Palestine: UN statehood bid falters


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 224
December 2011/January 2012

After the fanfare accompanying the application to the United Nations for full Palestinian statehood by Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Abbas at the end of September there has been silence. There have been no mobilisations on Palestine’s streets, no international campaign and hardly a murmur of response from the UN. The application to the Security Council went immediately to its Committee on the Admission of New Members for ‘examination and report’ and on 11 November it became clear that out of the 15 states that make up the Security Council, Palestine could count on, at most, eight votes; one vote short of the nine needed for a Security Council majority which would force the US to use its veto. Britain indicated that it would abstain, which in practical terms is the same as opposing Palestinian statehood. BOB SHEPHERD reports.


The one glimmer of hope for Abbas’s strategy of UN recognition was the 31 October vote by UNESCO to admit Palestine as a full member. This small step was met with fury by the US and Israel. The next day Israel announced it was withholding paying $100 million a year tax and VAT revenue it collects from the PA and that it would fast-track construction of 2,000 new settlement units in East Jerusalem. The US said it was suspending its contribution of $60 million a year to UNESCO, 25% of UNESCO’s annual budget. Canada said it would cease its $10 million a year contribution. Withholding of the tax revenues will have an immediate effect on thousands of Palestinians as it is the main source of money used to pay the salaries of PA employees. It follows a decision by the US Congress to block nearly $200 million of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, intended for food, health care, and infrastructure projects.

As we pointed out in FRFI 223, ‘For Abbas and Fatah the decision to go to the UN is in effect the last throw of the dice for them, their strategy of “peace talks” and negotiations that stretch from the Oslo Accords in 1993 until today have been a disaster for the Palestinian masses and a growing humiliation for them. No matter what concessions Abbas and Fatah make to Israel the Zionist come back demanding more and at the same time the settlement construction advances across the West Bank and East Jerusalem.’ If Abbas and Fatah thought that in the political turmoil engulfing the region their bid for statehood at the UN would force the US to stop Israel from expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem they were wrong. The only way the US could stop Israel from continuing to build the settlements would be through financial penalties but this would carry with it the possibility of destabilising Israeli society and imperialism will not allow this to happen. Imperialism’s political priority is the continuation of Israel as a stable military power able to defend imperialist interests in the region.

The strategy pursued by Abbas and Fatah stumbles from one humiliating failure to another, in contrast with the unprecedented prisoner swap organised by Hamas. This political victory saw them negotiate an agreement that will ultimately release over 1,000 Palestinian political prisoners in exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. That Israel agreed to the deal is of tremendous political significance for the Palestinian people, especially for those within the Palestinian movement who advocate a strategy of militant resistance. It seemed not long ago that the Arab Spring had passed the Palestinians by, but the prisoner release shows that Israel is being affected by the wider political changes in the region. Netanyahu, explaining the deal agreed with Hamas, placed it in the context of what he called the ‘storms’ sweeping the Middle East. ‘With everything that is happening in Egypt and the region I don’t know if the future would have allowed us to get a better deal – or any deal for that matter…this is a window of opportunity that might have been missed.’ The role played by the Egyptian regime in helping organise the deal highlights the changing political realities for Israel.

The first batch of 477 prisoners was freed on 18 October in return for the release of Shalit after over five years of captivity. The remaining 550 will be released by the end of 2011. Of these 477 prisoners, 110 were returned to their homes in the West Bank and 203 were deported to Jordan, Turkey, Qatar and Syria, countries which had agreed to take those whom Israel insisted must not be allowed to return home. The rest were transported to Gaza even if they were not originally from there. Although Hamas had to accept 203 deportees as part of the deal, Israel had to cross a number of what it had deemed to be ‘red lines’: freeing prisoners with ‘blood on their hands’ and prisoners from within both Israel and East Jerusalem. All women and child prisoners are also to be released under the deal. Approximately 5,300 Palestinian prisoners will remain in Israeli gaols.

The release of Shalit removes the excuse for the Zionists’ punitive blockade of Gaza and the isolation and inhuman conditions that Palestinian prisoners suffer, all of which were imposed on the pretext of forcing the Palestinians to release Shalit. As the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) puts it, ‘with the ending of Shalit’s case… PCHR calls for immediately lifting of the closure and an end to all collective punitive measures imposed on the civilian population. PCHR calls upon the international community to intervene in order to end the suffering of the Palestinian civilians and lift the closure of the Gaza Strip.’

End the Siege of Gaza!

Release all Palestinian political prisoners!

Boycott Israeli goods!

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