x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Palestinians are let down again by their leaders

The resignation of Rami Hamdallah dashes hopes that he could help end the Hamas-Fatah bickering, and plays into the hands of Israel.

The resignation of Rami Hamdallah from his post as the Palestinian Authority's prime minister, after less than three weeks in the job, is only the latest example of the failure of the Palestinian leadership to forge unity.

The academic was named to the position on June 6 by Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president; at the time many observers said he had been chosen because Mr Abbas expected him to be pliable. His resignation indicates the opposite, but shows the PA's problems,

The new trouble at the top came during efforts by the United States to get peace talks with the Israelis on track. The Americans indicated this week that they consider Mr Abbas to be the main interlocutor in any peace talks, but it is evident that the Palestinians' divisions play into the hands of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu has long used the "absence" of a Palestinian peace partner as a pretext for not pursuing negotiations and for continuing to build settlements. Palestinians can deprive Israel of that pretext only by forging a unity government. For that to happen, both Fatah and Hamas must start to put the interests of their people ahead of their own.

The disunity is doubly costly to the Palestinian cause because it comes at a time when the worldwide moral opposition to Israel's occupation is gaining traction. Around the world governments, investors, companies and consumers are being urged to boycott Israeli goods, divest themselves of investments in Israel, and impose sanctions on that country.

This "BDS" movement, now eight years old, is growing steadily if not yet exponentially, and the Israelis have no effective response to it. This energetic movement has delivered powerful blows to the Israeli occupation, from companies withdrawing projects in Israel to the decision by British physicist Stephen Hawking to boycott a conference in Israel.

But Palestinian leaders, busy squabbling and serving themselves, are ill-positioned to use the international political capital thus created.

When Mr Hamdallah was appointed prime minister, some hoped that he, as a newcomer to politics, could help end the Hamas-Fatah bickering. But now that hope has failed.

Worse, Mohammed Shtayyeh, a prominent candidate being touted for the job now, is a Fatah official and Abbas loyalist. Mr Abbas shows little will to change.

The occupation keeps expanding; so does the world's disapproval of it. But the Palestinian leadership remains as small-minded as ever.