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Ramallah protestors call on Abbas to resign

Sept. 9, 2012 7:07 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 10, 2012 10:34 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Demonstrators in Ramallah called on President Abbas to resign on Sunday, a Ma'an correspondent said, as protests over the rising cost of living continue in the West Bank.

Truck drivers blocked traffic in Ramallah's Manara Square as people marched in the city center against the economic policies of the Palestinian Authority.

A leader in the popular protests, Mahir Amir, told Ma'an that protesters wanted to send a message to President Abbas to urge him to annul the Paris Protocol with Israel.

The protests also demand that the PLO plays an appropriate role in controlling the Palestinian Authority, Amir added.

"We don't put the blame on Salam Fayyad or any other individual personally. This crisis is a result of several elements. However, what we demand is an overall review of the government and the PA's political, economic and social policies," he said.

Public transport drivers also organized a protest outside of the offices of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Protesters carried banners urging the PA to revoke its decision to raise the price of fuel and other basic commodities.

The head of the union of public transport, Muhammad Sarhan, handed a letter with their demands to a representative of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

The letter urged the PA to support the public transport sector by reducing taxes.

On Sunday morning, the Wadi al-Nar road connecting the south and north West Bank was jammed with burning tires and rocks, as protests against economic hardship continued across the West Bank.

Paris Protocol

Frustrated by rising prices and high levels of unemployment, Palestinians took to the streets this week to protest the dire economic outlook.

PA premier Salam Fayyad, who also held the finance minister post until earlier this year, has emerged as a focus of the protests, but demonstrators have also demanded that the Paris Protocol agreement signed with Israel in 1994 be amended.

UN agencies and Palestinian economists say the economic sections of the Oslo interim peace deals, outlined in the Paris Protocol of 1994, have been implemented by Israel selectively and mostly to its benefit.

"Eighteen years of the Paris economic agreement have become a heavy burden on the Palestinian people and led to very difficult financial and economic conditions," Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh told Reuters.

The Protocol gave Israel sole control over Palestine's external trade, and collection of customs duties, allowing the state to serially hold back this revenue as punishment for Palestinian political measures, such as the bid for UN membership.

It also pegs VAT to Israeli tax rates, currently at 17 percent, despite the huge disparity in average Palestinian and Israeli incomes.

"Israel has not committed to open its market to the Palestinians while the Palestinian market has remained open to it," Samir Abdullah, director general of the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute, said.

Mechanisms for economic dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians were mandated by the interim Paris deal, which like the Oslo accords, was meant to last for only five years pending a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Reuters contributed to this report
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