying to have recognized through the UN, he said: “Abbas will build a state that serves him not us, I am getting older and I need a pension, Israel could secure that for me, not Abbas!”
An Israeli Knesset Member confirmed to me that the Israeli government witnessed a record increase in the number of citizenship application from Palestinians from Jerusalem after Abbas began seeking the statehood status.
The journalist’s father who joined us for the discussion said:”When Israel took over the West Bank from the Jordanian king in 1967, we were poor and unemployment was a major problem, a year after Israel took over, the economy was thriving and all of us found jobs, this is because Israel is a modern state, with a professional system, now if we replaced Israel’s system with the PA’s administration which made us poor again “,”People [West Bankers] cannot tell you this openly, but God knows they would rather be under Israel than under Abbas”.
S. a Ramallah-based businessman and a native to Hebron told me:”Abbas having a state is like playing house, a state that exists in his own fantasy, but for us, we are concerned that Israel would give Abbas Area C [C areas are West Bank regions that are under full Israeli control, http://www.biu.ac.il/SOC/besa/books/maps.htm] those areas are our normal resorts in the West Bank, if the PA gets those we will have no hope left for us on all aspects”.
I asked him why “he would lose hope if Abbas takes over the rest of the West Bank”, he responded: ”Let’s just do some comparison, before the PA came, cars were cheap and we were able to drive brand new German cars, when the PA came, the first thing they did was imposing 150 percent tariff on each car”, “a car that costs $10,000 in Israel costs more than 25,000 in the PA areas”.”Then they increased all sorts of taxes, we started paying taxes we never heard of under Israel, for example, people pay a special tax for supporting Palestinian refugees abroad, and I have relatives who are refugees in Jordan, I never heard they got anything from the PA, why does the PA take our money and gives us almost zero services?”.
I asked him why was he unhappy with the PA monopolization of the communications as it secures him a job, his answer was: ”they pay us nothing, we get a fraction of what our counterparts in Israeli companies get”.
M. a resident of Tulkarem, Northern West Bank, noted that the PA imposed a “departure fee” on travelers leaving from the West Bank to Jordan, each traveler has to pay $50 to the PA, a family of 4 will have to pay $200 just to travel to Jordan, which is a substantial amount of money for West Banker. He told me: ”Israel ran the Palestinians’ departure points with Jordan for almost 50 years and it never imposed any fees, the minute Israel gave the PA the right to oversee the Palestinians leaving to Jordan, the PA imposed this fee”, “What will happen if Israel gives the PA the entire West Bank? We will end up with more trouble and even higher taxes.”
A professor who lectures at a West Bank university told me: ”Abbas and his administration could be the only people interested in the statehood, most Palestinians couldn’t care less about that” I asked him why, he replied “I could draw a comparison between the Palestinians today and the Russians when the USSR began to collapse, the Soviets were taught to hate the West and capitalism for decades and all of a sudden they discovered that communism and the USSR is not what they wanted… in the same way we were brought up to hate Jews and to seek to liberate Palestine, and now we found out that a liberated Palestine is not in our best interest; as each and every one of liberated Palestinian towns has fallen into misery and trouble, if that is liberation, I would rather be under occupation”.
Another Palestinian Western-educated professor told me: ”We thought the PA would be the messiah, it turned out to be a monkey in the middle, complicating our daily lives, making our livelihoods difficult and causing both, the Israelis and us, more trouble”, “The only achievement the PA has brought was enriching its own leaders… while our people keep getting poorer by the day, and now Abbas wants a state; I can say on behalf of all people here in the West Bank that we do want a state but not under Abbas nor under the PA” He then adds: ”I would rather be under a fair and logical enemy like Israel instead of dictatorial and thuggish friend like the PA”.
Mohammad, a shopkeeper in the small town of Batonia, near Ramallah, told me:” before the PA came, we were able to go everywhere in Israel, we could drive to Tel Aviv, we spent vacations in the North [of Israel], and we swam in Eilat’s sea [Southern Israel], now we just have boundaries upon boundaries and a Palestinian state does not mean we will have those boundaries removed, but rather enforced on us”
the PA is just a Mafioso-like organization which is controlling the Palestinians’ lives”, “An occupation is much better than a dictatorship, at least you would call an occupier an occupier, while the PA is state is a thug-regime claiming to be our liberators”.
O., a Palestinian Christian, told me:”I used to be an active member of the PLO until the PA arrived here and I saw how badly they treat the people, now I am against the PA, against the PLO and against a Palestinian state”, “Under the PA our people became poor and have lost everything”, “Ask any Palestinian here would they rather be under Israel’s rule or the PA’s rule?”,”We have had enough of this big lie called liberation, I will hate Israel until I die, but I cannot trust any other option as they are all bad: the PA, Hamas, and who knows maybe even ISIS soon!” He adds “We thought we could have a Palestinian state and enjoy Israeli benefits and thriving economy at the same time, what we ended up with is a neither a state nor an occupation, the PA acts like an occupation, like a gang and collects our taxes and leaves nothing for the people, and now they are talking about a state? No thanks”.
A known West Bank feminist and activist told me: ”Things are better under Israel, what we Palestinians have today is a literal example of ‘be careful what you wish for, you might have it’; we wanted Israel out and we got that and the PA destroyed our lives and now many wish Israel would come back, but none dares to say it openly”, I asked her why is that, she said: “The PA would imprison anyone who criticizes it, at least we had democracy when Israel was here”.
I spoke to M., a resident of a Bedouin town in area C, [which is under Israel's control], he said: ”God forbid that the PA comes here”, “We don’t want to be under the PA”, “Most of the residents of this town work in the transportation industry, we buy cheap vans from Israel and operate them using the Israeli license plates, if the PA comes it will impose a 150% tariff on our cars which is close to 200% per van”, “also, the PA’s police will be issuing us tickets left and right like they do in the areas they control, we also will lose the Israeli water supply and we will be like PA areas where they have no running water and have to buy it from private suppliers.”
I asked a private water distributor why there wasn’t a constant water supply to PA-controlled cities in West Bank, he replied: ”There is enough water reserves in the West Bank, but since Israel pulled out from most Palestinian cities; the PA has been poorly-managing our water and as a result we are always thirsty”, “If the PA takes over more towns we will become more thirsty’, “I hate Israel but I don’t want to die of hunger and thirst so PA becomes the Palestinian State and takes more areas”.
I spoke to a public figure from Jineen, Northern West Bank, he told me: “We never knew this corrupt, thuggish and ridiculous PA was in our future, I am in my sixties and I have lived under the Jordanians, the Israelis and the PA, and the Israelis were the most decent of them all”, “I am not saying I miss Israel, I am just saying we lived as normal human beings only under Israel”, “Abbas’ state-dreams mean nothing to us, he is doing this because he needs a new arrangement to keep him in power and he wants that under international blessing, that is why he wants a UN recognition of state”, “His state is going to mean more unemployment and poverty for us, I say to him may God rewards you for your kindness Abbas but we do not need your state”.
A tribal figure from Hebron told me: ”Before the PA, we used to work in Israel and in the Israeli settlements, now our sons cannot find work, and the PA bans them from working at Israeli settlements, all at the same time PA officials are dining and wining in Tel Aviv, even Abbas’ wife received treatment in an Israeli hospital at the helm of the Gaza war”, “The PA wants to be the sole agent and the only medium of connecting us to Israel and the rest of the world, so we become prisoners in a cage to which the PA holds the key”, “To summarize things in two lines: under Israel we were praying to God to have mercy on us and we did not realize that we were already living in mercy until Israel left and the PA came here”.
|Jewish settlement - West Bank|
Even the internet is expensive in the Palestinian areas. W. is an internet cafe owner in Ramallah, he told me: “The Internet service in our areas costs almost double the price of that in Israel at half the speed”, ” I know the internet service we have is basically an extension of the Israeli internet and communications services, if the Palestinian internet companies would leave us alone, we would buy the internet service from Israel directly, but they have a monopoly from the PA and they treat us as their slaves, charging us high prices and providing us bad service”.
W.’s brother commented “Be it internet, electricity, water, food or anything else we had it better off under Israel and we miss the days Israel was here, but we cannot say this loudly or we will go to jail or be called traitors”.
I went to Hebron, which is considered the Hamas-garrison in the West Bank. I arrived there in August -while Israel’s operation Protective Edge was ongoing- with daily confrontations between the locals and the IDF. The situation was so tense and it was very difficult to get people to talk. Through personal connections and acquaintances, I was able to eventually speak to some people.
A successful industrialist who exports his products to the Israeli market told me: ”Hebron is the business and industry hub of the West Bank, our community has never been interested in politics until recently when the PA’s corruption made us lose hope and disrupted our businesses and jobs”, “Our young men can no longer find work like before, and Hamas offers them money in exchange of loyalty.”, “Hamas pays money to our young men to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers and settlers which disturbs our security and hurts our economy even further”, “Since the beginning of the Gaza war our city has been under an economic stalemate, Hamas pays our young men up to NIS 2500 ($600) per month to cause trouble,”, “Most residents of Hebron would like for this to end and this could never end while the PA is in existence and I warn the Americans and the Israelis that if you keep the situation as is or give Abbas more power; trouble will increase because Abbas is a part of the problem”, “The US and Israel have to think of a solution, the situation is a time bomb that will hurt all of us”.
I visited a major refugee camp at a very tense time: operation Protective Edge was at the helm and on the very same evening I entered the camp, the IDF arrested a Hamas member who was hiding there.
I spoke to a leading figure there, he told me: ”The PA controls our income and gambles with our fate and they are no better than Hamas”, “If you ask me, the only reason we are not in a bad situation like those in Gaza is because Israel still has some control over the PA, if the PA gets its own way, we will be much worse off”, “We know now the PA was a mistake for all of us, and we yearn to the old days [under Israel]”
I asked him:”If that is the case, how come anti-Israeli graffiti is all over the walls of Aida refugee camp?”. He replied to me: ”People will always hate Israel, this will not change, but the younger generation has been brainwashed into deeper hatred for Jews by the PA’s TV, in fact, our children and grandchildren are more hateful of Israel than we have ever been, nonetheless, those young men are not willing to die in order to fight Israel, that is why there were not any serious anti-Israeli protests here in the West Bank during this [Gaza] war; people want to make a living; the young men posting anti-Israeli slogans would do anything to find a job in Israel or inside the settlements”.
K is a laborer from a small town in the West Bank, he said: “I have been working legally inside Israel for almost a year and made good money; I was able to buy a house, pay for my wedding and buy a small car”, “Now my work permit is about to expire and I am not sure Israel will renew it for me and I don’t know what will I do then”,” I’m working in Israel during this war in Gaza and I was thinking: we [the Palestinians] seek to work in Israel, import goods from Israel and at the same time we pray to God that He destroys Israel! This does not add up? What are we seeking? A Palestinian state run by the nasty PA bunch?”.
The man’s father joined the discussion: ”I served with the Israeli civil administration of the West Bank before Oslo as a public servant”.”Life was good, pay was great and our Israeli bosses were polite”, “They managed the land well, they provided to everyone and they took care of us despite us being openly anti-Israel”, “They used to take us on trips and vacations inside Israel, they gave us bonuses and they gave us generous loans, the minute the PA arrived they stripped us from all of our benefits and almost halved our salaries”.
B is a businessman and a public figure: ”We replaced Israel’s democratic westernized system with an ancient tribal system we call the PA”, “We would not want the PA to take over any further towns”, “Before the PA used to do business across the country, we were free to go everywhere”, “I even knew Sharon [late Israeli Prime Minister] personally and I used to buy sheep from him, he treated me fairly and he never used his position against me, the PA officials blackmail me and extort me, and unless you pay them bribes they would shut down your business, I say this publicly, I wish we were under Israel’s occupation and I do not want a Palestinian state under the PA criminals”.
A Palestinian journalist who writes for a known Palestinian news website, told me: ”No Palestinians really care for Abbas quest for a state, this is nothing on their table, and nor are they even interested in this”, “People in the West Bank are very anti-Israel, but they hate the PA just as much as they hate Israel”.
E is a Christian lawyer from Beit Allah, he said: “The PA is worst thing that has ever happened to Palestinians and especially us Christians, the PA destroyed our livelihoods and we are neither impressed by, nor interested in, the PA becoming a state,”, “In fact we are afraid of a Palestinian state for two reasons: the first; a Palestinian state means more Palestinian towns under Abbas, which is a spreading of misery.”, “The second reason is the fact that Israel could boycott the new state just like Gaza, because Abbas is breaking the Oslo agreement by unilaterally seeking the statehood, and we do not want to be in the Gaza scenario”.