Like the upcoming elections for US president, the long overdue municipal vote for the Palestinians, scheduled for 8 October, will be a difficult choice between two disliked candidates/parties. They can choose between the corrupt Fatah, or the Islamist Hamas.
Fatah is the incumbent in the West Bank, and has for decades run a kleptocracy that has lined the pockets of its leaders, their family members and cronies, and been more interested in staying in power than making any meaningful positive change for their constituents. Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, and has turned it into a totalitarian state. Instead of perpetuating the trappings of power like their political rivals, they have been driven by the overwhelming desire to destroy Israel, and put that first and foremost on their agenda. Resources are directed towards building terror tunnels and acquiring weapons, rather than infrastructure that could make life better for their residents.
This is the ‘choice’ that has been put to Palestinian voters on the few occasions an election has actually been held: take the frying pan or the fire. In the past, Hamas has enjoyed success on the back of Fatah’s corruption, and this again looms as a threat, to the point that Fatah officials have urged Abbas to cancel the elections for fear of losing them!
Most would agree the Palestinians deserve better, but until now, no viable party or alliance has emerged that can deliver it, or even promise it. But there is one group in the region that has shown it can run a responsible and accountable government on behalf of its citizens.
What if Palestinians had a third option in the upcoming elections? What if municipalities could vote for an alternative candidate that was under the Yesha Council — the umbrella organisation of municipal councils of Jewish settlements in the West Bank?
Palestinian leadership have always dreamed of a state that was Judenrein — free of Jews — but the major towns on the outskirts of Jerusalem are not going anywhere, and the removal of more established settlements in the West Bank will be nigh impossible. The Jewish state has over a million Arab citizens, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinian residents. Short of large scale population transfers, living side by side is going to continue for the foreseeable future. The Oslo Accords have been a dismal failure. It’s time to try something different: joint Jewish-Palestinian rule of municipal regions.
In polls, Jerusalem Palestinians have stated that they prefer to have Israeli rather than Palestinian citizenship. Let’s set aside the ‘big picture’ and more difficult question of citizenship, and focus on day-to-day life as governed locally. People don’t wake up in the morning with a burning desire to be a citizen of one country or another. They want to get up knowing they are safe, their families are safe, and they have gainful employment and can be self sufficient. Israeli-run municipalities can give this to the Palestinians, and also set a standard for Fatah, Hamas or any other emerging political party in future elections.
The Palestinian people deserve better government. When all available options have shown themselves to be inept, it’s time to look elsewhere.