In Ramallah: Residents say new unity government has to prove itself

“The reconciliation is not going to be easy, and both sides will face problems,” says Ramallah lawyer.

Abu Mazen swears in unity government (photo credit: REUTERS)
Abu Mazen swears in unity government
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“We won’t call each other West Bankers, Gazans, Returnees, or any of these divisive names – we are all Palestinians,” state the lyrics to a new song about the Fatah-Hamas government that was sworn in on Monday.
The song, which was sponsored by a local cellular company, blared out of car radios in Ramallah, and the internal pages of Tuesday’s local Palestinian newspapers were expected to feature paid ads congratulating the new cabinet minsters – even as city residents wondered Monday if they truly had something to celebrate.
Rana Mashni, a worker in an international NGO in Ramallah, downplayed the importance of the reunification of the two main Palestinian political factions after a bitter seven- year feud. The jeans-clad, 39-year-old mother of three said both parties had reached a dead-end, and that was why they had decided to join forces.
“They are splitting the benefits between Fatah and Hamas,” she said, on her way to a coffee shop two blocks away from the center of town.
Mashni, who has been living in Ramallah for 18 years, added that she saw the political situation as only going backward.
Ilham Mohammed, a university professor in an off-white head scarf, agreed that hope was minimal. The two sides are playing a game, she said.
“Hamas in Gaza was stuck after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood regime, and the PA was told it doesn’t represent all Palestinians,” said Mohammed, who had just picked up her son from school and was on her way to get a haircut near the city center.
“If the intentions were pure, I would have believed we are going somewhere. I wish the two parties were interested in reconciling with one another, but they did it out of political interest and to show the world that they represent the people,” she said.
She smiled when her nine-year-old son, Sayf, said he didn’t think this government was providing services to the Palestinians.
“When I go to the supermarket, I find settlement and Israeli products,” he said in English. “This means we are supporting settlers.”
Mohammed and her family moved from the US 10 months ago. She explained that she had left a comfortable life in the States to live a tedious and difficult one, so her family could grow up with Palestinian culture.
“I still pray and hope they do something for the people,” she said of the government.
Fahed al-Atrash, 24, told The Jerusalem Post while getting ready to board a bus that he was happy to hear of the government’s swearing-in.
“It’s definitely a good step toward unity,” said Atrash, who works at a PR company in Ramallah.
“We hope for the best,” he added as he put his two bags in the vehicle, which was heading to his hometown of Hebron.
In lawyer Mustem Mansour’s opinion, the government doesn’t provide much help for its people.
“The reconciliation is not going to be easy, and both sides will face problems,” said the father of two, wearing a gray suit and a tie. “I followed the news about the appointed ministers, but what’s important is the government’s action on the ground.”
He said he doesn’t expect any political progress. “The Israelis will eventually do what they want without caring about the Palestinians or their government.”
Still, he hopes the government will focus more on the economic difficulties and people’s day-to-day issues.
“Unemployment is really high, and we don’t have a system of social welfare for elders,” Mansour said before heading back to his office near Yasser Arafat Square.
While Mansour was talking, the sound of a demonstration was getting closer. A truck with a man holding a microphone narrated stories about the support of Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails while sad music played along. A group of nearly 50 people followed the truck holding posters and Palestinian flags.
“I didn’t follow the news about the government. I am here to support the detainees on hunger strike,” Majd Barghouti, a supermarket worker from a village near Ramallah, told the Post. He had left work to take part in the demonstration.
“Fatah and Hamas think the country is theirs, and they are splitting it,” said the 21-year-old, holding a large poster that read, “Freedom to our detainees,” and that bore a picture of late PLO leader Yasser Arafat.
As a Palestinian couple from Jerusalem strolled with their baby in downtown Ramallah, they didn’t really have any hopes for the new government shuffle. In fact, Bassam Adel and his wife Wroud believe the Palestinian Authority should be dissolved.
“They say it’s a technocrat government, but we think the PA in general is benefiting from the status quo and is incapable of defending its own citizens,” Bassam said.
“We are under occupation, and the PA is just a body working for the Israelis,” he continued, as his wife nodded her head.
He used to work in an institution in Ramallah, but the salary was not enough to meet the family’s Jerusalem living expenses, he said. Now he has a small air-conditioning company in Jerusalem, while his wife takes care of their baby girl, Mena.
“Our situation is the same with or without the PA,” he stated. “We are still under Israeli rule, so let’s just be identified as we are: a people under occupation.”
A woman walking with her three children didn’t want to talk about the government.
“We have suffered enough from politics. Leave us alone,” she told the Post, signaling that she might face problems for expressing her views.