please find below my latest article published by Red Flag.
in solidarity, Kim
The swearing-in comes in the wake of a unity agreement signed by Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organisation on 23 April in Gaza. Under the agreement, the administration will govern for at least six months, after which fresh elections will take place – the first in more than eight years.
The reaction by Palestinians has been mixed. While many welcomed an end to almost a decade of conflict between the two factions, the unity deal has also met scepticism. Many doubt that it will be able to bring an end to Israel’s occupation.
In Gaza, Hamas has come under increasing pressure because of Israel’s eight-year illegal blockade and Egyptian government hostility, which have left the Strip isolated. In the occupied West Bank, Fatah’s credibility has continued to crumble. Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected to a five-year term as the Palestinian president in 2006, has remained in control of the Palestinian National Authority (PA) in the West Bank for the last three years with the backing of the US.
Hamas candidates won a majority of seats in the 2006 elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), bringing to an end Fatah’s political domination of the PA, which had been established in 1996 as part of the Oslo Peace Accords.
In response to the results – which had been deemed open, fair and democratic by international observers – Israel, the United States and the European Union imposed an economic and financial embargo. Israel also began the siege of Gaza. More than 85 percent of Palestinian households were pushed below the poverty line as a result.
At the same time, the US sought to bolster Abbas politically and financially. Fighting erupted between Hamas and Fatah later in the year, but under pressure from the Palestinian public, the two factions formed a “national unity” government in February 2007.
However, the US and Israel continued to push for a “hard coup” against Hamas. Four months later, Gaza-based Fatah warlord Mohammed Dahlan used the PA Preventive Security Service to provoke clashes with Hamas. Hamas responded by seizing control of the Gaza Strip. In retaliation, Abbas declared a state of emergency and dismissed the Hamas-led unity government.
Since then, Israel has tightened its siege of Gaza, while the Ramallah-based PA has continued to pursue the failed “peace process” and increased cooperation with Israel, including “security” coordination.
The latest Fatah-Hamas agreement came just days before the 29 April expiration of the “peace talks”, surprising US Secretary of State John Kerry, whose spokesperson initially described the Palestinian agreement as “disappointing” and “troubling”.
Kerry has since announced that, despite reservations, the US will work with the new technocratic administration after assurances from Abbas that it would heed demands to recognise Israel, renounce violence and honour previous agreements. Abbas reaffirmed his commitment to the failed peace talks, saying, “We are totally committed to establishing a just and comprehensive peace based on the two-state principle.”
The new government, however, has no real power. Nor is it a real government. The PA was originally established as an interim administrative body tasked to facilitate the “peace process”. It was supposed to transfer power to the PLC. That never happened. Real power remains in the hands of the Israeli state and its military, which control the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
The impotence of the PA and PLC was evident in the wake of the 2006 elections, when Israel arrested and jailed more than half of the 132 PLC members. Nine are still being held indefinitely, without charge or trial, under Israel’s “administrative detention” regime.
In the wake of the April agreement, Israel launched an air strike against Gaza that injured 12, including two children. On 2 June, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would suspend all peace negotiations. Netanyahu also stated that Israel would not allow Palestinian elections to take place in occupied East Jerusalem and would attempt to prevent Hamas candidates from running elsewhere.
Melbourne-based Palestinian activist and playwright Samah Sabawi noted, “We are still an occupied people.” Sabawi told news website Middle East Eye: “What we need more than ministries and authorities is resistance and liberation … Hamas and Fatah reconciled not based on their vision for liberation, but a desperate need to save their factions from financial, diplomatic and political crisis.”
She’s right. It will take struggle, not negotiations, to end the Israeli occupation.