West Bank Palestinians strike against Abbas’s social security law
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West Bank Palestinians strike against Abbas’s social security law

Citing growing rift with Hamas and increased Israeli incursions, protesters say PA government cannot be trusted to manage fund

A Palestinian woman walks past closed shops after a strike was called to protest against the social security law proposed by the Palestinian Authority, in the West Bank town of Hebron on January 15, 2019. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)
A Palestinian woman walks past closed shops after a strike was called to protest against the social security law proposed by the Palestinian Authority, in the West Bank town of Hebron on January 15, 2019. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank joined a strike on Tuesday against their government’s proposed new social security law, fearing the fund will be mismanaged.

The strike, which saw much of Ramallah, Hebron and other West Bank cities closed, came hours before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is due to address the United Nations.

A few thousand people protested outside the Social Security Institution in Ramallah, where Abbas’s government is based.

Under the proposed system, both private employers and their employees would pay monthly into a government-managed fund, with employees receiving a pension when they retire.

The PA says it will provide new security for employees, arguing similar systems exist in countries across the globe.

A Palestinian man walks in front of closed shops after a strike was called to protest against the social security law proposed by the Palestinian Authority, in the West Bank town of Hebron, on January 15, 2019. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Polls show that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians view PA institutions as corrupt, and protesters say they do not trust the Ramallah-based government to manage the fund.

They also say Israel’s continued occupation of the the West Bank means that the long-term existence of the Palestinian Authority government is far from secure.

Israeli soldiers entered Ramallah several times in recent weeks, including near Abbas’s headquarters following two deadly terror attacks in the West Bank.

Amer Farah, who works at Bank of Palestine in Ramallah, said that in functioning states the social security laws were important to protect citizens’ futures.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas speaks after laying a wreath at the tomb of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat inside the Mukataa compound, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, November 11, 2018. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP)

“But we are still under occupation, and there is no contact between parts of the country,” he told AFP, alluding to the decade-long split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where Abbas’s rivals Hamas are in control.

The Hamas terror group, which seized control of the coastal enclave from Abbas in 2007, has stated that it strongly opposes the Social Security Institution, claiming it violates quasi-constitutional Palestinian laws.

“The country is not stable, neither economically nor politically,” Farah added. “How will they implement the law?”

The decade-long Palestinian split looks set to deepen in the coming months, with Abbas poised to take multiple measures against Hamas.

Palestinians wave national flags as they march in the streets of Ramallah calling to end divisions between Fatah and Hamas and the unification of the West Bank and Gaza Strip on January 12, 2019. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

A breakthrough came in late 2017 when the two sides reached an agreement to eventually share power; however the reconciliation agreement has since collapsed acrimoniously.

Abbas was due to speak later Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly, where he was expected to again call on world powers to recognize Palestine as a state despite the divided governments.

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