HUMAN AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
At a 2004 estimate, according to Securitypology, the population of Palestine was 3,699,000 residents, with a density of 614.6 residents / km 2. From an administrative point of view it is divided into 16 governorates, and the main cities are the eastern sector of Jerusalem (249,270 residents Estimated in 2003), Gaza (361,650 residents In 2002), Hebron (147,300 residents), Nablus (121,340 residents), Jenin (32,300 residents) And Jericho (18,240 residents). Fertility is very high and reaches almost 5children per woman; consequently the high birth rate translates into a consistent demographic growth (about 4 % per year) and in a share of residents under the age of 15 just under half of the total population. Life expectancy at birth is around 73 years. The economic and social situation of Palestine remains very precarious: about half of the population lives on less than 2 dollars a day and the country survives thanks to international aid.
According to an estimate by the World Bank, between 1995 and 2003, GDP per capita recorded an average annual decrease of 6.9 %. Unemployment affects a quarter of the active population and mainly affects young people, among whom the percentage rises to 37-40 %. The productive sectors have been affected by the state of permanent conflict, in particular tourism has almost collapsed and agriculture has been heavily penalized by the construction of a ‘defensive security barrier’ by Israel (2002) on the West Bank, which often has cut into two productive plots.
In 2003, at the end of a process that began after the failure of the Camp David negotiations, the figure of ̔Arafāt by now appeared strongly delegitimized: from opposite but coincident shores, Ḥamās and the Israeli government had contributed to erode and compromise his political representativeness. Determined to radicalize the conflict and ‘Islamise’ the Palestinian cause, Ḥamās had managed to penetrate ever deeper into Palestinian society, gathering support not only from the most disadvantaged sections of the population but also from the more cultured emerging classes, such as university students. (in particular that of Bir Zeit, near Rāmallāh). The disruptive crisis of the old leadership team of al-Fat āḥ (which reverberated on all the political structures of the Palestine) risked marginalizing this organization, hostage to personal feuds, serious episodes of corruption and the exorbitant power of the leaders of the security services, a dense and almost inextricable network of numerous apparatuses, managed arbitrarily and often in competition with each other. The structure of Ḥamās, distributed throughout the territory with democratically elected executive councils, made the nepotistic nature of the management of the Palestine, in the hands of a few large families, increasingly evident. ̔Arafāt’s responsibilities in this patronizing and opaque management of power and growing international pressure prompted him to establish in March 2003 the role of prime minister, which was entrusted in April to the moderate Abū Māzin (̔Abbās Maḥmūd al-̔Aqqād), one of the founders of al-Fat āḥ. The vagueness of the mandate given to the prime minister and the evident tensions with ̔Arafāt for the division of powers, however, quickly led to the resignation of Abū Māzin (Sept.). In the months of his mandate, Israelis and Palestinians had returned, albeit briefly, to the negotiating table, and the so-called road map, the peace plan presented in April 2003 by the United States, Russia, and the Union had been set aside for manifest impracticability. European Union and the UN, which established the birth date of the new Palestinian state for 2005 (see israel).
Protests against the business and authoritarian management of ̔Arafāt erupted in the first half of 2004, first among the leaders of al-Fat āḥ (February) for the lack of internal reform of the organization, then in the squares of Gaza (July), where the protesters complained about the inefficiency of the public administration, the increasingly widespread corruption and extortionate behavior of the security services. The growing internal pressure on ̔Arafāt, architect of only superficial reforms, did not placate the chaos that reigned in Gaza, where there was more and more frequent settling of scores between rival factions. The illness and then the death of the old leader (Nov. 2004) brought back to the scene Abū Māzin, the only candidate of al-Fatāḥ in the elections for the presidency of the Palestine after the withdrawal of Marwān Bargūtī, the symbol of the al-Aqṣā intif ā ḍa, in prison in Israel since April 2002. Elected in January 2005 with 62.5 % of the vote, Abu Māzin was welcomed by the Bush administration and Israel.
In 2005, the attention of the international community, Palestinians and Israelis was catalyzed by the planned withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and the dismantling of all Jewish settlements in the Strip (21, with about 8200 residents). The evacuation plan, announced by Sharon as early as February 2004, was put into practice in mid-August. After the withdrawal, Israel reserved, however, the control of the airspace and territorial waters, the possibility of interfering in radio and television systems, the right to prohibit entry into the Strip to those who were not residents there, the total control of the movements of people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank and all goods entering the Strip, with the consequent power to close the relative gates. Accepted by many as the sign of a new policy of dialogue by Sharon (also forced to deal with the strong Palestinian demographic pressure), the unilateral withdrawal of the Israelis from Gaza was considered by some analysts of the Middle East question a dangerous move. and potentially counterproductive for Palestinians,
Sharon’s forced unilateralism, like that shown several times by Bush, deprived the Palestinians of the possibility of actively participating in the self-determination of their own destiny. Furthermore, the Strip was in a state of serious economic decline, the result of the continuous closures imposed by Israel in the years 2000-2005: unemployment, collapse of trade, high production costs, deterioration of social services (health, education).