PA failures leading to upsurge in Hamas, PIJ recruitment, says Fatah official

“The relationship between the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority has been severely undermined,” said Jamal Tirawi in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A senior Fatah official has blamed his own party’s weaknesses and failures for an upsurge in the popularity of hardline terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) within the territory of the Palestinian Authority (PA), The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday.

“The relationship between the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority has been severely undermined,” said Jamal Tirawi in an interview with the Post. Fatah is the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority.

Tirawi, who is closely linked to Fatah’s armed wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, is a former member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the parliament that has been largely stripped of its powers over the years by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. He has been a critic of the Authority’s leadership for years, and in 2016 Abbas removed his parliamentary immunity due to his verbal attacks.

Israel’s successful counter-terrorism operations, especially in the Jenin area, have “weakened the Palestinian Authority,” Tirawi said. “The people no longer respect [it]. The Palestinian security forces stay in their headquarters when the Israeli army enters the Palestinian areas…

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“They don’t do anything to defend the people. In the eyes of many Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority’s role has been limited to issuing traffic tickets, carrying out some arrests and collecting taxes.”

Hamas and PIJ are growing as a result of the “vacuum,” he told the Post, “especially in the southern and northern parts of the West Bank [Judea and Samaria].”

Tarawi said that young men are joining the other groups rather than Fatah not because they have become Islamist, but because they receive aid from them.

“Fatah needs to get its act together and endorse democracy and reforms,” the 56-year-old resident of the Balata refugee camp said. “When Fatah is absent, everything is possible. Fatah doesn’t even have a political program.”

The PA is busy with infighting as well, as various figures jockey for position to replace 87-year-old President Mahmoud Abbas, when he either dies in office or retires.

Abbas indicated his favored successor by appointing confidant Hussein al-Sheikh as secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee in June, making him in effect his No. 2. Al-Sheikh also heads the official committee that coordinates all civil affairs with Israel.

However, he and other appointees are slammed on the Palestinian street as being corrupt, and there are other senior Fatah officials who would vie with them for the leadership.

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They includes Marwan Barghouti, who has been serving five life sentences in Israeli prison since 2002 for directing terrorist attacks and is extremely popular among ordinary Palestinians.

Another powerful rival is Mohammed Dahlan, a former senior Fatah leader who ran afoul of Abbas in 2011 and took up a senior advisory role to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. According to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, he has been buying influence from the safety of the UAE in order to build up power bases throughout Judea and Samaria.