Occupied with the Israel-Palestine dispute, it is not often that news outlets cover political issues within Palestine. The Palestinian government has been divided into two since the clash of President Mahmoud Abbas’ government and Hamas. While President Abbas’ Fatah government administers the West Bank, Gaza is in the hands of Hamas. To make the situation more complicated, the Palestinian Legislation Council was dissolved in 2018 by the Palestinian Constitutional Court, with President Abbas postponing the elections without a specified date. Palestinian lawyers protested against the government and claimed that restrictive laws created by the government without the existence of the PLC were a threat to the judicial system and the freedom of the Palestinians.
Palestine questions the legitimacy of its government
The state of Palestine’s government has suffered tremendously over the years. Since 2007, the Palestinian parliament has been inactive. President Mahmoud Abbas has been leading the country without an established government for most of his time in office. While Palestine continues to struggle with issues related to security, human rights, refugees, water, and many more, it recently found itself questioning the legitimacy of the government. Recently, Palestinian lawyers took to the streets to protest against President Mahmoud Abbas‘ Fatah government, which they believe cannot execute laws in the absence of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).
Protesting against the Palestinian government by Palestinian lawyers is incredibly rare as the Palestinian community is more concerned with their safety and survival due to violence from external sources. The intense and unpredictable nature of the conflict between Palestine and Israel overshadows the ongoing internal issues within Palestine.
As the Palestinian Bar Association obtained new leadership, it turned to analyze the Palestinian Authority. According to Palestinian lawyers, President Abbas’ rulership threatens the judicial system and the rights and freedom of Palestinians. Palestinian lawyer Zainab al-Salfity spoke to Al Jazeera news about the situation and said, “These laws don’t only affect the Bar Association, but also the Palestinian people as a whole. I am here to tell President Abbas that these decrees destroy the judicial system, destroy the ruling authority, and could start a civil war.”
With the lack of a strong government, lawyers claim that it is difficult to introduce and implement laws since they require a lengthy process before they can be enforced. The current government does not have a legislative council that could approve and impose the laws. Speaking to Al-Jazeera news, lawyer Abed Shabaneh stated, “We need a legislative council, because laws need to go through different readings before they’re enforced. Now there are a few people making laws and that’s a problem.”
President Abbas has been the subject of controversy since his time in office in 2005. One of his greatest opponents was Hamas who strongly disapproved of his Fatah government. In 2006, Hamas was able to beat President Abbas in parliamentary goals. Within that same year, President Abbas and Hamas were on negotiating terms when they began to disagree over the topic of Israel. Therefore, this led to violence erupting in the streets of Gaza. Since then, Hamas predominantly occupies Gaza, while President Abbas’ Fatah government controls the Israeli-occupied West Bank, leading the government to divide.
In 2018, President Abbas informed the other Palestinian leaders of the Palestinian Constitutional Court’s intentions to dissolve the Palestinian Legislation. The idea was to hold elections 6 months after the Palestinian Legislation Council would be dissolved, in May 22 of that same year. However, on April 29 of that year, President Abbas declared that the elections would be postponed due to a disagreement with Israel over East Jerusalem. This decision was condemned by Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and others. The date for the new elections has not been declared, leaving the Palestine Legislative Council’s fate undetermined. It is estimated that since the termination of the PLC, President Abbas has been ruling by over 400 presidential decrees.
What Palestinian lawyers expect
Palestinian lawyers in Ramallah have accused the Palestinian Authority of arresting around 94 people in the past two months over due to political reasons. Although the majority of the individuals were released after spending nights in jail, lawyers are outraged at the arrests, which include students, journalists, and political activists. The PA is not the only political party to prosecute its rivals. Hamas have also been accused of detaining and torturing their opponents.
In conclusion, unsatisfied and appalled by the current government’s system, lawyers in Palestine apply pressure on the PA to reconsider implementing their restrictive laws without the PLC.