Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ bid to officially name the territories he controls “the state of Palestine” has not distracted residents from their anger over corruption and the failing economy.
Hundreds of Palestinian Authority resident Arabs protested late last week in Bethlehem over the PA’s economic policies. Similar protests were held in other cities during the week.
The rally in Bethlehem over “corruption” centered on a new government edict that will see residents of the so-called refugee camps forced to pay for their private electricity use.
The requirement comes as Israel has begun forcing the PA to pay for its electricity use, after allowing it to rack up considerable debt to the Israel Electric Corp. Israel has reportedly agreed to resume transferring taxes it collects on the PA’s behalf under international agreements if the PA pays for its electricity.
PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad warned residents that if they refuse to pay for electricity beginning in 2013, they will be required to pay for earlier electricity use as well. Those with low incomes may apply for discounts, he said.
The “refugee camps” in Bethlehem, Jenin, and other PA cities are city neighborhoods like any other, made up of modern buildings with electricity, plumbing, and other amenities. They differ from other PA neighborhoods only in being home to those claiming descent from Arabs who fled Israel during its War of Independence in 1948.
Abbas’ bid for UN recognition as a state was seen by many as a bid to cover up failures that had led to growing unrest in PA areas. In the months prior to his UN appeal Abbas had faced regular protests against the PA government during which protesters called on him to resign.
Abbas says he will leave office when a successor is chosen in democratic elections, but claims that democratic elections cannot be held until Hamas reconciles with Fatah, bringing Gaza back under the PA’s auspices – a position that has had the effect of leaving him in power for years after his term expired.