Palestinian premier under fire as protests fill streets
WEST BANKSoaring prices have sparked an unprecedented wave of social protest across the West Bank, with angry demonstrators demanding that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad step down. In scenes reminiscent of the Arab Spring protests which swept the Middle East, protesters have taken to the streets in their thousands to demand lower prices, with their anger focused on Fayyad and his government.
“The demands of the popular movement are justified,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas acknowledged this week during a speech to the Arab League in Cairo. “The Palestinian Spring has started and we agree with what the people are saying and what they want,” he said. This week, thousands of Palestinians across the West Bank took to the streets to protest against the soaring cost of living after recent hikes in the price of fuel and basic foodstuffs. Public transportation ground to a halt across the territories on Sept. 5 in a brief 15-minute protest, and again Sept. 6 morning for a longer stint. On Sept. 4, hundreds of people demonstrated in the southern city of Hebron, burning an effigy of Fayyad and an Israeli flag. On the same day, protesters in Ramallah blocked traffic, chanting “Fayyad get out!” in an echo of slogans heard during last year’s Arab Spring uprisings.
Fayyad vowed he would not step down. “I don’t need any advice about stepping down, I’m on a mission, I’m not just doing a job,” he told the private Palestinian radio station Rai FM, according to Agence France-Presse.
But he admitted his government had no way of taking decisive action that would silence his critics. Officials say the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority is living through its worst-ever crisis since it was formed in 1994 as a result of continued Israeli restrictions and declining international aid, especially from Arab countries.