A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Palestinians and Their Chance for Change

With the establishment of diplomatic relations between parts of the Arab world and Israel, the Palestinian cause has lost the unconditional support it once enjoyed in the region. Washington’s facilitation of peace deals has severe altered the geopolitical status quo in the Middle East. Israel’s isolation is no longer, and the Gulf Arabs are ready to intertwine their economies to the Jewish state for a prosperous future.

Turkey, Iran, and the Palestinians are on the opposite side of these developments. The deals are detrimental to their respective agendas, so the consensus has faltered. Except for the Palestinians. Their fate was not sealed by the deal but by prolonged standing internal lack of progress.

Palestine’s Lack of Internal Progress

Recent developments are testimony of Palestine’s lack of progress. In the aftermath of the peace deals, Hamas and Fatah agreed on elections. Both sides reached this conclusion in Istanbul and under pressure from Turkey. What appears like a step in the right direction for Palestinians is merely more of the same. The rival parties had already agreed on elections in reconciliation agreements in 2014 and 2017, and the project failed each time.

Both made no progress since 2005 when Palestinians elected President Mahmud Abbas, and Hamas won the 2006 parliamentary elections. It has been a paralyzing stalemate since. Most importantly, this stalemate is the reason why Palestinians have not been able to have a say in shaping their future.

The Palestinian Authority often sulked and bucked where it would have been better to negotiate, while Hamas remains true to its modus operandi of a blockade. The result is an utter lack of functioning external representation for the Palestinian people.

Where Can Palestine Look for Support Now?

On top came the shock that not only did the Gulf Arabs establish relations with Israel, but that the other Arab states remained mostly silent. They could not have demonstrated any clearer that the Palestinians’ future is of secondary importance to the Arabs, if not irrelevant.

However, despite their party’s delay-filled and incompetent ways, Palestinians still possess support, namely from the European Union, which provides the most monetary donations to the Palestinians, while the Gulf Arabs and Turkey continue to send aid.

But it is not only the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza that are dependent on aid. Palestinian refugees also rely on it. Abandoned by almost everyone, it is the United Nations that continues to support them. However, due to recent changes in circumstances, its help is restricted.

The United States used to be the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) major and most generous donor. It has completely withdrawn. President Trump criticized the fact that the refugee status was passed on to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Palestinians who fled in 1948.

As a result of Washington’s exit, the burden is left to Germany. With 170 million euros per annum, Berlin has become the largest donor for Palestinian refugees.

However, Germany cannot compensate for the US’ withdrawal as the latter has resulted in unprecedented financial difficulties for the UNRWA. Moreover, COVID-19 and the lack of prospects of any improvement paint a dark future for these Palestinians.

Hope for the Future

Despite all this, the current situation might be a chance for the Palestinians in Gaza. While they have lost the unconditional support of the Arab states, they may now finally realized that their government is utterly incompetent and more interested in ideological conflicts and violence, the region’s destabilization, and as a result, mainly responsible for their people’s misery.

Hamas and Fatah have failed to provide housing, work, infrastructure, or education to raise people’s hopes, dreams, and prospects. Due to the international community, Palestinians are not in a much worse situation than they already are in, but perhaps with the Middle East’s developments, some of them will see the light.