Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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The Arab Spring and the Palestinians

by Elliott Abrams
May 1, 2012


With the outbreak of political activity and elections in Egypt and Tunisia, and the recent dismissal of the prime minister in Jordan, what do Palestinians think about their frozen political situation? Why hasn’t the “Arab Spring” reached Gaza and the West Bank yet?

A brief analysis by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University takes a look at the new “social media” such as Twitter. Its conclusion:

The internal Palestinian debate focuses on issues of social justice, political rights, civil rights, and human rights. National issues and processes of state-building have become of secondary importance, even though discussion of the political issue and debate on the one-state solution continues….Although there is a sense that the Arab spring has bypassed the Palestinians, social networking sites indicate trends of change in Palestinian society, influenced by regional processes, with an emphasis on civil and political rights. Criticism is directed more toward the current Hamas and Fatah leaders who are out of touch with the needs of the average citizen….

If this is correct, younger Palestinians (who are most likely the ones using these “social networks” on the internet) are as frustrated as one might expect–but a good deal of the frustration is directed at their own leaders rather than only at Israel. Recent headlines about diminishing freedom of expression in the West Bank (for example, “Web Censorship Hits West Bank“) will increase the frustrations. The longer-run implications are unclear, for neither the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah nor the Hamas leadership in Gaza seems inclined to conduct elections, nor does the PA wish to enter into serious negotiations with Israel. And if elections were finally held, new leadership might well be harder line and might make any eventual negotiations harder. The only conclusion one can draw for now is that Palestinians are indeed watching the outbreak of politics in other Arab lands and wondering why this wave has not yet reached them. It is hard to believe that this situation can continue on into next year, with no elections and greater censorship.


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