Nablus mayor: If talks fail, Palestinians will take to streets

Ghassan Shaka'a warns that the lack of progress on the peace front is boosting Hamas' popularity in the West Bank.

July 13, 2013 10:51
2 minute read.
Palestinians clashing with IDF troops in the West Bank

Palestinians clashing with IDF troops in the West Bank370. (photo credit: Reuters)

Israel and the Palestinians are headed toward another round of street clashes if peace efforts spearheaded by US Secretary of State John Kerry fail, the mayor of Nablus told Israel Radio on Saturday.

Ghassan Shaka’a, who has also served as a veteran functionary in the PLO, said Palestinians in the West Bank will take to the streets and demonstrate against Israel if the peace process remains stalled.

“[Kerry] is a man for peace,” the Nablus mayor said. “Give him the chance to succeed. By sticking to this course, we may end up losers, but we won’t be the only losers.”

Shaka’a said that in the event street demonstrations do take place, the Palestinian Authority is likely to join in. He said that the combination of a stalled diplomatic process and the slowdown in the Palestinian economy will lead to a confrontation.

“We are losing popularity,” Shaka’a said. “We have always offered the people a diplomatic horizon, but now we are operating solely by dint of orders we receive from [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas].”

Shaka’a warned that the lack of progress on the peace front is boosting Hamas’s popularity in the West Bank.

“Their power depends on the Israeli activities,” the mayor said. “As long as the Israeli side says “no” to peace negotiations, then it is telling the moderate people, ‘Go to [Hamas’s] side.’” Jamal Tirawi, a Palestinian legislator from the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, told Israel Radio that Israel’s actions on the ground, including army raids and incursions into Palestinian towns as well as the Israeli government’s refusal to release Palestinian prisoners, harm the credibility of the Ramallah government in the eyes of its own people.

“The people here don’t believe in the PA right now,” he said. “Why should they? There’s no progress on the peace front. Who is the one that is giving Hamas hope right now? It’s the Israeli government.”

“Abbas has asked Israel to release prisoners, but was refused,” said Tirawi, who is a member of Tanzim, the armed faction of Fatah and a veteran operative. In 2007 he was arrested and convicted by Israel for recruiting suicide bombers for the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, only to be later released.

“Hamas, by the use of force, took [IDF soldier Gilad] Schalit and managed to free prisoners.

“We have no wish for a third intifada and we don’t want war,” he said. “Israel won’t have a better opportunity than now with [Abbas].”

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