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In a press conference held, on 11/1/2022, al-Zayotuna Centre announced the major conclusions of the Palestine Strategic Report 2020–2021 (PSR 2020–2021) with projections to 2022–2023.

The Report’s editor and al-Zayotuna’s General-Manager Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh announced these conclusions, and a group of experts and specialists in Palestinian affairs attended.

Saleh explained that this is the twelfth volume of a series that is considered an essential reference for comprehensive and specialized Palestinian academic studies. The series has been covering the Palestine issue for 17 years, 2005–2021. The current 400-page volume consists of eight chapters, it was authored by a group of 14 specialists in the Palestine issue and reviewed by a specialized advisory body.

The Palestinian Internal Situation

Regarding the Palestinian internal situation, the report noted the continuation of the crisis of the Palestinian national project, and the absence of a national program that confirms the fundamentals and manages the current stage. It noted the continued deterioration of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its institutions and the continued erosion of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its transformation into a functional tool. PSR cautioned that the PA presidency has tightened its grip on the official executive, legislative and judicial institutions, expanding its jurisdictions on these institutions’ account. It noted that due to the disruption of the elections and the failure of putting the Palestinian political house in order, the Palestinian public has been frustrated, and according to public opinion polls, the confidence in the current Palestinian leadership has decreased.

The report expects the continuation of the crises of the national project and the official Palestinian institutions, as long as the same mentality continues to lead them. There would be an increase in factional and popular pressures in order to form a transitional Palestinian leadership. The PSR expects prospects to form a pro-resistance Palestinian national front or alignment that would exert pressure to rebuild the official Palestinian institutions on a truly representative basis, at home and abroad. It also expects that there will be better opportunities for Palestinian popular action to fill the void created by the disruption of the reconciliation process and the deterioration or disruption of the PLO institutions.

The Palestinian Demographic Indicators

The PSR 2020–2021 has discussed the Palestinian demographic indicators, explaining that the number of Palestinians in the world is about 14 million; about half of them (49.8%) lives inside historic Palestine, and the other half (50.2%) lives in the diaspora, and that more than 75% of Palestinians abroad resides in the countries surrounding occupied Palestine, particularly Jordan.

The Report noted that the total number of Palestinian refugees is estimated at about 67% of the total Palestinian population, and that most of them live abroad, while 2.4 million live in historic Palestine, particularly the West Bank (WB) and Gaza Strip (GS).

The number of Palestinians in historic Palestine will exceed that of the Jews at the end of 2022, reaching approximately 7.1 million. The number of Palestinians is expected to exceed the number of Jews after five years, by about 300 thousand (end of 2026).

The Economic Indicators in WB and GS

The PSR 2020–2021 has also discussed the economic indicators in WB and GS, and the Israeli dominance over the Palestinian economy. It indicated that in 2021, the Israeli Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was more than 25-fold the Palestinian one. The Israeli GDP per capita is 15-fold that of the Palestinian, which confirms the ugliness of the occupation and its measures against Palestine and its people. 84% of the PA’s total exports goes to Israel, which also receives 55% of the PA’s total imports. The Report added that the PA revenues depend mainly on sources it does not control, where about 80% of its revenues were from the clearance taxes collected by Israel and from international grants. The report drew attention to the enormous suffering of GS, which has been sieged for 15 years, the steadfastness of its people and their strong confrontations with Israel.

Israeli Aggression and Palestinian Resistance

The Report includes a chapter that discusses the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian resistance. It included statistics concerning the resistance operations in 2020–2021, the numbers of Palestinian killed, wounded and imprisoned, in addition to the Israeli casualties. The Israelis have registered 1,513 attacks in 2020 compared to 4,386 in 2021, with a significant number of these attacks having heavy impact, while the rest were either incendiary bombs or popular confrontations, such as throwing stones and others. As for the Sword of Jerusalem battle in May 2021, it was considered a milestone in the development process of the resistance.

The Israeli Scene

The report has its fifth chapter on the Israeli scene and the Israeli demographic, economic and military indicators. It stated that the Israeli society is developing to be more extreme, more religious and nationalistic, and that the right-wing movements dominate the government and the Israeli political scene.

It noted that the Israeli political system had experienced confusion and instability, holding four general elections over two years (2019–2021) and having difficulty in forming stable governments, while the current coalition government is not homogeneous and may collapse at any moment.

The PSR 2020–2021 expects the Israeli state to further “legalize” the Jewish-Zionist identity of Israel, and that it would execute more Judaization plans in Jerusalem and the rest of WB.

It pointed out that the number of Jews in Israel reached about seven million at the end of 2021, and that the number of Jewish immigrants to Israel reached about 25 thousand in 2021, while the number of Jews in the world was estimated at 15.17 million, where 46% live in Israel.

The report indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic had its impact on the Israeli economy, where the Israeli experts reported the worst decline in the economy since the establishment of Israel. Until the end of 2021, 1.38 million cases were recorded, while each lockdown was costing the Israeli economy about $1.9–2.8 billion a week. As for Israeli losses during the Sword of Jerusalem battle, they are estimated at $2.14 billion.

However, the Israeli economy remained among the advanced economies close to the situation of European economies, with a GDP per capita of about $44 thousand. The US still maintains its status as the primary trading partner of Israel, while China ranked the second and Germany the third. Israel still receives US aid annually, with an annual average of $3.8 billion, including $3.3 billion in military grants.

The Report discussed the Israeli military indicators, including the multiyear plan for the Israeli army “Tnufa” [momentum in Hebrew] and the Israeli military budget that exceeds $21 billion, the highest globally when compared to population estimates. Israel is still maintaining its qualitative military edge, it has become one of the largest arms exporters in the world, at about $8.3 billion in 2020.

Despite the Israeli progress and superiority, the weak and fragmented Arab and Islamic environment and the support of major powers to Israel; PSR 2020–2021 states that Israel still faces real challenges including the rise of the resistance forces, especially in the Palestinian territories, which have acquired better missile and cyber capabilities; the rejection of normalization by the Arab and Muslim public, who still supports the resistance; the instability of the strategic environment surrounding Palestine; the declining quality of Israeli political leaders; and the fact that the Israeli soldiers lack the strong will to combat, etc. Thus, Israel will remain unstable, facing many changes and challenges.

The Arab and Muslim Worlds and the International Situation

The PSR 2020–2021 discusses, in three complete chapters, the Palestine issue on the Arab, Islamic and international levels. A large part of the Report has discussed the Arab world, particularly the countries surrounding Palestine: Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and their interaction with the Palestine issue. The Report has reviewed the developments of the normalization dossier, where the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have established relations with Israel, while other countries have relations with Israel that are not official yet.

The Report noted the central Egyptian role in the Arab administration of the Palestinian file, and that Egypt has sponsored the reconciliation meetings, putting the Palestinian political house in order, the truce and cease-fire arrangements with the Israeli side, the prisoner release deal and the reconstruction of GS. At the same time, the Egyptian government has significantly increased its normalization activities with Israel.

The Report has indicated that the Arab rush towards normalization will slow down, in light of the popular rejection, the failure of Trump’s deal and the fact that the burdens and costs of normalization will be greater than what the Arab states have hoped for. For Israel is an opportunist state that has no real chances of becoming a friend or an ally.

The PSR 2020–2021 discusses the positions of the Muslim world on the Palestine issue, and studies in detail the Turkish and Iranian cases. Turkey has maintained its political support of the Palestine issue, on the basis of a two-state solution, while considering that Jerusalem is a red line. It has maintained a good relationship with the leadership of the PLO and the PA, and with Hamas. Turkey’s position on the Israeli practices against the Palestinians was one of the most vocal on the Islamic and international levels. However, the Report noted that Turkey separates the political aspect from the economic one in its relationship with Israel, where their trade volume in 2021 reached $6.5 billion.

As for Iran, it has continued to support the resistance action financially, militarily, and in the media, which was appreciated by the resistance forces. The Iranian position that refuses to recognize Israel has continued, a position that is likely to continue in the foreseeable future.

The Report reviews in detail the international situation and the Palestine issue, discussing the actions taken by the United Nations and the International Quartet, US and Europe, and those of the BRICS countries, specifically China, India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa. It has noted that the general pattern of international behavior and the UN voting have continued, while the global popular sympathy with the Palestine issue has grown. The Report expects that the financial support for the PA and UNRWA would decline, no real pressure would be exerted on the Israeli side and that the US would try to influence the selection of the next Palestinian president, in the event of a vacancy.

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Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 11/1/2022