Message from Ramallah

Message from Ramallah

By Tal Lev-Ram, Maariv Online



In a visit to the Palestinian city, one can feel the influence of Israeli pressure on the Palestinian Authority, and the "Deal of the Century" isn't encouraging anyone. "As long as Jerusalem isn't on the table," people are saying there, "Trump's plan won't be, either"



In a reality where utter disconnect is broadcast between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority leadership, even a meeting between journalists, PA officials and Abu Mazen's close associates, organized by the Geneva Initiative, appears unusual.

Just a few minutes away from the Qalandiya checkpoint: we are in Ramallah, feeling like we're abroad except for thnoticeable presence of police and the Palestinian security apparatus standing at practically every junction and square of the city with red berets and automatic weapons in hand. This is a tense time for the Palestinian Authority, and not just because of its relations with Israel. The internal tension is increasing, and the distressing economic situation threatens the government.

Our hosts, for their part, do everything to make us feel comfortable. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Abu Mazen's official spokesperson, and Mohammed Al-Madani, member of Fatah's Central Committee, close associates of the head of the PA, come to the modest offices of the Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society; one can see that this meeting is important to them. They want to relay a message to Israeli society because they are all about dialogue, discourse, and the two-state solution, which has become especially removed from public discourse after the recent elections – in which the Palestinian issue was missing.

Abu Rudeineh isn't trying to win over the delegation, but US President Donald Trump's initiative brought him to relay a message: "As long as Jerusalem isn't on the table, Trump's plan won't be, either." The starting point for negotiations, from their perspective, is recognition of two states on the basis of 1967 borders and division of Jerusalem.

But beyond the diplomatic issues, which seem almost unsolvable, the discussion in the room dealt with everyday practicalities. In particular, with the PA's difficult economic situation and the Israeli decision to offset payments to prisoners' families with tax money. PA officials believe that this painful issue is bringing them to the brink. They ask why Israel made this decision now. The feeling is that Israel shows greater flexibility dealing with Hamas and goes head to head with the Palestinian Authority.

Even though the conversation is carried out in an open, civilized manner, it's impossible to avoid the feeling of traveling down a dead end. The gap between the Israeli consensus that perceives payments to the families of terrorists as an unacceptable outrage, and the Palestinians who see in this action an attempted interference by the Israeli government over their financial management and their obligations to prisoners' families – cannot be bridged.

But after all of this, there is also life itself. In a less formal atmosphere, in a restaurant in the Old City, we hear from Ayed and Lamees, young people from Ramallah who accompany the delegation, about the younger generation that would like to live well, with dignity, and doesn't concern itself with politics. They talk about the flourishing night life in the city and state that any security or diplomatic escalation with Israel affects their places of recreation, just as it does to ours.

On the way home, we stop for kanafeh at ''Namima." The giant sweets story definitely didn't expect a massive Israeli clientele going crazy over their kanafeh, only 40 shekel a kilo and a taste that we already miss. This kind of visit leaves a taste not of darkness – there's no naivety, the chances of a solution are slight, it's hard to imagine how to bridge the gap in positions, in descriptions of the reality, in narrative and in national consciousness – but for all that, even dialogue has its importance. The complete disconnect between Israel and the PA heightens the tension and alienation. An outbreak of a popular uprising in Judea and Samaria will not serve either of the sides, but Hamas has plenty to gain from it.