Palestinians to keep protesting despite measures

Moves hope to quell violent social protest in West Bank; Israel concerned unrest may snowball into third Intifada.

Palestinians protest in Ramallah 370 (photo credit: Michael Omer-Man)
Palestinians protest in Ramallah 370
(photo credit: Michael Omer-Man)
Palestinian activists on Tuesday vowed to continue protesting against the high cost of living despite Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's new measures to tackle the economic crisis.
Meanwhile, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank held the US responsible for Monday's scenes of anarchy and lawlessness in various parts of the West Bank. He also accused Washington of inciting Palestinians against the PA leadership.
Fayyad announced the measures following the weekly cabinet meeting in Ramallah. The measures include reducing the Value Added Tax to 15% and suspending a recent price hike in the price of diesel, kerosene and gas, he said.
Fayyad said the government also decided to cut the salaries of top PA officials and ministers.
The measures also include cuts on expenses for a number of PA ministries, as well as rent, travel and exchange coupons, he added.
Palestinians stage economic protest in Hebron
 protesters throw shoes at a banner of PM Fayyad
PA security personnel prepare to confront crowd
Palestinians ride mule cart in Ramallah protest
Palestinians burn tires in Nablus economic protest
Fayyad announced that PA employees will receive half of their August salaries on Wednesday.
He blamed the current crisis on a deficit in the PA's budget, the Hamas-Fatah power struggle, lack of Arab financial aid and the fact that Israel continues to control 60% of the West Bank.
"Were it not for the occupation and its measures, the Palestinian Authority would have reached a point where it would no longer have to depend on additional foreign aid," he said.
The PA government also decided to take take measures to prevent "unjustified price increases" of basic goods in the West Bank, Fayyad added.
Fayyad said that while his government supported the people's "absolute right to express their opinion peacefully and democratically," it nevertheless strongly condemned scenes of chaos and attacks on private and public properties.
The PA premier renewed his appeal to the Arab countries to provide the Palestinians with urgent financial aid.
Shortly after the announcement, dozens of Palestinian protesters marched in Ramallah, chanting slogans against the PA and the Oslo Accords. The protesters also called on the PA to stop security coordination with Israel.
PA policemen prevented the protests from approaching the Mukata presidential compound, eyewitnesses said. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is currently on a visit to India.
Other West Bank cities witnessed similar protests, but, unlike Monday, no violence was reported. Palestinians said at least 50 people were injured during clashes that erupted Monday in Hebron and Nablus, where protesters hurled stones and bottles at PA policemen.
Although most of the protests had been directed against Fayyad, demonstrators in some parts of the West Bank have also begun calling for the resignation of Abbas and the abrogation of the Oslo Accords.
Representatives of various Palestinian factions and youth groups reacted with disappointment to Fayyad's new economic measures, saying they were insufficient and inadequate.
Nader Yassin, one of the organizers of the protests in Nablus, denounced Fayyad's measures as "frustrating" and vowed to continue demonstrating against the PA prime minister. Yassin said that Palestinians were expecting the government to reduce the price of basic goods such as bread and sugar.
Issa Amr, a leader of the protests in Hebron, accused Fayyad of working to "bypass" the demands of the people. He also expressed disappointment over Fayyad's failure to cancel the Paris Protocol, which regulates economic relations between the PA and Israel.
Another activist, Thaer Anis, said that Fayyad's measures did not meet the demands of the protesters and vowed to continue demonstrations against the high cost of living.
Bassam Zakarneh, head of the PA employees' union, also voiced disappointment over Fayyad's new measures, saying they were "below the expectations of the street."
Bassam Salhi, Secretary-General of the Palestinian People's (Communist) Party, also described the measures as insufficient and called on the PA to "liberate itself from agreements that restrict the national economy."
Jamal Nazzal, a Fatah spokesman and member of its revolutionary council, accused the US Administration of driving Palestinians toward chaos by imposing a "financial blockade" on the PA leadership. He also accused unmade non-governmental organizations [NGO's] of inciting Palestinians to carry out acts of chaos and vandalism in the West Bank.
Another Fatah spokesman, Osama Kawassmeh, said he saw a direct link between Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman's recent attack on Abbas and the current crisis. He claimed that Israel was exerting pressure on Abbas and the PA leadership to foil the Palestinian struggle for independence and freedom.