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The Future of Palestinian Politics – The New Yorker



“The delegitimation of the Palestinian Authority has led to anger and frustration in certain parts of the West Bank, such as Nablus, and in some refugee camps,” Khalil Shikaki says.Source photograph by Nasser Ishtayeh / SOPA 

The Future of Palestinian Politics

A few months ago, Benjamin Netanyahu’s new right-wing government, which comprises several extremist parties, was sworn into office. Since then, violent confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians have been increasing, with settlers and the Israeli military killing more than sixty Palestinians, and Palestinians killing more than a dozen Israelis. For decades, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have faced an occupation that showed no signs of ending; this has stoked tremendous Palestinian anger and frustration toward Israelis, and toward their own leaders in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. There is increasing speculation that these factors will combine to create the conditions for another intifada.

To talk about the state of governance in the Palestinian territories, I recently spoke by phone with Khalil Shikaki, a political scientist and the director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed to what extent the new government in Israel might worsen the lives of Palestinians, the changing demographics and ideological make-up of Palestinians engaging in violent resistance, and the likelihood of another intifada.

How would you describe the current political situation among Palestinians, especially in the West Bank, as they face probably the most extreme government in Israel’s history?


There is a great deal of discontent internally. There’s no doubt that the Palestinians are unhappy with their own leadership and their own political system. In terms of relations with Israel, there is obviously a prevailing perception that the state of Israel is not after peace and that the Palestinians should be preparing themselves for conflict. That conflict would touch on all the basic issues, including land and public life and Jerusalem and so on. The perception is that it’s just a matter of time before this conflict becomes open warfare and the current status quo becomes untenable.

Is there a specific problem that Palestinians have with the Palestinian Authority? Is it that the idea that coöperating with Israel would eventually bring a state, or would at least bring an Israeli willingness to allow a Palestinian state, was naïve?

The Israeli dimension for the discontent is obvious. But there are other critiques, which is to say that there is a perception that the Palestinian Authority leadership is interested more in maintaining the status quo, maintaining its position in power, and that it is willing to turn a blind eye and not confront Israeli policy, and that it puts its own self-interest and survival ahead of the interests of the Palestinian people.

There are other areas that have been building up gradually. The current leadership has been in place since 2009 without electoral legitimacy, and this question of legitimacy—the absence of elections—is one reason why there is a lot of discontent. There are other reasons that have to do with governance, too—most importantly a perception that there is a great deal of corruption within the institution of the Palestinian Authority. There are also perceptions that the Authority is becoming a one-man show, that it is highly authoritarian, that there is no separation of powers anymore, that the judiciary has been undermined considerably, and that there is no legislature, and so there is no accountability or oversight in the political system.

There is another issue beyond legitimacy and the nature of the political system that has to do with the absence of unity: the division between the West Bank and Gaza and the lack of reconciliation between the two major political parties, Fatah and Hamas. Many people blame that on the Palestinian Authority rather than on Hamas, although of course many also blame Hamas. But there has been a growing perception in the last ten years, I would say, that the Palestinian Authority is becoming more hard-line and much less willing to reconcile and to reunify the West Bank and Gaza.

These are essentially the domestic dynamics that have been creating the discontent, particularly among young people. The level of discontent with the Palestinian Authority and the political system is much deeper among the youth. Those between the ages of fifteen and thirty have been most negatively affected.

Everything that you’re describing—a general Israeli unwillingness to allow a Palestinian state, problems of governance in the Palestinian Authority—existed before the current Israeli government came to power. Will the new government really change the dynamics?

These things existed anyway—you’re absolutely right. The change is perhaps quantitative rather than qualitative. However, given that this change is going to impact all the important issues in Israeli-Palestinian relations—Jerusalem, holy places—it will probably lead to greater deterioration within the Palestinian Authority, making it even weaker than it was before, and making Israeli-Palestinian confrontations more lethal, more likely to expand, and the dominant manner in which Palestinians and Israelis interact. It is essentially a matter of speed and of quantity, but it’s not a matter of quality in terms of how Palestinians and Israelis have interacted during the last decade, or even more than a decade. Certainly, it’s been this way since 2014, when the last Israeli-Palestinian negotiations ended.

For people within the Palestinian Authority, or in general for people who favor coöperation with Israel now, or who think that coöperation with Israel is the way to bring political change—what are they telling Palestinians? What is their message? It’s very bleak to admit, but it’s hard to think of what such people could now say to defend that approach.

It would be a message that violence is not an alternative. That Palestinians should continue to reach out to the Israelis. That resistance should not become violent, because it would be destructive to the interests of the Palestinians. That, rather than turning to violence, Palestinians should use nonviolent means. That building international consensus and bringing all kinds of pressure to bear on Israel will ultimately lead to a change within Israel and will force Israel to confront the reality on the ground. That the continuation of the occupation will become costly and as a result Israel will have no choice but to either end its occupation or allow the emergence of one state in which Palestinians and Israelis would have equal rights.

This is the message that [Mahmoud] Abbas has been using. He is an advocate of nonviolent resistance. He has launched a campaign of internationalization of the conflict where he goes after Israel and tries to bring international pressure on Israel by going to the International Criminal Court, for example. Or by joining other international organizations, such as the U.N., where a majority of the members condemn Israeli measures.

This would be the message of those in the Palestinian leadership who advocate a kind of coöperation policy. “Coöperation” might not be the exact word they would use, but it does involve coöperation, because it does mean continued security coördination and civil coördination with the Israelis. It essentially means that the Palestinians remain constrained by the existing terms of reference that exist in the agreement that has been signed with Israel since 1993—the Oslo Accords.

Could this message appeal to Palestinians, even with a different Palestinian Authority or a different leader of the Palestinian Authority? Or do you think that the circumstances on the ground make it impossible for anyone to sell that message anymore?

This message is very difficult to sell to the Palestinian public. This is part of the discontent that I described earlier. For the vast majority—that is, three-quarters or more of Palestinians—the state of Israel and the current Israeli leadership is not seen as a partner for peace. The perception is that Israel is building settlements right in the heart of the future Palestinian state and is therefore not committed to a peace agreement. Rather, it intends to continue to colonize the occupied territories, will never end the occupation, and will never end the status quo that keeps the Palestinians in limbo. Any Palestinian leader will find it very difficult to sell the narrative that Abbas is trying to sell.

Now, Abbas could improve on his message and perhaps gain some support. There are Palestinians who certainly agree with him that violence does not pay, that violence is the wrong way to go. They would agree with him that the Palestinians should reach out to the Israelis as much as possible and try to build coalitions with like-minded Israelis who want a two-state solution. They would agree with him that there is a need to use international organizations and international rules to pressure Israel and force it to pay a price for the continued occupation.

But they would disagree with him, perhaps, on the position that they would describe as one of status quo, as one that lacks initiative. A week or so ago, for example, settlers attacked a town called Huwara and burned houses and property and cars and so on. There was no Palestinian presence to be seen. This area actually is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, where rule of law is its responsibility. The Palestinian police should have been deployed and should have immediately come to the assistance of the Palestinians who were in that area. Instead, they abandoned the town.

This is just one example; during the past decade, there have been hundreds if not thousands of cases where settlers attacked Palestinians in towns that are supposed to be protected by the Palestinian police. But the Palestinian police are almost never seen and they never confront settlers. This is just one example where the Palestinian Authority is seen as failing the Palestinian people. Abbas tells the international community to come to the aid of Palestinian civilians, but he himself is unable to send the police to do that. The Palestinian Authority has to have the mission of protecting Palestinians—not just protecting Israeli civilians and settlers from attacks from other Palestinians.

A new Palestinian resistance group called the Lions’ Den has been growing recently. What can you tell me about them?

The discontent that I spoke about earlier—the increased level of delegitimation of the Palestinian Authority—has led to a lot of anger and frustration in certain parts of the West Bank, such as Nablus, and in some refugee camps. Armed groups have emerged basically from young kids, fifteen to twenty-five years old, maybe up to thirty, who have taken the initiative to build organizations that are not affiliated with any existing political parties, such as Hamas or Fatah. Most of them come from a nationalist, secularist background rather than a religious background, and they have essentially decided that they will take matters into their own hands. They will prevent Israeli incursions into their neighborhoods and towns and villages. They will not allow the Palestinian security services to deploy in their areas to try to disarm or arrest them.

This is the result of the vacuum that has been created in those areas. This has also led the Israeli army to increase the frequency of its own incursions, which has led to greater casualties, because every time they try to enter these areas they’re confronted. These youngsters have been very successful in using social media—TikTok for example—and have been filming their encounters. The live videos of them confronting the army has made them very popular. So the trend is in fact for these groups to expand, to have more recruits, and this will likely mean more incursions.

In addition to causing casualties, these incursions are also harming the credibility of the Palestinian Authority, which is seen as being discredited because it does nothing to confront the Israeli army. The police and other security services essentially abandon the Palestinians and the neighborhoods when the army enters. The perception that the Palestinian security services are collaborators or almost collaborators is also widespread among these groups. As long as the Palestinian Authority continues to weaken, these groups will continue to expand. Which of course basically creates this vicious circle.

During the last thirty years or so, there’s been a perception that the Palestinians interested in resisting Israel by force rather than compromise tend to be much more religious—in some cases, fanatically religious. You’re saying that that is not the case here?

That summary is certainly accurate. It had to do with the fact that the mainstream secular nationalist force, which is Fatah, signed the Oslo Accords with Israel. Instead of fighting for the liberation of their homeland, they have essentially tried to build a state or to build the institutions of a state while the occupation continues and at the same time prevent violence by other Palestinians. So the violence that remained as a result of that change, which occurred in 1993, was Islamist violence—Hamas, Islamic Jihad. There was a change of heart among the secular nationalists during the second intifada—which started in 2000 and ended in 2005—in which seculars also joined forces. But it was the Islamists who took the lead in carrying out the most lethal attacks against Israelis.

But during the last two years, we have seen these youngsters who come from secular nationalist families in the West Bank. Based on our surveys, only twenty per cent of Palestinians between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine who live in the West Bank identify as religious. But obviously it should be said that these youngsters do not have the capacity to build organizationally and to train themselves and to finance their activities without someone helping. For the most part, Islamist groups have been providing the assistance. These groups—Islamic Jihad and Hamas—have had to change their own relationship with secular nationalist groups and individuals. They’re supporting them, training them, and funding them in some cases.

For Islamist groups to trust these secular nationalist youngsters and to spend their resources on these groups is a significant change. Of course, the goal is to destabilize the Palestinian Authority and to try and create conditions in the West Bank where Palestinians and Israelis confront each other violently. But this is something that they have not done in the past; this is something that they started to do only in recent years. So, there is an element of Islamism still involved in this, but the foot soldiers remain essentially secular and nationalist.

What signals are you looking at to determine whether a new intifada will start?

There isn’t going to be an intifada as long as the Palestinian Authority is strong enough to be able to deliver basic services and to deploy its security forces in most of the West Bank. This is the real challenge for the Palestinian Authority—and it is not known when it might no longer be able to accomplish that. For now it is able to do so. The leadership issue is also part of that because the leadership can decide that it will fight against a third intifada or that it will allow a third intifada to take place. In 2000, [Yasser] Arafat decided to allow an intifada to take place and the Palestinian security services and other public institutions were too weak to be able to withstand the change that was generated by the violence. They collapsed very quickly and this led to a process that helped to sustain the intifada, which lasted five years.

Today, those two issues are not present. There is not a leadership that will make the decision to allow this process to unfold without putting brakes on it or stopping it whenever it could. Secondly, the institutions of the Palestinian Authority are much stronger now than they were in 2000, and this is particularly true for the security sector. Still, despite what I’ve just said, the security sector today is unable to deploy everywhere in the West Bank. For example, in the past two weeks, we have seen a new group that has emerged in the north of the West Bank that the Palestinian Authority is trying to arrest and disarm. So, the Palestinian Authority is still trying.

If the security services succeed in containing that group, it will show that the idea of a third intifada isn’t something that will happen fast. This will be a very slow process. But the weakness of the Palestinian Authority is also generated by steps that the Israelis take, including financial steps. These are the punitive acts that the Israeli government essentially adopt to punish the P.A. for decisions that it doesn’t like. For example, the last decision was to double the amount of money deducted from the clearance funds that Israel transfers on a monthly basis to the Palestinian Authority. [This refers to Palestinian tax revenue that Israel collects and transfers to the P.A.; Israel claims its deductions are intended to match the amount that the P.A. gives to families of Palestinians fighting the occupation, whom Israel considers terrorists.] This is very dangerous in terms of the capacity of the P.A. to deliver basic services and pay salaries for the public sector. This could continue because this is a much more extreme or right-wing government that wants to demonstrate to its constituency that it is different from the previous Israeli government.

The measures that are being taken against the P.A. certainly weaken it, and as it becomes weaker, eventually it will find it very difficult to maintain control over the major cities, or major cities with refugee camps, where these armed groups have managed to recruit a large number of people and get their hands on a large number of arms. So, if a third intifada is to come along, it’ll come along on a gradual basis as we continue to watch the Palestinian Authority’s capacity diminish over time. ♦

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Watch: Bethany Mandel, a conservative author, was asked to define 'woke'. Her response went viral – CNN



Question stumps conservative commentator, goes viral

Conservative author Bethany Mandel, whose new book is centered around the term “woke,” struggled to define it during an interview. CNN anchor Abby Phillip and the “Inside Politics” panel discuss the debate surrounding the term.


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Foreign interference: Conservatives forcing vote on new study – CTV News



In an effort to keep the foreign interference story at the forefront, and to do an apparent end run around the Liberal filibuster blocking one study from going ahead, the Conservatives forced the House to spend Monday debating a motion instructing an opposition-dominated House committee to strike its own review.

Monday was a Conservative opposition day in the House of Commons, allowing the Official Opposition to set the agenda, and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre picked a motion that, if passed, would have the House of Commons Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee embark on a fresh foreign interference study. The motion is set to come to a vote on Tuesday.

The motion also contains clear instructions that the committee—chaired by Conservative MP John Brassard— call Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford to testify under oath, followed by numerous other officials and players believed to have insight surrounding allegations of interference by China in last two federal elections.


Among the other names the Conservatives are pushing to come testify: Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, authors of the Critical Election Incident Public Protocol reports for the 2019 and 2021 elections James Judd and Morris Rosenberg, respectively, and former Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation officials.

Also on the list: many federal security officials who have already testified and told MPs they are limited in what they can say publicly, current and former ambassadors to China, a panel of past national campaign directors as well as the representatives on the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) task force from each major party.

Trudeau’s name is not on the witness list, but that could change down the line depending on the trajectory of the testimony and how the story evolves. In order to fit in what would be more than a dozen additional hours of testimony, the motion prescribes that the committee meet at least one extra day each week regardless of whether the House is sitting, and have priority access to House resources.

All of this was sparked by The Globe and Mail and Global News reports citing largely unnamed intelligence sources alleging specific attempts by Beijing to alter the outcomes of the 2019 and 2021 campaigns and what the opposition thinks is an insufficient response by the Liberal government. 

Officials have repeatedly asserted the integrity of both elections held, despite China’s interference efforts.


The Conservative motion dominated Monday’s question period, with two central questions swirling: How will the NDP vote? And will the Liberals make it a confidence vote?

So far the NDP have not tipped their hat in terms of their voting intention, with signals being sent that the caucus is still considering its options, while expressing some concerns with the motion’s scope and witness list. 

During debate, NDP House Leader Peter Julian said that while the motion has some positive elements, others are curious. He pointed to a motion the New Democrats will be advancing later this week, asking for a public inquiry into foreign interference efforts broadly, as better addressing Canadians’ calls than focusing in just on China. 

The Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois wouldn’t have the votes to see it pass without them, and one-by-one Conservative MPs have risen in the House to put more pressure on the NDP to vote with them. 

“While this motion is a test for this government, it is also a test for the NDP,” said Conservative MP and one of the party’s leading spokespeople on the story Michael Cooper, kicking off the debate on Monday.

“The NDP has a choice: They can continue to do the bidding for this corrupt Liberal government, propping up this corrupt prime minister. Or, they can work with us to protect the sanctity of the ballot box and the integrity of our elections by working to get the answers that Canadians deserve… We will soon find out what choice they make,” Cooper said.

The New Democrats have been in favour of an as-public-as-possible airing of the facts around interference, including hearing from Telford and other top staffers, as they’ve been pushing for at the Procedure and House Affairs Committee (PROC).That effort though, has been stymied by close to 24 hours of Liberal filibustering preventing the proposal from coming to a vote.

If the New Democrats support Poilievre’s motion, it’ll pass and spark this new committee study.

But, if the Liberals want to shut this effort down, Trudeau could declare it a confidence motion and tie NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s hands, unless he’s ready to end the confidence-and-supply agreement, which is coming up on its one-year anniversary. 

The premise of the pact is that the NDP would prop-up the Liberals on any confidence votes in exchange for progressive policy action. Part of the deal predicates discussions between the two parties on vote intentions ahead of declaring a vote is a matter of confidence.

In weighing whether this is confidence vote-worthy, Trudeau would likely be assessing whether risking an election call over an election interference controversy —which could be the result of a failed confidence vote given the Liberals’ minority standing—is the right move.

Asked by reporters on Monday whether the prime minister will be designating the vote a matter of confidence, Government House Leader Mark Holland wouldn’t say.

“We are having ongoing discussions and dialogue. I think that it’s not helpful to jump to the end of a process when we’re still having conversations, Holland said. “I understand the temptation to go to the end of the process when we’re still in the middle of it…We’re in a situation right now where we continue to have these discussions.”

In weighing whether this is confidence vote-worthy, Trudeau’s top advisers would likely be assessing whether risking an election call over an election interference controversy —which could be the result of a failed confidence vote given the Liberals’ minority standing—is the right move.

Decrying the motion as “heavily steeped in partisan politics” with the objective of playing “games with what is an enormously serious issue,” Holland suggested that some of those listed by the Conservatives, including Telford, were not best placed to speak to concerns around foreign interference in the last two elections.

“It is not a move aimed at trying to get answers, or trying to get information,” Holland said.

The Liberal House leader also echoed the prime minister’s past position that calling staffers who can’t say much, and other officials who have already testified, to come and say again that they’re unable to answer more detailed questions due to their oaths to uphold national security, won’t help assuage Canadians’ concerns over China’s interference.


During his time as democratic reform minister under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, Poilievre was opposed—as the Liberals are now— to having staff testify at committees.

Asked why it is so important from his party’s perspective to have Telford appear, Poilievre said last week that because she’s been involved with Trudeau’s campaigns, from his leadership bid through the last two federal elections, she would be aware of all of the intelligence briefings he’d been provided. He did not acknowledge that, like the prime minister, she too would be restricted in speaking publicly about them.

“She knows all the secrets. It’s time for her to come forward and honestly testify about what happened. What was Beijing’s role in supporting Justin Trudeau? And how do we prevent this kind of interference from ever happening again in Canada?” Poilievre said.

This move comes after Trudeau’s pick of former governor general David Johnston as the special rapporteur to look into foreign interference and provide recommendations to further shore up Canada’s democracy became highly politicized over Conservative and Bloc Quebecois questioning of his impartiality and potential conflict of interest given his connections to the Trudeau family and foundation.

On Friday, Trudeau said the Conservatives are politicizing the important issue of Canadians’ confidence in elections, while defending his pick as “absolutely unimpeachable.” He sought to explain why he’s gone the route of tapping an independent investigator and asking for closed-door national security bodies to review the facts.

“Canadians aren’t even sure if this government is really focused on their best interests or is in the pockets of some foreign government. That’s something that needs to be dealt with extraordinarily seriously,” Trudeau said. “And the partisan nature of politics means that no matter what I say, people are going to wonder— if they didn’t vote for me— whether or not they can trust me. And that polarization is getting even more serious.”

Pointing to Poilievre’s past cabinet position, Trudeau noted: “He was in charge of the integrity of our elections. He was in charge at the time, of making sure that China or others weren’t influencing our elections. He understands how important this, or he should.” 

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This ain't no party, but populism is destroying our federal politics – The Hill Times



Something fundamental, and dangerous, has happened to the normally partisan world of politics, with all it warts. Populism has arrived like an 18-wheeler crashing into a bridge abutment, scattering its ugly cargo of racism, xenophobia, and trumped up distrust of government and government institutions all over the road.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Incumbent governments are not just incompetent boobs who are mucking things up and ought to be shown the door. They are now the ‘enemy,’ who must not only be replaced, but wiped out, writes Michael Harris.


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