Latest conflict exposes impotence of Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority.

The exchanges of rockets, bombs and shells between Israel and Gaza have exposed the impotence of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, which can neither halt the violence nor curb anti-occupation protests in West Bank cities, towns and villages.

Despite the terrible price in blood and buildings being paid by Gazans, Hamas is seen as the only defender of Palestinians who have been shunned by Western powers and abandoned by Arab regimes.

Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza, has called its rocket offensive the “Sword of Jerusalem”, and assumed the mantle of a warrior defending East Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest Muslim site, which Jews regard as the site of their ancient temples.

Hamas fired rockets towards West Jerusalem on Monday after Israeli security forces assaulted Palestinians attending prayers, wounding 300 in the mosque compound as Ramadan neared its end.

Occupied and annexed by Israel, East Jerusalem has been neglected by the Palestinian Authority since the PA’s founding in 1994, leaving Palestinian inhabitants alone to counter Israel’s settlement expansion and confront aggressive settlers.

Today there are 220,000 settlers living among the 372,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem, claimed by Israel as part of its exclusive capital.

Despite its chronic lack of support for Jerusalem’s Palestinians, the authority opportunistically cancelled parliamentary and presidential elections when Israel did not agree that 6,000 of the city’s 150,000 registered Palestinian electors could, as in 1996, 2005 and 2006, vote in East Jerusalem in accordance with the 1993 and 1996 Oslo accords.

The authority employed this pretext after the ruling Fatah party split three ways, and the main faction, led by president Mahmoud Abbas (85), was certain to lose dominance. Cancellation of the elections, the first in 15 years, angered Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

West Bankers expected younger leaders to take over from entrenched autocrats in their 70s, who are accused of mismanagement, corruption, collaboration with Israel, and failing to ease or end occupation. Gazans expected reconciliation with the West Bank.

Two wings

Having divided Palestinians by seizing Gaza from Fatah in 2007, Hamas had counted on elections to reunite the two wings of Palestinian territory by establishing a unity government, a highly popular policy. Fatah, which falsely proclaimed fealty to reunification, is relieved as it does not have to co-operate with Hamas. Fatah has scuppered earlier attempts to solidify Palestinian ranks.

By launching rockets into Israel, Hamas has laid claim to the “street” in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. However, Fatah, Hamas and other established parties are rejected by leaderless youths who believe they have no option but to resist independently Israel’s occupation if they are to have jobs, homes, families and statehood.

On Friday, Palestinian youths, some armed with slingshots, braved Israeli tear gas and live rounds to mount intense protests across the West Bank.

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