In whose name do they talk?

In whose name do they talk?

Gazans share their views on the talks taking place between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

A second round of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are taking place under the auspices of Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Washington says it hopes the talks will lead to an agreement within a year.

But Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, are notably absent from the discussions and George Mitchell, the US’ Middle East envoy, has said that they will play no role.

Laila El-Haddad (Al Jazeera) asked Palestinians in Gaza to share their views on the negotiations.

Ola Anan, 25, computer engineer

“When people started to talk about negotiations and going back to the peace process and all, I thought, wait a minute, who took our opinion before going there? I mean, Mahmoud Abbas is now a president who is out of his presidential term. So in whose name is he talking? In the name of Palestinians? I don’t think so.

People here in Gaza basically don’t have an idea what’s going on or about what agenda the Palestinian delegation are going to talk. So we have no interest and we have no news about that. Basically no one took our opinion before going there.

I really doubt how the Americans can trust Mahmoud Abbas as being a representative of the Palestinian people in general.

Or maybe they plan to get the Gaza Strip out of the Palestinian Territories? I don’t know.”

Nader Nabulsi, 44, shopkeeper

“The negotiations add up to a big zero. They don’t belong to us and neither does Abbas. Things are completely rotten. He doesn’t recognise the Gaza Strip – so what’s he negotiating over? Why doesn’t he solve the internal Palestinian problems first and then go negotiate with the Jews? And [Abbas’] term expired long ago. So how can he negotiate? On what basis? The entire Palestinian people need to be consulted in such matters. But taking matters into his own hands, negotiating on his own – that just doesn’t work. There has to be a national consensus. He has to take into consideration the opinions of the street and we reject these empty negotiations … they are a mockery.

Today, Abbas should be talking about creating a new government with legitimacy, one that takes into account the voices of the people, and makes decision with them. He should not just be negotiating on his own volition, based on whatever pops into his head and that of the Ramallah gang’s. They say they’re for democracy. Well a democracy listens to the parliament, the ministries … a democracy is not just Abbas making a decision on his own. The Palestinian people are the ones that should decide such matters, not Abbas. We reject these farcical, pointless negotiations.”

Amjad Agha, 42, agricultural engineer

“I have no hope in these negotiations. Negotiations have been ongoing for 20 years now and they’ve brought the Palestinian people nothing at all. Neither the Gaza Strip nor the West Bank has reaped any benefit from them in any way. Both areas are still completely separated from one another – there is no link between these two parts of our nation. Movement across the borders and crossings is still very poor. The airport is closed. There’s no freedom of movement.

Gaza in particular is in a large prison. There’s absolutely no way to leave, except with extreme difficulty, regardless [of] whether you’re a student, you’re sick, or you’re just a person going on vacation.

These negotiations will fail very quickly, especially given Israel’s obstinacy and their staunch refusal to compromise or even speak about the right of return, Jerusalem, and other matters of importance to the Palestinian people and to the Muslim umma.”

Sameeha Ulwan, 22, recent college graduate

“I don’t think that direct talks mean a lot to me as a Gazan and as a Palestinian as a whole. For us Gazans we are being marginalised and our cause is not being discussed at the direct talks despite the fact that we have [been] besieged in Gaza for more than four years.

And actually direct talks concentrate on the basic issues – those basic issues which have been discussed for decades and which were futile most of the time … talking about Jerusalem, talking about the refugees, talking about the settlements, which are not going to be frozen according to what the Israelis have been saying. And I don’t think those negotiations will lead to anything but more and more concessions.”

Khalil Hamam, 54, engineer

“Negotiations have been ongoing for 20 years without any result. This is because there’s an asymmetry of power between the two negotiating sides. There’s a strong side and a weak side. We don’t need negotiations; we just need to fill in the blanks. This is what’s causing the disparity. In order for there to be successful negotiations there has to be a balance of power.”

Alia Shaheen, 32, project manager at an NGO

“Most of the people here in Gaza aren’t even thinking about [negotiations] as they’re busy thinking about their current situation, which is worsening. They are thinking about how to solve their problems, their daily difficulties, such as the cutting of electricity, their economic problems, how to get their income, how to raise their children, and about the closure and the siege that they suffer from on a daily basis. They don’t regard negotiations as a big issue in their life overall and certainly not one worth reflecting over. They think of them as a silly activity.”

Abu al-Abed, 30, fisherman

“We hear about the negotiations on television, but we don’t see them reflected on the ground. They’re not feasible.

In the West Bank maybe there are better opportunities.

But Gaza’s completely marginalised as far as negotiations go. There’s no electricity, there’s no water. There’s also no movement.

Living expenses are high. And the borders are all closed.

I mean, Gaza’s under intense siege.”

Salih Ghamri, 58, farmer

“These negotiations surely “neither nourish nor satisfy hunger”. They are without substance. They won’t get us our rights or anything else for that matter. That’s because we’re negotiating with someone who’s not interested to start with in giving us those rights, someone who doesn’t want to compromise on anything to do with the Palestinian cause.”

* Laila El-Haddad is a Palestinian freelance journalist, photographer and blogger ( who divides her time between Gaza and the United States.