This annual referential report, has become an essential classic in the academic realm of Palestinian Studies. It includes the latest and most recent statistical and analytic data on the various developments related to the Palestinian issue.
Al-Zaytouna Center for Studies and Consultations in Beirut has published the Palestinian Strategic Report 2012-2013 (PSR) in Arabic.
The book, edited by Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh (Associate Professor and General Manager of the Centre), monitors and analyzes the Palestinian issue and its developments for the years 2012 and 2013.
It sheds light on the internal Palestinian scene, Palestinian demographic and economic indicators, as well as looking at the land and holy sites.
The PSR discusses Palestinian relations at the Arab, Islamic and international levels, and provides an overview of the Israeli situation, resistance operations, and the peace process.
The PSR is rich with scientifically documented content and includes dozens of supporting tables, data, and illustrations.
Title: Al-Taqrir al-Istratiji al-Filastini 2012–2013 (The Palestinian Strategic Report 2012–2013)
Book reviewed by Wa’el Ahmad Sa‘ad.
It should be noted that the PSR was published on an annual basis between 2005 and 2011, covering a period of seven years. This time, the PSR will cover the period between 2012 and 2013, which is the first experience of its kind for al-Zaytouna Centre. With this move, the Center follows in the footsteps of other think tanks, with a view to achieve a broader outlook for the paths of the Palestinian issue.
The PSR concluded that the internal Palestinian scene continues to be marred by the fundamental crisis arising from the Palestinian division, the failure to implement the reconciliation program, and the failure to put the Palestinian house in order. This is in addition to the crisis over the inability to decide on specific directions and ambitions for national action continued, with continuing with the peace process or reverting to armed resistance being the two primary options.
The PSR verdict was that the internal Palestinian crisis requires a serious stand to determine the course and priorities of national action, otherwise, reconciliation programs would continue to carry the seeds of crisis and failure within them.
As for the Israeli scene, the PSR states that as much as the Israeli society had plenty reasons to worry in 2012, as a result of the rapid changes and revolutions in the Arab world, the resistance’s success in repelling Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip (GS), and the setbacks in the peace process, in 2013, Israeli society had an equal number of reasons to be reassured, as a result of the frustration that followed the Arab revolutions, the successful coup in Egypt, the resumption of the peace process according to Israeli conditions, and stalled Palestinian reconciliation.
Among the most important developments in the internal Israeli political scene between 2012 and 2013 was the transformation in the political landscape in 2012, which had an impact on the map of partisan forces in the 19th Israeli Knesset after the general election of January 2013. It is noted that these elections entrenched the dominance of rightwing and religious parties in the Knesset, with these factions taking more than half of the Knesset’s 120 seats, while the rest was distributed among center, leftist, and Arab parties.
Regarding economic estimates, Israeli GDP in 2013 was $291.819 billion, while the per capita income in Israel in 2013 was around $36 thousand.
In 2012 and 2013, Israel continued its aggression on the Palestinian people. Near the end of 2012, a major Israeli assault dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense by the Israelis and Operation Stones of Baked Clay by the Palestinian side was carried out, killing 191 Palestinians and wounding 1,526 others, most of whom were women, children, and senior citizens. In 2013, a total of 49 Palestinians were killed compared to 275 in 2012. By the end of 2013, meanwhile, 5,023 Palestinian prisoners were still being detained by Israel, including 17 women and 154 children.
Israel dealt with the Palestinian internal issue in 2012 and 2013 with the same strategy, seeking to entrench the Palestinian division and prevent Palestinian reconciliation. Israel chose to continue to drag on the peace process, without any serious intention to resolve final status issues, at a time when it continued to impose facts on the ground through Judaization and settlement programs.
At the Arab level, internal political changes were the most important factor influencing the Palestinian issue in 2012 and 2013. These changes profoundly affected some of the most important countries that serve as the strategic depth of the Palestinian issue, especially Egypt and Syria. The snags that hit the transitional process and the escalation of the political crises in 2013 dampened Arab interest in Palestine at both the popular and official levels, making way for internal concerns to dominate the agenda.
It is also possible to say that the outcome of these crises weakened the masses’ ability to influence political decision-making again, putting the calculations of gains and losses back in the forefront, along with the influence of powerful external actors, which had appeared on the decline even if temporarily as a result of the “Arab Spring” in 2011. This raised doubts about the possibility of a real change, towards building a nurturing Arab environment that supports Palestinian steadfastness, resistance and confrontation of Israeli violations.
In 2012 and 2013, the Palestinian issue maintained its position high among the interests of the Muslim world. The developments brought by the Arab Spring in the region prompted Turkey and Iran to seek to play a more vital role and to contribute to building regional maps with direct impact on the Palestinian issue.
At the international level, the PSR mentions that if Palestine’s success in achieving non-member status at the United Nations is excluded, as well as the continued decline in international public support for Israel, the two years of 2012 and 2013 were characterized by the decline of the Palestinian issue in regional and international developments. These developments include the Arab Spring, the US pivot to the Asia–Pacific region, and the Russian-Chinese quest to create a multipolar international order or at least weaken US unipolarity. Hence, the Palestinian issue may enter a new phase of international changes that will have a huge impact on it in the coming years, and therefore, Palestinian decision-makers should take this into account.
Concerning the diplomatic activity of the Middle East Quartet (UN, European Union (EU), US, and Russia), it is considered powerless in expressing international will that may impose a solution on the parties of the conflict in Palestine. It appears that Israel continues to enjoy a high degree of confidence in its ability to continue its occupation and act as a state above the law and international conventions.
US efforts regarding the Palestinian issue did not break their usual pattern, until mid-2013, when the US secured approval from the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume negotiations. The main problem for the US was that it wanted to reach a solution based on concessions by its Israeli allies, but whom it did not want to put pressure on. The European attitude remained consistent with the US position except when it came to Israeli settlement activity, and Palestine’s accession to the UN as a non-member state.
As for the BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, they confirmed their support for resolving the conflict on the basis of United Nations resolutions, the Madrid principles, and the Arab initiative. Their position on Jerusalem is also clearer on the side of the Arab bloc.
The PSR also overviews Israeli violations against Palestinian lands and holy sites, adducing a broad range of data on various aspects of these violations. The PSR also sheds light on Israeli attempts to create permanent partitions in al-Aqsa Mosque for Jews and Muslims, pointing out that the general election in March 2013 ended up giving “Temple” groups (which seek to seize al-Aqsa) greater political influence. These groups have formed together a coalition for the Temple, which began operating on 21/3/2013, with the participation of 19 officially registered groups.
The PSR mentioned that the number of Israeli settlers living in settlements rose to more than 656 thousand in 2012, living in 196 settlements and 232 outposts throughout the WB, including East Jerusalem. The number of settlers in the WB amounted to 693 thousand in 2013, while Israeli data puts the figure at around 570 thousand. The number of excavations and tunnels under the al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings increased from 41 excavations on 21/8/2011 to 47 by 1/8/2013.
As for the Separation Wall in the WB, the PSR mentioned that the Israeli authorities finished building 495 km or 64% of its total length; 55 km (7%) is under construction, and that 224 km (29%) is still at the planning stage.
Regarding demographics, the PSR indicates that the number of Palestinians in the world was, at the end of 2013, about 11.807 million. Half, i.e., 5.891 million people (49.9%) live in the Diaspora. The other half, i.e., 5.916 million people (50.1%) reside in historic Palestine, and are distributed as follows: about 1.43 million people in the territories occupied in 1948; and about 4.485 million people in the territories occupied in 1967: 2.755 million in the WB (61.4%), and 1.731 million in the GS (38.6%).
According to the PSR, if growth in the WB and GS and among the Palestinians of 1948 continues at the same pace over the next years, the number of Palestinians and Jews in historic Palestine could equalize in 2016, at around 6.42 million people. The proportion of Jews will decline to 48.9% in 2020, with 6.87 million Jews compared to 7.18 million Palestinians.
Concerning economic indicators, the PSR states that the years 2012 and 2013 did not bring anything new in terms of the economic status quo in the WB and GS. The direct dependency on the Israeli economy, and isolation from the outside Arab and international worlds continued. This was mainly due to Israel’s control of all Palestinian international ports and border crossings, and a high proportion of Palestinian foreign trade that was conducted with Israel. The size of trade with Israel in 2012 was approx. $3,990 million, i.e., 72.8% of total PA foreign trade ($5,480 million), consisting mostly of imports ($3,351 million). Exports were extremely limited ($639 million), which severely damaged the Palestinian economy, and made the trade balance dramatically skewed in favor of Israel.
The PSR clarified the huge difference between the Palestinian economy in the WB and GS on the one hand, and Israel on the other hand: the GDP per capita (at current prices) were found to be $2,534 and $2,719 in 2012 and 2013 respectively, compared to the GDP per capita in Israel of $32,569 and $36,227 in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Another benchmark indicating the width of the gap between the two sides is the high unemployment in Palestine, which was 23.4% in 2013 compared to 23% in 2012. This is while bearing in mind that unemployment rates vary between the WB and GS; in 2013, unemployment was 32.6% in the latter, compared to 18.6% in the former. In 2012, the figures were 31% and 19% respectively. This reflects the cost of the occupation for the Palestinian people and economy.
The PSR did not overlook the educational situation in the WB and GS, stating that Palestinians in the WB and GS are remarkably advanced relative to the Arab world in terms of literacy and education, which reached 95.9% and 96.3% in the years 2012 and 2013, respectively. Only Qatar came close to these figures in the Arab world.
According to the figures available from the Ministry of Higher Education of the PA cited by the PSR, there were 34 colleges and institutes providing education for 28,505 students in the academic year 2012/2013, including 15 colleges attended by 16,232 students which award bachelor’s degrees, and 19 institutes attended by 12,273 students which award diplomas.
The PSR features a wealth of information related to the Palestinian issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict, all addressed in in-depth detail. It is worth noting that the executive summary of the PSR 2012-203 is now available via al-Zaytouna website. It is also possible to download some previous reports free of charge from the website.