It should be a moment of celebration. Later this month more than 100 countries are expected to back Palestine’s claims for statehood at the UN General Assembly, although the US is almost certain to veto the bid if it comes before the Security Council. But ahead of the vote, Palestinians in the West Bank are anything but in agreement about the decision to seek a state.
Publicly, Palestinians appear unified in their support of statehood but in private conversations a different picture emerges. Many don’t subscribe to the opinion that statehood will bring real changes to their lives, which have been dominated by Israeli occupation. The general sentiment is that any attempt to gain a state without an end to the occupation is a frantic and poorly designed ploy by the Palestinian Authority (PA) – the governing authority of Palestinian life in the West Bank – to maintain what little legitimacy it still has, both in the international community and on the Palestinian street. Due to failed negotiations with Israel and the general mismanagement of Palestinian resources, the PA, led by Mahmoud Abbas, is currently not well received among the majority of Palestinians.
It is unclear whether the discontent with the PA brimming under the surface in Ramallah will manifest into actual rage if the statehood bid fails to advance the Palestinian cause. The unpopularity of the Palestinian Authority points to the growing possibility of a confrontation between Palestinians and their leadership. Many feel that if another intifada – or uprising—takes place, it will confront and topple the PA before it turns on Israel.
Inspired by the revolutionary events in Egypt and Tunisia, young Palestinians have already taken to the streets of Ramallah and Gaza City to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the current leadership in the West Bank and Gaza. Violent Israeli reactions, a likely response to popular demonstrations, could exacerbate a process of internal Palestinian political transformation.
Sitting in the courtyard of La Vie, an upmarket café just off of Ramallah’s main Manara Square, Stanford-educated Palestinian youth activist Fadi Quran draws a striking similarity between the PA’s statehood bid and former US president John F Kennedy’s race to the moon in the 1960s. “When Kennedy said that America was going to the moon,” Quran says in flawless English, “he created the groundwork required to make that happen.” Quran leans in close, almost whispering, “Few believe that the PA is creating the groundwork for a state with this bid. We all know that they are simply trying to guarantee their own survival.”