The possibility of a national unity government in the Palestinian Authority (PA) is a very significant development, and the offer by Hamas prime Minister Ismail Haniya to step down is a welcome one.. Following last year’s election Hamas formed a government in March this year. Funding from the European Union and the USA was stopped, and millions of Sheckels collected as tariffs on behalf of the PA by Israel have been withheld, in defiance of Israel’s obligations under the Oslo agreement.
As a result the PA has simply failed to function. There has been no money for salaries, and the workers of the PA have been on strike for 7 months. There is no postal service, the schools are closed, hospitals and clinics are working with a skeleton staff and most non-emergency work has ceased. The closure of the PA has also meant that export licences and other documentation cannot be issued – so almost all of Palestine’s international trade has stopped. The largest industrial export sector – quarried stone – has almost completely stopped work, laying thousands of stone cutters into desperate poverty, and several factories have gone bankrupt. Agricultural exports have also stopped. What is more,, there is almost no tourism, due to the war in Lebanon. In some Palestinian towns, Bethlehem and the illegally annexed East Jerusalem, tourism has been the most significant industry. In short the international siege has driven the Palestinian people to the brink of disaster.
The USA, withdrawing funding from a project for children >
The vindictiveness of the sanctions can be seen by a simple example of the project for a childrens’ playground at the village of Beir Fajjar, a village by the way that elected Fattah and not Hamas. Following the election result USAID cancelled a grant of $30000, and the playground is not to be completed.
The hypocrisy of the sanctions can be seen by the fact that Israel is continuing to build settlements in the West Bank, in clear defiance of international law that land cannot be gained by conquest, and in defiance of their own commitments in the Oslo accords. Yet US aid to Israel continues unabated.
So could the stalemate have been avoided. Some responsibility lies with Hamas. They achieved 44% of the vote, which was only 38% of those entitled to vote. Yet they insisted in treating their victory as a mandate for a complete change in direction, with all cabinet posts held by Hamas members, and their withdrawing government recognition of Israel. The election result really gave them no popular mandate for this. It has largely been Hamas who have procrastinated and delayed forming a national unity government that could undermine the excuses for the siege.
Some of the responsibility lies with Fattah. They lost the election because they promised victory and delivered defeat, they promised peace and delivered only continued occupation and escalating Jewish settlement. The low level corruption and graft could have been tolerated had the Palestinian Authority that resulted from Oslo brought some improvement for the Palestinian people as a whole, but it only truly benefited the political elite of Fattah.
Arguably as the Israelis have no intention of holding to their side of Oslo, and the PA can offer no servcies, the Palestinains would be better abandoning the pretensions of the PA, and thereby putting responsibility for the welfare of the civilian population back to the Israelis as the occupying power
Huge responsibility lies with the Israelis. The Oslo accords have been systematically broken, abused and cynically set aside. The Zionist have never wanted peace, the only peace they want is the peace of the Palestinians herded into reservations, starved, disease ridden and broken. Their continued settlements and annexation of East Jerusalem offer no viable future for twin states. The elections were fairly conducted by the Palestinians, but undermined by the Israelis, who even refused to allow campaigning by West Bank politicians in Gaza, and vice versa. They created the conditions of Hamas’s victory, and couldn’t believe their luck as the international community denounced Hamas as terrorists and withdrew funding.
So what of this boycott? It is hard to justify or explain at any level, except as a deliberate intervention by the EU, and European powers, orchestrated from Washington, to support Israel’s policy of annexing the West Bank, slice by slice, and hemming the indigenous population into walled reservations. Comparisons are often made with Apartheid, in truth it is a political project more in common with the driving off their land in the nineteenth century of the Native Americans, or aboriginal Australians.
Hamas does not recognise the state of Israel. Well actually neither does Saudi Arabia, but the Western powers don’t seem to mind that. Hamas's militia has been on cease fire for two years, but they reserve the right to conduct military operations against Israel. Well actually that is a legal rights for occupied peoples, and there is no dispute in International Law that the West Bank and Gaza are occupied. But a bigger inconsistency is that the sanctions are because of Hamas’s political programme, and the fact they have an armed militia. But surely it is illogical and inconsistent to apply sanctions against the Palestinian Authority over the programme and activities of one political party? By all means the EU and USA would be entitled to not finance Hamas itself, but why withdraw agreed subsidies from the PA State, who are a separate entity from Hamas, and provide public services like schools and hospitals?
If they are worried about the growth of anti-Western feeling in the Arab world, then apply sanctions to Israel!