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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 20th July 2018 > ‘God Willing, It Will Go’

‘God Willing, It Will Go’

Frustrated by occupation, joblessness and political corruption, young Palestinias are forsaking their government, pushing with new idealism and urgency for a binational Israeli-Palestinian state. How to get there is becoming the defining issue of their generation
THIS IS OUR YOUTH Palestinian protesters in January wave their national flag near the Israel-Gaza border as they demonstrate against cuts in Palestinian aid by President Trump.
KATJA VOLKENANT/EYEEM/GETTY

WORLD

OBADA NAWAWRA WAS TALKING TO FRIENDS AT A restaurant in Bethlehem. Outside the window, the terraced hills around the ancient West Bank city rolled into the distance. It was early June, and most restaurants were closed for Ramadan; aside from a table of tourists, the large place was nearly empty. As the conversation shifted to the subject of the Palestinian Authority (PA)—the semi-autonomous government based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank—the idle waiters edged closer to Nawawra’s table.

The 25-year-old was staking out a historically mainstream position: The PA is an important institution for keeping peace in Palestinian enclaves. “Without the authority,” he said, there would be lawlessness—“more crime and drugs.” A boyish-looking waiter was incredulous: “How is the authority good? Before it, was there more crime? Another waiter, a woman who looked to be in her 20s, answered, “No!” Other restaurant workers added their disapproval— an increasingly popular attitude among young Palestinians.

After years of allegations of corruption and collusion with Israel, the PA is viewed with increasing distrust by this generation. Their parents dreamed of a Palestinian state and an end to Israeli occupation. But they have watched as illegal Israeli settlements spread. They have listened to the drumbeat of extreme-right Israeli politicians, like those in the Likud party, calling for a “Greater Israel,” which would take territory back rather than give it away. They have watched as the Arab world has grown closer to Israel, turning its attention toward the threat of Iran.

These fears have taken on a new urgency. In January, President Donald Trump cut off funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which aids and represents Palestinian refugees in the Middle East. A month before, he had announced that the U.S. Embassy would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, a clear message that his administration was officially and unequivocally siding with Israel. Jerusalem includes sites sacred to Muslims as well as Jews and Christians, and Palestinians have claimed East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state—borders laid out in 1993’s Oslo Accord or Arab-Israeli Peace Process, which established Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and Jordan. After decades of U.S.-led Israeli- Palestinian negotiations, Trump’s decision undercuts America’s credibility as a neutral party, deflating further hope of a peace treaty. Complicating matters further: Twelve years into what is nominally a four-year term, PA President Mahmoud Abbas is ailing, and there is no clear succession plan.

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‘God Willing, It Will Go’ - A younger generation is forsaking the Palestinian Authority, pushing with new urgency for an Israeli-Palestinian state.