The Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas announced that he will set a date for elections in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza, during a speech at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on 9/26. The last general elections were in 2006. In his speech, President Abbas asked the UN to monitor the process.
After the PA ended all bilateral agreements with Israel in July (see below), President Abbas called on Hamas to revamp the reconciliation efforts. Hamas released a statement praising the PA for ending the agreements with Israel, calling it a step in the right direction.
PA Response to Stalled Peace Process and Manama Workshop
As any meaningful effort to advance the Palestinian-Israeli peace process remained completely stalled and peace process theatrics like the Manama Workshop, which ended during the final days of the last quarter, ended unfruitfully, the PA said it would negotiate with Israel and the United States (U.S.) under the condition of abiding by UN resolutions.
On 7/22, Israel demolished 10 Palestinian-owned apartment buildings with 70 apartments in the Wadi Hummus area of Sur Bahir partly located in Area A and B, which is under PA jurisdiction on civil issues. The demolitions were widely condemned by the international community and the PA and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN to investigate the incident as they believe the demolitions constitute a war crime under the 4th Geneva Convention. After the demolitions, the PA also responded to Israel’s transgressions of the Oslo agreement by saying that it no longer would recognize the division of the West Bank into areas A, B, and C as put forward by the Oslo Accords. The division was meant to be dissolved in 1999, but Israel never gave up its presence in areas B and C. The PA also said it would end all bilateral agreements with Israel, including security coordination.
During Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election campaign in September, he vowed to annex parts of the West Bank, including most of the Jordan Valley and all Israeli settlements, if he was reelected. In response, the PA government held its weekly cabinet meeting in Fasayil in the Jordan Valley. At the meeting, PA prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said that annexation would be “null and void” and complained that Netanyahu was out fishing for votes at the expense of Palestinians.
In a last act of escalation of tensions this quarter, Israeli arrested PA Jerusalem minister Fadi Hidmi during a house raid, who was previously arrested by Israel in June. Jerusalem Minister Hidmi was arrested for “conducting political activity” in East Jerusalem, which Israel prohibits in the annex city. During a raid the same day, Israel also summoned PA governor of Jerusalem Adnan Ghaith for questioning as he was not home when the Israeli forces raided his home.
A court in Israel also ruled that the PA could be held responsible for attacks on Israelis during the 2d intifada that it did not have any knowledge of before they were carried out. For more, see Israel.
Other Foreign Relations
Several PA and PLO officials reached out to Lebanon on behalf of the Palestinian refugees in the country after the Lebanese government instituted new measures against foreign labor, which include Palestinian refugees despite many of them having been in the country since the Nakba. For more on the Lebanese measures on Palestinian refugee labor rights, see Lebanon.
During a trip by U.S. congresspeople to Israel, some met with PA president Mahmoud Abbas, who explained why the PA has rejected the U.S. Trump administration’s approach to the peace process. The congresspeople were led the Democratic house minority leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD). A couple of days later, PA prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh met with 37 members of congress in Ramallah.
The financial crisis faced by the PA, in large part due to Israel withholding parts of the PA tax revenue and the PA refusing to take any if not all of the revenue, continued to affect Palestinian civil servants and retirees. In early August, the PA announced it would only pay its civil servants and retirees 60 percent of their July salaries due to the crisis, but no less than $554. This was the 6th month in a row that the PA paid deduced salaries. In late August, the PA announced it would pay its civil servants 60 percent of their salaries and add the 50 percent of their February salaries that was owed as a way to start paying back its employees and retirees. PA prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said the financial crisis had been mitigated but not resolved as the PA and Israel agreed to allow the PA to import fuel without taxation.
Striking Down an LGBTQ Event
The PA police prevented the gay rights organization, Al Qaws, from organizing a “discussion-based event” in Nablus in late August. A police spokesperson said that Al Qaws’ activities are “a blow to, and violation of, the ideals and values of Palestinian society.” The PA does not have any laws preventing same-sex relations.
Attack on Hamas Police Officers
2 suicide bombers blew up 2 Hamas-manned checkpoints in Gaza on 8/27, killing 3 Hamas police officers and wounding several others. According to BBC reports, at least 1 of the attackers had recently been released from prison and was detained for being a member of the Islamic State. Israel denied involvement; Islamic Jihad condemned the attack. After the attack, Hamas rounded up a number of Palestinians suspected of being “Salafi activists.” By the end of the quarter, it was unclear if the 2 attackers were acting alone or part of a group.
On 8/22, the Qatari envoy to Palestine Mohammad al-Emadi arrived in Gaza to talk with Hamas officials about the continued aid to Palestinians in Gaza and funding for infrastructure projects. A week after the meetings, it was announced that Qatar would cut its funding of fuel for the Gaza power plant, leaving Palestinians in Gaza with 5-6 hours of electricity a day, down from 8. Qatar did not explain the reason for the decision, but Haaretz sources in Gaza speculated that either Israel was using Qatar to pressure Hamas or Qatar was upset by Hamas stipulations on funding for the infrastructure projects.
A former Hamas minister of the interior and current member of the politburo Fathi Hammad said in a speech on 7/12 that Palestinians abroad “must attack every Jew on the globe by way of slaughter and killing, if God permits.” Hammad’s statements were rebuffed by Hamas, saying that they do not represent the positions of the movement, and PLO secretary-general Saeb Erekat called the statements repugnant.
Hamas-Israeli relations remained relatively restrained after an extended calm was reached on 6/28 after UN and Egyptian mediation. However, on 7/11, Israel shot and killed a 28-year-old member of Hamas in Gaza by the Gaza fence, which according to Israel was a “mistake.” The man was shot while he was turning Palestinians away from the Gaza fence to prevent Israel from violently responding to their protest. Hamas said the incident would not “pass by without response,” and Islamic Jihad called the killing a “grave escalation.” Hamas has been policing the area by the Gaza fence to maintain the calm with Israel. While the rest of July remained relatively calm, August saw a rise in violence as 3 Palestinians were shot and killed by the Gaza fence and rockets were launched both ways in 3 separate instances. The rockets were not launched by Hamas and individuals reaching the Gaza fence did so without coordination with Hamas. On 8/19, Gaza factions released a statement warning Israel that Gaza is “a volcano that is about to erupt.” After rockets were launched at Israel on 8/26, Israel decided as collective punishment to cut the oil allowed to enter Gaza for its power plant in half, severely impacting the amount of electricity Palestinians in Gaza could consume. As the situation remained tense through September, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that Hamas was not behind the attacks but said they would continue to hit Hamas infrastructures as they held the party responsible for the attacks. Prime Minister Netanyahu also said that Israel might have to go to war with Hamas if it continued to fail in restraining other factions in Gaza, a threat that could be attributed to the upcoming Israeli elections, which is always accompanied by aggressive rhetoric and actions by Israel’s right.
Hamas carried out a military drill closing down large sectors of Gaza, including the sea for fishermen, on 7/9. The Hamas interior ministry said the drill was carried out to test the readiness of its troops in case of a surprise threat.