What Is Behind Salam Fayyad's Call for "Economic Intifada"?
Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, this week called for an economic intifada against Israel.
Fayyad, whose government is facing a severe financial crisis, wants Palestinians to boycott all Israeli goods in response to Israel's decision to seize tax revenues belonging to the Palestinian Authority.
The revenues were seized and transferred to the Israel Electric Company to cover Palestinians' debts to the firm.
Fayyad is angry because the Israel Electric Company finally collected its debts from Palestinian consumers. Speaking to Palestinian reporters in Ramallah, he denounced the transfer of the funds to the company as "illegal and immoral."
Fayyad knows better than anyone else that, for various reasons, many Palestinians have not been paying their electricity bills.
Many Palestinians refuse to pay water, electricity and other bills because they believe the international community, primarily the Americans and Europeans, should be covering all their expenses. Others refuse to pay because they believe the money eventually falls into the hands of corrupt Palestinian Authority officials.
Earlier this year, the Palestinian Authority announced a series of measures to persuade Palestinian consumers to pay their electricity bills, but to no avail. The Palestinian Authority even announced a new law that allows it to imprison any Palestinian who is caught practicing the widespread phenomenon of "electricity theft."
Because of the financial crisis, Fayyad's government has also failed to pay full salaries to its employees, sparking a two-day general strike of the public sector in the West Bank.
The transfer of funds to the Israel Electric Company, and the Arab world's failure to fulfill promises to support the Palestinian Authority financially, have created a severe financial crisis in the Palestinian Authority.
This is not the first time that Arab countries lie to Palestinians. Over the past two decades, Arab nations have promised the Palestinians billions of dollars in aid. But, according to officials in Ramallah, the Palestinians have received less than 10% of what they had been promised.
Instead of seeking ways to solve the crisis, however, Fayyad chose to call on Palestinians to boycott all Israeli goods. How does that help solve the financial crisis? Fayyad did not have an answer. He just wants to punish Israel for collecting on the debt for the electricity bills.
He is hoping that by calling for an economic intifada, he will succeed in diverting growing anger and frustration on the Palestinian street towards the Israelis. This has always been the Palestinian Authority's way of avoiding responsibility for anything that goes wrong -- by putting all the blame on Israel.
Fayyad wants Palestinians to boycott Israel, but at the same time is unable to provide them with better alternatives. Does he really think that Palestinians will stop buying Israeli-manufactured medicine, for example?
As one Palestinian public servant asked, "How can our prime minister ask us to boycott Israeli goods when we can't even afford to purchase Palestinian goods because he's not paying us our salaries?"
Added another Palestinian who has been working as a school teacher for 25 years: "If Fayyad wants us to boycott Israel, why doesn't he himself set an example? Why is he living in Jerusalem, under Israeli rule, and enjoying, together with his family, most privileges offered to Israeli citizens? Today, I'm ready to go and work in an Israeli settlement to feed my children and I don't care whether Fayyad likes it or not."
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