West Bank nearing breaking point, warns senior Palestinian politician

Fatah's Sabri Saidam says crisis will 'escalate beyond borders of Palestine' if Israel imposes Ramadan restrictions on Al Aqsa Mosque

Emergency services on duty at a West Bank protest against Israeli occupation near Ramallah. Reuters
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The crisis in the occupied West Bank is so acute it can be fixed only by "another Jesus", said a senior Palestinian Authority politician, warning of economic collapse in the coming weeks and further escalation if Israel imposes restrictions during Ramadan.

Dr Sabri Saidam, deputy secretary general of the Fatah Central Committee and an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told The National that the war in Gaza has been pushing the West Bank closer to breaking point.

“Ramadan is a holy month and emotions are charged even further, so things will escalate beyond the borders of Palestine” if Israel prevents travel to Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, he said. “Maybe it will get worse – much worse.”

Violence by Israeli settlers and Israeli forces in the West Bank, where more than 400 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, also indicated the future was going to be “bloody unless the world intervenes now and says enough is enough”, the former PA education minister added.

'Spinning out of control'

Since October 7, many of the 500,000 illegal settlers in the West Bank began to behave like a militia in the territory. The situation is "spinning out of control", as settlers kill Palestinians without fear of consequences, Dr Saidam said.

The “weaponisation of settlers” was becoming so dangerous, he warned. “We stand at a point in history where humanity is reconsidering matters by talking about the recognition of a Palestinian state, but that is not enough.”

Dr Saidam suggested that only a figure such as Jesus could solve the problems caused by the occupation.

“There is such a level of complexity to the extent that it appears we need another Jesus to resolve our problems. So we're waiting for Jesus.”

Economic collapse

The increased violence by settlers comes as Palestinians in the West Bank are forced to navigate an impending economic collapse made worse by the war in Gaza.

The looming financial crash has been caused by Israel cutting tax revenue to which the Palestinian Authority was entitled and barring 40,000 Palestinians from crossing the border into Israel for work.

“According to our figures, the economy is going to collapse in the coming few weeks,” Dr Saidam said from his office in Ramallah.

The authority has been forced to borrow heavily from banks to keep it afloat but now those financial institutions have warned it is “way beyond our limit of capital, so we're unable to provide any more funds”.

Ultra-nationalist Israeli activist on camera: Authorities provide locations of diplomats

Ultra-nationalist Israeli activist on camera: Authorities provide locations of diplomats

Election prospects

Iran-backed Hamas defeated Fatah in the Gaza election in 2006 and has controlled the enclave since clashes between the two factions that year. No elections have been held in Gaza or the West Bank since.

But Dr Saidam said Hamas had risen in popularity after it led the October 7 attacks against Israel in which 1,200 people were killed.

"Those in confrontational mode with Israel are winning," he said.

“This is a confirmed reality, which we avoid to accept. It is confirmed because of the failure of years of a peace process that has yielded an absolute-zero result.”

Hamas’s popularity had increased “simply because people feel let down big time”, with the Palestinians still without a state.

In reference to the 1994 Oslo Peace Accords, Dr Saidam said while Fatah had adopted the peace process, “Israel gave us the process with no peace”.

To recover its political position, Fatah had “a lot of work to do” but he warned that in times of war emotions dominated voters rather than “your brain and logic”.

'Ground zero'

The Gaza war is a personal tragedy for Dr Saidam, as 76 cousins, aunts and uncles in his extended family have been killed, he said.

Dr Saidam, who has a physics degree from Imperial College London, said his mother comes from Rafah and his father from Nuseirat refugee camp, both areas of Gaza that have been battered by Israeli air strikes.

Their suffering has been unimaginable, he said. “In Gaza, they say those who have been killed are dead but those who are alive are psychologically dead.”

With Israel poised to launch an attack on Rafah, the situation is “super scary” and life has become “extremely hellish”.

While “almost every aspect of life has been destroyed” in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority could take on full governance of Gaza when the war is over, “although this is a mission that is not at all celebrated, given the fact that you're going to ground zero”.

He envisaged the 44,000-strong Palestinian security forces would help to police Gaza in a postwar scenario but said the enclave would also need a UN-controlled buffer zone with Israel.


Despite the bleak prospects of peace, Dr Saidam underlined the importance of reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis.

“Even in the worst of times, Palestinians never surrender the fact that they call Jews our cousins,” he said.

He condemned the extremist position of politicians such as Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has goaded Palestinians with his visits to Al Aqsa, and said the Israeli far-right would only “bring more wrath, more hatred into the region”.

Peace was impossible with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still in power, he said.

“No Palestinian will ever accept shaking his hand because of what he's done in Gaza."

Updated: February 20, 2024, 5:07 PM