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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 8th September 2017 > THE PERMANENT OCCUPATION?


THE TIRE NEXT TIME: A Palestinian protester clashes with Israeli soldiers in a village near the West Bank city of Nablus. Though Israel’s status as a Jewish and democratic state in the very long term is still imperiled, five decades after the occupation began, the Palestinian national movement has been largely defeated.

IT WAS THE END OF RAMADAN, a few days before Eid al-Fitr, a time of feasts and family. But the housewives shopping in a Gaza City market were buying just a few handfuls of vegetables and small pieces of meat. “Nobody can use their refrigerators,” one vendor explains; the power is out for much of the day, and food spoils quickly here. It was the start of a typically harsh summer, with daytime temperatures in the 90s, and in one office after the next, politicians and professors apologized to visitors for the heat—their air conditioners were useless.

After three wars and a decade-long military blockade, Gaza’s nearly 2 million people are familiar with hardship. This summer’s power crisis is merely the latest in a long list of shortages of everything from drinking water and cooking gas to cement and cars. But this time, one thing is different: The problem has been created by other Palestinians.

Until recently, Israel provided Gaza with about half of its electricity, paid for by the Palestinian Authority, the internationally recognized body that governs the West Bank. But in April, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, decided to reduce those payments by 40 percent, and on June 11, at the request of the PA, the Israeli security Cabinet approved a commensurate cut in the supply. Most Gazans received just four hours of electricity at a time, followed by 12-hour blackouts; now, they get about two and a half hours at a stretch.

The reduction was partly an effort to win favor with Donald Trump. Abbas has been eager to establish a good relationship with the new American president, who has repeatedly said he wants to strike the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians. Trump tasked his longtime corporate lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, and his son-inlaw, Jared Kushner, with reviving the moribund peace process between the two parties. Abbas hoped that imposing sanctions on Gaza, which is controlled by the militant Islamist group Hamas, would boost his standing. “He believes this is his last chance for a two-state solution,” says Salah al-Bardawil, a member of the organization’s politburo. “So he’s in a rush to show Trump that he’s against terrorism.”

But Trump’s efforts have already collided with the realities on the ground: a hawkish government in Jerusalem and a divided, unpopular Palestinian leadership. Kushner made a quick trip to the region in mid-June to meet with leaders on both sides. In the days before and after his visit, Israel announced plans to build 7,000 new homes in occupied East Jerusalem and broke ground on a new settlement in the West Bank, the first in more than two decades. Arabic media reported that Kushner’s talks with Abbas were “difficult,” and that Trump might abandon the effort. Even if he plows ahead, few observers expect him to succeed.

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Fifty years after Israel seized control of the West Bank, the Palestinians may have finally lost their bid for independence.