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In Hebron, the power of the Palestinian Authority hangs by a thread

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Posted today at 11:48 a.m., updated at 11:51 a.m.

Tayseer Abou Sneineh, 67, a Fatah veteran and mayor of Hebron since 2017, was reappointed to his post under an independent label on Saturday March 26. While this second round of municipal elections in the West Bank – the first, in small towns, was held in December 2021 – was a test for Mahmoud Abbas’ party, the change in political affiliation of the mayor of this city from south is a problem for Fatah.

Local elections have been, since 2006, the only democratic expression of the Palestinian people. At 86, the raïs and his close circle cling to power despite a plummeting popularity rating. To set the soltathe Palestinian Authority, its opponents openly use the term “subcontractor”, supposed to serve the Israeli occupation and its security needs.

In this context, Hebron is a major issue. With more than 200,000 inhabitants, it is the most populous city, but also the richest in the West Bank. Industrial center of the territory, integrated into international trade since always, it is reputed to be conservative, attached to tribal structures as rigid as they are complex. The clan spirit is also omnipresent there. On the storefronts, as in the electoral lists, we find the same ten surnames: Abou Sneineh, Natcheh, Abou Eicheh, Jabari…

A Fatah political campaign poster for the municipal elections, in Hebron, West Bank, March 24, 2022.

A hyperconnected market

In other parts of Palestine, people from Hebron are sometimes made fun of, their accent and their provincial customs. But the city is in fact an efficient and hyperconnected market. “Here, we work with Turkey, with China. But we have to recruit someone from Ramallah [capitale politique]which presents better, to access Western financial platforms »explains an economic adviser who prefers to remain anonymous.

The movement has since calmed down. ” People are scared “, says Ghassan Banat, brother of the activist, according to whom nearly 1,800 people, including well-known personalities, are regularly worried by the Palestinian justice for having participated in the demonstrations. But Mr. Banat’s political legacy remains strong: [Le maire]Tayseer, for example, always supported him”, said his brother. If the supporters of Mr. Banat did not participate in the electoral campaign, they on the other hand disseminated throughout the West Bank posters with a clear message: “Get them out!” »alluding to Fatah officials in power.

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To keep the city, Fatah spared no effort: during the campaign, the streets were adorned with posters and yellow party flags. However, the city has always treated power with suspicion. But the situation became even more tense last year. In June 2021, around 15 members of the Palestinian security forces, in civilian clothes, beat up and killed Nizar Banat. The murder of this opponent of the regime, known for his incisive interventions on social networks, has inflamed the streets throughout the West Bank.

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