Influence of the “elite” on Palestinian political life

Pros and cons of Palestinian national "pressure groups"

Dr. Ayman Ibrahim AL-Regeb

Any society has his elites or we can say “pressure groups”, which is a healthy phenomenon in any mature society.

The elite category always seeks for controlling political decision-making process and they are dubbed as “pressure groups”. These pressure groups are always led by elite members of societywith the aim of influencing the state’s public policy towards a specific issue. This influence is considered the core of the common interests of this group, blocs or even parties and organizations who look forward to affecting decision-makers, exactly like every elite group seeks to exploit all its financial, media, and even authoritarian capabilities to persuade members of society to belong to it, because its main strength lies in the public dimension and the number of people supporting it.

  • Pressure groups are flourished directly with the increase of freedoms

One of the most important characteristics of contemporary political regimes is the existence of groups of various interest and different orientations.

Interest groups are among the most prominent institutions of civil society or non-governmental institutions and their power and influence increases in the presence of a more democratic climate, and their number usually tends to increase with the rates and levels of development in the society.

Therefore, its growth and progress is more evident in democratic societies than in others, and its role in this case is influential and significant for the society and beneficial to its advancement and evolution. On the other hand, in repressive societies and police states, the role of these elites turns into groups that suppress freedoms and turn their members into slaves of interest for what they need.

These groups use whatever means they can use to influence public opinion, the government, and the political decision-making process in general, in the context of their pursuit to their own interests.

Depending on the role of these groups, individuals usually tend to join that group or another to express interests that are stable and strong enough.

This aforementioned introduction leads us to learn about the functions of pressure groups in any society, including:

  • Formulating demands and expressing political trends to obtain material gains for its members.

 

  • Opposing a decision or policy that it deems harmful to the interests of its members.

 

  • Expressing the opinion of a specific sector of public opinion on public issues.

 

  • making Propaganda for a specific policy

 

  • Seeking for obtaining direct representation in decision-making bodies, especially Parliament and the executive institutions.

 

  • Gaining Electoral support which aims at helping one candidate to win and to topple another. Such Support may be with money, individuals, publicity, or all three.

 

  • Advertisement and informative promotions, with the aim of convincing the masses and arousing their interest in an idea or policy.

 

  • Maintaining relations with the parties and creating legislative blocs within one or more parties to defend the group’s interests.

 

This leads us to address the actors who are really influential in the political decision-making process who are the targets of pressure groups such as:

First / public opinion: there is a relationship between it and the various policies that are framed by the state or the government, as what the public thinks is what the government does, as it is the majority’s view of an important issue that is under discussion in search of a solution. Indeed, public opinion has impact over the government’s paths and policies, and vice versa.

Second / Political parties: They play a pioneering role in providing channels for political participation and the expression of opinion. They are an influential factor in the political decision issued by any party, as they discuss the political system related to various basic issues that concern the society and the state internally and externally and work to stir public opinion and thus form a lobbying force on the government and its policies.

Third / Journalism and the media: Decision makers need to know all kinds of media of before taking any decision, and they can be under the influence of propaganda.

These are the most important channels of influence that the political elites and pressure groups seek to exploit, of which the parties are one of its forms. Of course, these models, as we mentioned, are in democratic societies, and their role becomes limited whenever democracy regresses.

The Palestinian case

As for the elites and interest groups in the Palestinian case, we find a big conflict among different models of pressure groups and political elites. In practice, there is a struggle between the democratic form sought by the Palestinian people and the oppressive form and seizure of freedoms used by Palestinian decision-makers. This has several reasons that appeared clearly before the establishment of the Palestinian authority and building the Palestinian entity on the ground for the first time, including:

  • The link between some Palestinian political factions and some Arab and regional countries has affected the Palestinian decision-making process and even sought to have a role in Palestinian political life.
  • The relationship of some Palestinian leaders with Arab and regional countries made them puppets in the hands of these countries by using money, influence and interests, and striving to make these elites have influence within the Palestinian society.
  • Some political elites exploit their control over the political decision and try to deny the other, which created a state of political oppression for opponents and weakened the role of pressure groups in positively influencing Palestinian decision-making and correcting it towards the interests of the Palestinian people.

These abovementioned reasons have rendered the role of political elites and got pressure groups to be worthless and to lose its impact. Instead, it increased the wounds of the Palestinian case.

For example, Fatah movement has controlled the Palestine Liberation Organization since the seventies of the last century and took control of the Palestinian Authority after its establishment in 1994. Despite its attempt to establish a democratic entity through parliamentary elections in 1995 with the participation of all Palestinian factions, it clashed with factions and groups that refused to participate in the elections on the pretext that they were fruits of a peace agreement rejected by these factions and groups, which made the majority of parliament affiliated with Fatah. Consequently, there was a negative transformation of the role of pressure groups and the Palestinian elites to be serving the individual rather than society.

In 2006, things turned dramatically as Hamas Movement who was rejecting the elections participated in it and won the majority of the Parliamentary seats. Unfortunately, Hamas fell in the same trap that Fatah fell into, so the struggle of the Palestinian political elites turned in another tunnel that generally corrupted Palestinian political life and became a hotbed for regional states to interfere.

Thereby, the Palestinian experience failed during its birth stage, and we have two forms of government, one in the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas movement and the other in the West Bank, controlled by Fatah movement, and it turned into two police entities suppressingthe opponents. What distinguishes the West Bank entity is the presence of a president whom the international community deals with as the representative of the Palestinian people.

  • Disappearance of the influence of the Palestinian elites negatively affected the mother cause after it was used to serve people and not the state…

This situation has affected the role of elites and interest groups that no longer have an influential role in society, and the rulers of these two entities are the ones who lead everything. Each party exploits its influence and money to create elites and groups that support its positions. Of course, this happens in light of the paralysis of Palestinian legislative life and the tyranny of individual life and the tyranny of the executive authority over all authorities within the society.

There is no longer a role for the public opinion, the press, and the media or even for the Palestinian political factions and civil society institutions. Every entity has onlybecome concerned with the interests of its members at the expense of the interests of society in general, given that these individuals will be its strength in the upcoming elections if they take place.

In fact, this Palestinian case frustrated all components of Palestinian society and turned the Palestinian issue into an issue of interests for some elites and limited groups.

Conclusion

According to all the above-mentioned, any healthy society has pressure groups that should specify the pressure tools that they will use to achieve their goals and that the tools of the goals of any pressure group in a country don’t not necessary apply to all countries. What works in one country may not work in another country and this means that pressure groups need the human element, as the human resources on the ground in countries are important to achieve the goals of these groups and to obtain feedback in the initial stages of collecting information and data. These data and information certainly constitute a database in the work of any country to ensure the success of its work, so that work can proceed in the next stage.

In the Palestinian case, as a result of the reasons that we cited, the pressure groups no longer have a role in defining their work tools or even choosing the model that they can implement in the Palestinian entity, and this does not mean that the Palestinian case, despite these circumstances that we have mentioned, has ended forever. If really this case is destined to reach a solution, it may become a typical modeling case in the Arab world as a result of the experiences gained by interest groups and political elites from what they lived outside and inside the homeland.

However, this will not happen unless everyone is convinced of the necessity of returning the democratic life to the Palestinian arena by giving a margin to all the authorities and highlighting the role of civil society institutions and thus pressure groups and elites will be born and be capable of developing Palestinian political life.

 

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